Katherine took all of these neighborhood photos on Sunday~ they will go well with today's neighborhood story:
When I walk by Ms. Hao's house after school (three doors down), Ut waves me in. "Maggie!" he calls out.
As I enter, they point to their two stockings hanging on the wall. I figure that is why I was called in and we interact for a few minutes about Sunday's dinner. "It was delicious," Ms. Hao says. However, then I am surprised...they have three clothing items for me to pick up: a skirt, a tank top and a blouse.
I'm surprised because these are three of the first items I ever asked Ms. Hao to make for me, all the way back in September. I requested them in what now seems the pre-historic age - the time before I knew about connections and loyalties in the neighborhood. Here it is: I bought the material for these clothes from the woman who sits right across from Thuy and Thanh in the market.
I had met Thuy and Thanh before buying this material because Ms. Hao had walked me over to choose my material from them that first time, way before Thuy told me she would be my soul friend in Vietnam, etc., but I had no idea there was a coalition. I just liked some of the material that the other woman was selling. Seems simple enough, doesn't it, to buy the material - or the pineapple - that we want?
It's been about three months since I requested these items. Since that time, Ms. Hao has made me three other dresses - two with material from Thuy and one with material from Nam's sister. But the others...well, the material has just been sitting in a bag on the floor. A few weeks ago, I asked about it and she sweetly nodded, went and got the bag, showed it to me, then put it back in a pile on the floor. Not a word more until tonight.
So it seems...just like with pineapple, it doesn't matter which pineapple you like, it's who is selling the pineapple. If the pineapple isn't ripe, well, you will not get ripe pineapple. If the material is sold by the wrong person, you will not get your order for three months. I had given up on ever getting my clothes. Ms. Hao is just like the pineapple lady, who is just like probably a very h
igh percentage of Vietnamese people: their loyalties run deep. Their loyalties are everything. The only difference between Ms. Hao and the pineapple lady is that Ms. Hao is one of the sweetest people I have ever met. And part of her sweetness is her devotion to Thuy and Thanh.
Now I simply try not to look at any material across from my soul friends; if I like it, buying it will put me in all kinds of awkward positions, and besides, who wants to wait that long for clothes? Not me.
As for the pineapple lady...well, every morning this week she has waved me over more fiercely than she did prior to The Incident. Her scowl is more severe when I don't stop to buy from her (actually, I have only bought from her once, on that fateful day). I am not sure what I'm expected to do, perhaps I'm just supposed to buy from her once to save face or something. To show her neighbor that I am "hers."
But in this case, you know what? I just want to do what I do in MY culture, which is to NOT buy from rude people who pressure me and scowl at me when I don't do what they want me to do.
So there, Pineapple Lady!