Nam then tells me to wait and after a minute he emerges from the house with a huge brown paper bag and pulls out a calendar that is about, oh, two feet long and one foot wide. It's huge. He is very excited to show it to me.
His nephew explains the calendar, and I'm sure that I did not understand a word, but here you go: Nam's friend went in on a partnership with someone to create the calendar. It has something to do with Nam's daughter's wedding shop and his friend who is a photographer or his friend who is a businessman, or perhaps it is his friend's son in EVERY SINGLE photo with the beautiful girl.
Is he giving me the calendar? Does he want me to buy one? His nephew asks "do you want?" It is An Awkward Moment. What can I do other than ask how much? It seems that Nam doesn't know, but he will check with his friend about the price. So then I figure that he just wanted to show me this really cool collaborative project and that we will be heading back to the castle, but no, Nam gives me the calendar. It's mine to keep. Every day for the next year, beginning January 1st, I can look at this couple in all of their finery while keeping track of my life.
I don't know. Tarn is certain that I have just scheduled myself for a wedding photo shoot. If he prices it out for me, should I do it? Which month do you like the best...January, May, August?
Another Nam story: this morning, he intercepts me before I begin my market crawl. I really hate it when he does that because then I am denied all of my daily treats: my pomelo, my rice pudding, my deep fried taro root spring rolls, my coconut "pies" and my rice noodles with stir-fried beef. Anyway, he finds me at the very beginning of my morning journey at my banana-rice- cake-with-tapioca-sauce stand. He pokes me and begins to chuckle at my breakfast. His bike is right over at his aunt's house, he says, so I grudgingly follow him over there. He chuckles all the way, and he keeps pointing at my little treat.
"What?" I say. "What are you laughing at? I love these!"
But he just keeps laughing and shaking his head. When we get to school, I don't see any of "my" kids around, so I call an anonymous boy over to ask him, "What was so funny about my breakfast?"
This takes a while to translate. Finally, "He's laughing because you know all the best food. Those are his favorite cakes, too," he tells me.
Often I think about these people in my life here, and how I will never really know what their lives are like or what they've experienced - past sorrows, happinesses, etc... but one thing I do know: Food is equally important to me and my xe-om driver. Food and music, the international languages, right?
OK, now, what about those photos? Which dress is my color?