Saturday, February 28, 2009
Thursday, February 26, 2009
Meet the 6th graders of 6C. We have been reading a book about the Danish Resistance of World War Two, Number the Stars, so I decided we needed to lighten things up during our Thursday double period. They are all telling you "Things They Have Heard about Seattle." Some of the rumors they have heard are quite shocking!
Sorry about the four parts: I have learned that videos load best in 20 second increments. If you don't have time to watch all of them, watch the last one, at the bottom. I do not know where Lucky came up with it, but enjoy the view of 16 sixth graders completely losing it after he tells what he has heard about "People from Seattle."
And, of course, guess what at least one of them is saying - they can't wait to hear what you think of their video!
In order of appearance:
1-Alex, Michael, Tommy
2-Annie, Mindy, Sam
English translations will be provided next Thursday~
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
And I find something new to eat today: I am at the post office picking up a package from Amy T (her third strike, heart candies - thanks, Amy!) when a woman comes in carrying a stack of these:
I am curious and starving, so I buy one. The woman at the desk looks amused.
"Do you know what that is?" she asks. She tells me it's dried rice, topped with dried meat (the hairy-looking stuff), with chilies. "It's delicious!" she says.
And it is. I eat half of it while I am waiting for my package. When I go outside, Nam is lounging, smoking a cigarette. I ask him if he wants some. He quickly pulls the plastic bag over the rice cake and gestures out onto the street. He makes the negative hand gesture...I guess he is saying that I shouldn't eat something in the polluted street. He is trying to get this across to me while holding his cigarette, so I get a little judgmental. I point at the cigarette and make the negative hand signal..."well, perhaps you shouldn't be inhaling tar into your lungs, on the street or anywhere!"
The thing is, almost every food stand is right next to a busy street. Anyway -
Tonight, seven of us are getting together to watch the Oscars. They are being shown - commercial free - on a cable channel. We filled out ballots on Monday morning - we had to swear we wouldn't look at the results. The winner will get 350,000 VND, or about $20.
I should have had a dress made for the occasion.
Monday, February 23, 2009
Sunday, February 22, 2009
Construction by the river has been going on ever since we got here, and the site has been slowly encroaching upon Nam's Village's Not Soup stand. We take a short cut along the back alley river road to get there, but now a deep hole has been dug right up to the edge, and it's bringing bad smells and, supposedly, big rats.
So we walked the long way around to get back to the castle. K doesn't think they saw it.
I haven't mentioned K's parents because before yesterday I had only met them for about five minutes at the castle door when I was coming in and they were going out. They will be in Vietnam for four weeks (then her dad will board a bicycle to Laos on his own), and are using the castle as a "resting" place between hops to some islands near HCMC, Hanoi and Halong Bay.
I am very happy because tomorrow night, Katherine's mom, Joan, has declared "fajita night." And I have a feeling that her dad, Tim (whom many of you recognize from the blog comments), will supply the beer. I was just downstairs when he commented on how great it was that we have a beer supplier on the other side of the alley (as he popped open another Tiger). Have I mentioned this detail as another neighborhood highlight yet?
Yeah, so many people want to cook for us in the castle. Anyone else?
Saturday, February 21, 2009
"But I need to say goodbye to Nam," she says. "Where can we find him?"
Friday, February 20, 2009
In the afternoon, I hear about her day: After leaving me, she goes back to T and T's. They help her with material. They ask her how long she is staying. They ask her if she wants to cook Friday night. They make a shopping list for her. She is holding the list doing something in the market when Guess Who with the Sixth Sense shows up and within seconds grabs the piece of paper out of her hands and reads it. He takes her to his family's house, and they make a plan to go shopping in the market Friday morning (today).
(So when I get home from school, Sue asks (quite innocently): "Um, is it OK if we cook with Thuy and Thanh Friday night? Nam's mother is going to take me shopping.")
A bit later, she pantomimes to Nam that she is looking for a tailor to get some clothes made. He pulls out a card - one that he put in his wallet way back in October - of a seamstress I used once (Alice's) waaaaaayyy across town. Sue was actually searching for a local tailor and doesn't know this one is waaaayyyyy across town until she is on the back of Nam's bike forever. They put in the order at the tailor's, then Sue gets a Nam Tour of Chinatown. She says he knows everyone. They have coffee with a friend of his. He burns incense and bows to a Buddhist altar (remember that his family is Christian). He shows her around the shops. She says, "Are you sure he isn't Chinese?" This throws me a little.
Well, we find out all kinds of things about Nam that evening...but that is a post I will be writing tomorrow.
As for today...we wake up to no power - again. We get ready in the dark, but I tell Sue to flip the breaker in about half an hour and it should be no problem. After walking the morning market with me, she meets Nam's family for the shopping trip. She thinks they are just going to shop in our market, but Nam tells her to get on the bike, and Nam's sister Mai gets on the back of her son Minh's bike. They drive for about ten minutes and arrive at a huge food market. Sue says it's amazing to watch Mai negotiate her way through the produce - she picks something up, haggles over it, puts it back and gets a better one. She and Mai take care of the list, and Nam and Minh push their bikes beside them, they are there to carry the bags.
They buy pork and prawns and greens and twenty other things. They come back, they go to the actual #1 Breakfast Place, etc. etc.
When I get home, I can't believe it. They power is still off. T and T are coming at 5 to cook, and it is hot. Muggy and yucky. No fans, no light. Nam tries to help, but ends up showing Sue and me that we need to WASH the greens. The Repeater shows us five times. Our neighbor Henry, the one who pays our bills every once in a while to save us (he is a part of the Grandfather Who Makes His Granddaughter Laugh Family - I know "Henry" doesn't sound like a Vietnamese nam), calls the electric company. He says they will come within two hours.
Meanwhile, T and T come and we put all of our flashlights, headlamps and candles together (yes, Brian, mine aided in the ripping off of shrimp heads) and go to work on dinner. Henry sees what we are up to a brings a huge flashlight. Tarn brings his ukelele down to provide cooking entertainment and T and T's niece and nephew, Tu and John (we call him Monkey Boy -he's the one who drank the beer at Tet) show up. So it's all of us, Katherine, Tarn, Sue, Monkey Boy, Tu, Thuy, Thanh and me, cooking and playing and running around by candlelight. Yes, it's as cool as it sounds. (Sweaty, however.)
We make my favorite: pork/taro spring rolls, battered squid and prawn crackers. All of the grease is rolled up into the fresh greens to give it a crunch and an almost-healthy feel.
Right when dinner is ready, the electric guys come and say we need a new breaker. Henry is there to translate, and he and Tarn get on the bike to go to the shop to get a new one. Sadly, T and T don't stay to eat after all of their work: Monkey Boy is all wound up and must go to bed. This leaves only Sue, Katherine and me to eat all of this food ourselves. By the end of the evening, by about 9:00, the power is finally back on, allowing us an air-conditioned sleep.
I know what you are thinking. T and T "only want to cook with Katherine, Tarn and Maggie." I don't understand it either. But as for Sue, she is hooked on Saigon, and apparently, they are hooked on her; in just four days she has become one of us. I don't know how she will say goodbye to Nam, Minh, Thuy, Thanh, and all of the other people in "our" neighborhood. They really know how to take care of us.
Thursday, February 19, 2009
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Yesterday, Sue wanted to get some sunglasses (she lost hers while traveling in Laos) but she never mentioned anything to Nam about it. She squinted all day long, and was planning to ask him to stop somewhere this morning. He beats her to it, though: when they get on the road, he takes a pair of sunglasses out of his pocket and hands them to her.
"He's so observant," she says.
"I know," I say. I finally get to share this character with someone.
When we meet him on the street, I tell Nam that Sue wants to try the #1 Breakfast. "Drop me off at school," I say/pantomime, "And then come back and get her and take her to The Spot." I wanted her to see the pandemonium surrounding this stand, where foreigners never come. He takes charge instantly; he goes into Nam on a Food Misson Mode. He orders Miss Sue a coffee and commands her to sit down on the plastic chair at his morning spot. Actually, she wants to go home to get a few things and keep their 9:00 date, but there is no stopping Nam when he is in this Mode. So she does as she is told (just like I do).
Unfortunately, he ends up picking up the breakfast on his way back from school and they eat it where Sue is having her coffee. But he gets one thing right: he buys breakfast for himself, too. Here is the #1 Breakfast: bean sprouts and basil leaves on the bottom, wide rice noodles which have been grilled on something resembling a crepe pan and rolled up with nuts, a big ball of deep fried bread (savory), what I will refer to as "homemade bologna," and fish sauce. Whenever I bring this to school, everyone is jealous. "Where did you get that?"
More Mom: Yesterday, I told you that he rolled up all of the ban xeo for her...well, today, he prepares her pho: he squeezes the lime, adds the greens and the sauces and stirs it up. He orders a big bowl for her and a little bowl for himself.
She brings a bottle of water in, but he tells her to eat the pho first, and then drink the water. She says this is challenging (because the soup is spicy), but of course she obeys.
And more: yesterday, he became accustomed to Sue taking food pictures. All day today, he prepared the food for the picture, chopstick placement and all.
Tomorrow, we are meeting Nam with a translator, but that's a completely different cool story that I don't have time to add right now, because we have food to eat, shakes to drink, massages to get and roofs to hammock in.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
"Miss Sue!" he says, and he gives her two (very enthusiastic) thumbs up. He starts telling stories as soon as I get on the bike and does not stop until we get home. I understand something about Miss Sue getting lost and Nam bringing her home, Miss Sue eating eight of something and Nam eating only three, Miss Sue taking lots of pictures of him and him trying to hide from them. He makes the motion of a big, strong firefighter and points to himself as being so, so small.
Speaking of "firefighter," when we get to the castle, I can't wait to get Sue's version of the day. But my key does not open the door. Nam tries, I try again...it won't work. It's so strange. Even though six people are staying at the castle right now, no one is answering the doorbell. After trying for about ten minutes, Nam says he will go and get someone to help, so I squat in front of the castle to wait. The grandfather-Who-Makes-His-Granddaughter-Laugh brings me a chair. Candle Neighbor brings me something to drink. Ms. Hao comes over to get the story. All of my neighbors are concerned about my plight, and soon there are seven of us standing outside trying to problem-solve. I figure Sue is on the roof unable to hear the doorbell because the front gate is open and we always lock it when we leave...so I try to ask my neighbor if I can climb up to their roof to yell across, but they don't understand. To make a 45-minute story short, finally I just pound and pound and yell and ring and ring, and Sue opens the door.
When I finally get in, I turn around and wave to my neighborhood, "Thank you, everyone!" My neighborhood waves back.
The firefighter part: when you lock yourself into the castle, it is a real fire hazard. If you can't find the key to get out, you are trapped. We have an extra key in a hiding place for that purpose, but Sue just left the key in the lock to be safe - that is why I couldn't open the door. And I was right, she was up lounging in the hammock, just taking it easy.
When Nam returns from trying to find help, he cannot fathom Sue's pantomime about what she did with the key. Of course, he must show her the mistake she made over and over again. I tell her that he might just go and grab his nephew for a lecture, because that's what would have happened with me.
But he doesn't. I discover that they have already made plans for one more day of touring. "See you again," says Nam. "Nine." He will pick her up at the castle at nine again.
For the rest of the evening, I get to hear Nam stories. Sue had a blast with Nam. He began the day by taking her to the fire station, then to the opera house, the post office, the Reunification Building. She pointed to a picture of Banh Xeo (the crepe that we made with Thuy and Thanh on Tet) and he lit up and drove her across town to the best place for Banh Xeo. What a great strategy - one I will be using. He kept rolling up the crepe into the lettuce and handing it to her; that is what she ate eight of. He wouldn't let her do it herself. At one point, they stopped at a bookstore to buy a phrase book so they could communicate better. At the end of the trip, she asked him "how much?" and he gave her a very fair price...$6, which comes out to about a dollar an hour. He was so proud to be her tour guide for a day.
Sue took lots of pictures, but after all of our shopping, hair washing and eating, I was way too tired to load anything. I am posting this at 3:30 am for some reason. Check back to this post for pictures of Nam and Sue's Day #1 tomorrow, when, hopefully, she will have pictures of Day #2 as well.
Monday, February 16, 2009
Sue arrived last night at 5, and she has already had the soup in Nam's village, some seafood from Seafood Alley, the turmeric rice cakes, the taro spring rolls and some rice from the Rice Lady (with the tapioca sauce). She has met Thuy, Thanh, Nam's family and Mr. Seven. She bought some material from Nam's family and is going to have one of my dresses copied by Ms. Hao. And while we were eating soup, Nam just happened to drive by on his bike, so they got to meet, too, plus she walked out to the street with me to say hello to him this morning.
So, yeah, I'm going to be totally curious, all day long...I can't wait to hear the stories. I told Sue to take pictures so we can post about their day tonight.
Sunday, February 15, 2009
We felt like the luckiest castle in the world when we had just one cook; think how we feel now. They work so fast, though, that my head is constantly swivelling back and forth to catch everything.
Thanh takes over at the sink with her assistant, Katherine. They remove the spongy part of the Water Mimosa and take the leaves off of the morning glory...snap snap snap. And while I rip the heads off of the shrimp, Thuy de-inks and scores the squid (so it will curl up) and cuts up the white fish.
Then she begins the soup: she heats about four cups of water and squeezes the packages of Tom Yum Paste into it. On the other burner, she heats some cooking oil and sautes freshly ground hot red pepper. She bruises some stalks of lemongrass, cuts it up and throws it in the pot. In goes Agi Ngon (is that MSG? I am still unclear) and sugar. She tastes, I taste, she adds more sugar and the red pepper.
She pours some hot water over the tamarind seeds and stirs them around to release the fruit and flavor into the water and pours the juice into the pot.
Then she throws the oyster mushrooms in, followed by half of the squid and the fish. She inserts the gas into the burner on the table, moves the pot of soup from the stove and sets all of the full platters around it: the rest of the fish, the clams, the greens and the rice noodles. We grab Tarn from upstairs; he often chooses not to be involved in the cooking, but he is an extremely grateful
The feasts keep getting better and better; I keep saying it, I know. But just look at this soup - made from ingredients collected from within five blocks of our home.
We eat and eat and eat. The squid is so tender; fresh squid is my new food love. And morning glory is just that much better than spinach - I love it. The soup simmers on the burner and we keep adding the goodies when they get low in the pot. We eat what is in our soup bowls, then start over by adding more noodles to the bottom and pouring the boiling broth over them.
T and T are no longer shy about really eating with us, either. They eat as long as we do.
And another thing they are no longer shy about is asking me if it's time for "Your mother's tea" when they come over. I had my parents send me my favorite "Choice" licorice peppermint tea, and both of them love it. After dinner we take the tea and a bowl of fruit to the roof; there is a slight breeze and the sky is lit with that magic cloudy/sunny evening mix. After a while, both K and T have to go, but T, T and I stay on the roof for quite a while and engage in "girl talk." I learn some very interesting things on the roof tonight, but you know what, what was said on the roof must stay on the roof. I'm sure you understand.
Here's one thing I can share...they make this very clear: At any given time - for the rest of our lives - we can come to this little neighborhood in District One and find our sisters at their fabric stand, and we will be accepted as family.
We are most definitely the luckiest castle in the world.
Saturday, February 14, 2009
Thursday, February 12, 2009
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
(I need a crown to go with the implant that was required after biting down on the rock in the "student only" granola bar while administering the WASL - Washington Assessment of Student Learning - five years ago). (In case you need proof that that test is evil.)
I pay $6 for the cleaning and they call a mototaxi driver who waits outside to take me to the implant building. By 4:59, I have consulted with a specialist, had x-rays and impressions taken. The implant will cost $400. At home, my insurance will cover 50%, which would leave me with $1000 out-of-pocket.
2. Teeth cleaning is so cheap here, maybe I will add it to my "Bathtub Plan." I have washed my own hair only once since I made The Plan...and I hated doing it. Why not have someone clean my teeth, too? Something to consider.
As for the signs, they are painted on a coffee shop across from the implant building. I myself do not drink coffee, but maybe you have had it "fried?" And it is nice that this cafe wishes you "Money, wealth and uck."
In China, I noticed these kinds of signs all the time, but here they aren't as ubiquitous.
One more thing...I am at Thuy and Thanh's in the morning, and my squid guy isn't sitting on his usual corner.
"Where is the squid guy?" I ask Thuy.
"He is at temple. The moon is round."
"Is he there all day?"
Thuy points around to where many of the vendors should be. "She's at temple, he's at temple..."
Funny, I've been here six months and I didn't notice. Another thing that happens when the moon is round: meat places go vegetarian. For example, my pork/taro spring roll lady is selling something different. As I peer into her chafing dish, a woman standing next to me says (in perfect English), "You should try it, it's really delicious."
It's always a bit shocking when someone in the market speaks perfect English. She tells me it's tofu, rice paper and onions, all shredded up together. It's vegetarian because "the moon is round today." You can get this mixture with noodles, or you can get it stuffed inside spring rolls and deep fried. I am tending to go with all things deep fried lately, and this choice does not disappoint me.
All things deep fried except for coffee, that is.
Monday, February 09, 2009
This is the most famous market in Viet Nam: The Ben Thanh Market. The hotel where we stayed upon our arrival is about two blocks from here. Inside is fabric, food, fake name-brand purses... everything. Everything. It is a deceptively normal-looking building from the outside.
At 6:00, when the indoor Ben Thanh Market closes, this street in front of it transforms into the Night Market. Almost everything you can find inside during the day, you can find outside at night. Rows and rows of collapsible restaurants with tanks of live seafood line this street every single night. It takes about fifteen minutes to walk here from the castle, or about five minutes by bus or mototaxi.
If you go into the entrance of the market pictured here and turn left at the first aisle, you can find my downtown seamstress' sister's fabric stand. If you turn around from the spot of the picture, you can see a line of seamstress and tailor shops: My downtown seamstress' shop is the one called "Tram." That is her name.
Here she is. She is holding the two fabrics I have chosen for the #1 Dress Winner...many people liked this blue paisley, so I went with that, and my nephew Nolan mentioned that he thought I should make it in dark red. I agreed. Angie and Marie, I hope you are OK with these...if not, we will have to make a third. So I gave her the picture and the fabric and she made some measurements. She says they will be done by next weekend, but we'll see. She's rarely on time unless someone is flying out.
Here is a close-up picture of her shop: the mannequin on the right is wearing the Vietnamese traditional dress, the Ao Dai (pronounced "Ow Yi." This is one of this shop's specialties. Often when I stop by, Vietnamese women are being fitted for weddings or formal occasions. For some events, women change into up to five different ao dais, can you believe it?
This woman pictured to the right is Tram's loyal assistant. She just got her hair cut...usually she wears cute pigtails. She always offers me fruit or something when I come by. Sometimes Tram has as many as five women stitching away on the floor of her shop. Usually, they seem to be having a good time with all of the people coming in and out. I have no idea how she keeps everything straight, because material is lying around everywhere.
To keep you posted on cost...both the red and paisley material cost 65,000 per meter (arond $3.70), so the total for the fabric for both dresses is about $15 (I take 2.5 meters for a dress). When the dresses are ready, after the fitting(s), I will pay her 200,000 per dress ($12 each). So, grand total for two Maggy London dresses listed on Nordstrom.com for $118 will come to about $40 for both. That is a savings of almost $200. So, I'm sure some of you are doing the math. A round trip ticket to HCMC runs about $1000. Just think of all the money you could save!
And here are Shannon and Sharon looking at Tram's catalogue for ideas. Their eyes are wide with possiblities after their first dip into the world of clothes making. Both of them keep telling me that they are afraid of this world. They fear all of the possibilities and all of the money they will now be spending.
As for me, I am completely at peace with the money required for my new favorite hobby (after eating).
Sunday, February 08, 2009
I was going to get breakfast and come home and post about the Ben Thanh shopping trip, but then my morning changed. The person that this whole time I thought was Nam's great aunt I now know is his mother, and this following story is how I now know this (I thought he told me his mother had died).
Saturday, February 07, 2009
Well, I just woke up from a deep afternoon sleep.
Just when I think I have something figured out, I find that I have absolutely nothing figured out. Take, for example, my "Just Like the Pineapple Lady, Not at all Like the Pineapple Lady" post, where I thought I had reached enlightenment concerning issues of neighborhood loyalty. Summary: It took months for Sweet Seamstress (Ms. Hao) to finish a few items of clothing for me because (I figured) I had bought the material for those items from the fabric woman across from Thanh and Thuy (before I really knew T and T). Any clothes ordered with fabric bought from T and T were being made very quickly, while the other bag of fabric just sat there for months. "It's all about loyalty," I wrote. Since then, I have been careful to only bring T and T's fabric to Ms. Hao for clothes-making.
Keeping that in mind, listen to what happened this morning:
My friends Sharon and Shannon have been asking me to take them on my fabric/seamstress loops - both neighborhood and downtown/Ben Thanh ones (I will post about loop #2 tomorrow). The first place I take them this morning - of course - is to Thuy and Thanh's. When we show up, T and T are very happy. Thanh says "I feel so lucky today, you bring your friends."
Both S and S have brought items they want copied, so T and T help them pick out material for cotton t-shirts, pants, and a stretch cotton skirt. We have a fun, warm interaction with a lot of laughter involved for the struggle in communication. The prices for the material are standard (around 60,000 VND per meter = just over $3), but the material they both choose to make skirts is a little higher. Thanh tells us it's pricey because it's "very high quality." T and T tell them that they will need four meters for two skirts, and the transaction is made.
Next stop, of course, is Ms. Hao's, three doors down from the castle...T and T's soul sister friend. Lieu, her assistant, who was at the party, is there, too. S and S get measured and show them the things they want copied. But wait...the skirt material, there is only 2 meters of it - not four, like we thought. Mass confusion, lots of pantomime, so finally, Ms. Hao calls for her neighbor who speaks a bit of English. After our explanations, we all think that T and T must have forgotten to give us all four meters. Ms. Hao calls Thanh, who runs down with two more meters of the same material. We think the problem is solved when she writes "240,000 VND" on a piece of paper...she's telling S and S that this is what they owe, meaning that this material costs 120,000 VND (almost $8) per meter. In all of my material shopping, I have come across nothing that costs over 100,000 VND per meter ($6)- not even fine Vietnamese silk. Sharon opts out, but Shannon says go ahead. When Thanh leaves, I cannot believe what happens next.
The English speaking woman makes a negative gesture with her hands and (in very sketchy English) says, "No shop at Thuy's. Too expensive!" Ms. Hao is nodding her head in agreement. She puts her hand up to her neck, like 'they are choking you.' "This fabric, they buy it for 60,000 VND per meter," says the friend. "No Shop at Thuy's."
Honestly, I am stumped; I have absolutely no idea what to do or say. I have told both S and S how great T and T are, that they have been amazing friends to us, about cooking, Pagoata Day and the Tet family celebration and about the loyalty between T, T, Ms. Hao and Lieu. I have finally taken my friends to meet these women and they experienced a warm interaction...but now - now we are caught in the middle of something really uncomfortable.
"But Thuy is my friend," I offer, weakly.
They look at me kindly, but after much more "discussion," between the three women, the friend says, "Come back at 2:00. We take you to the market to see (she points to the skirt fabric). Ms. Hao hugs me and says "We love Maggie" - like, we will only do this because Maggie is our friend. But this is the part they emphasize - at least four times: "DON'T TELL THUY." What else can I do but put my hand to my heart and promise that I WON'T TELL THUY?
It feels so strange, saying this to them. Both Shannon and Sharon help me process it all the way downtown because I am spinning. Sharon is the one who hits it right, though...I think. She says, "Maybe their loyalty has shifted to you."
Maybe there is nothing more to figure out, and it's that simple: I am their friend now, and they won't allow T and T to overcharge my friends.
When I was first getting to know Thuy, she told me that every afternoon, she gets on her motorbike and rides to a market to buy her fabric. Maybe you remember that I asked if I could come with her someday. She said yes, but her body language said "uncomfortable." Because of this, I never brought it up again.
Back to today. At 2:00, Sharon and I return for this clandestine outing. English friend and Ms. Hao put us on the back of their motorbikes and take us to this secret, local market; it's not far from the castle...a five-minute ride.
We go to one booth out of maybe fifty, and, sure enough, there is the material Thanh charged my friends 120.000 VND per meter for. The woman tells us it costs 60,000 VND per meter - half the price.
Of course you must account for seller mark up, but Ms. Hao says that mark up shouldn't be more than 20,000 per meter. Sharon buys some for her skirt and I buy some for pants, then we get back on the motorbikes and head home. Sharon leaves and I go in to get measured for the pants. Guess what they say to me over and over..."DON'T TELL THUY!'
That's the part where I come back here, ascend the steps to my Rapunzel Room, turn on the air, and fall asleep.
So here are the questions running through my head:
1. Would T and T have overcharged me if I had requested that material?
2. What if the woman at the wholesale market mentions to Thuy that I was there with Ms. Hao?
and this is Katherine's concern (as she listened with fascination to this story):
3. What if everything is revealed and loyalties are redrawn on a large neighborhood scale and as a result the Bum Bum shuts us out of hair washes, manicures, pedicures and massages? (every time K returns from the Bum Bum, she mentions the fragility of it all, how it COULD possibly all end at any moment...)
Hmmm. Don't know how to process it. But let me summarize the smoke and mirrors life I lead in this neighborhood:
1) I have a driver whom I must trick into letting me off next to restaurants that he disapproves of and next to Ben Thanh market vendors where he may discover that I am buying material from someone other than his sister (I always have him let me off in phony places, then tell him I will walk home). Every now and then, when I have somewhere non-school related to go and Nam is nowhere in sight on the street, I can always find "Mr. Bay" on a certain corner. Something I haven't mentioned to you is that "Nam" means "5" - Nam is the fifth child. "Bay" means "7" - he is the seventh child. 7 actually speaks really good English and we have become friends. Every time 7 takes me somewhere, I am afraid that 5 is going to catch me with him. It's quite unsettling.
2) I have a sandwich lady on the street where I meet Nam every morning whom I adore; however, I have overdosed on her sandwiches and can't stomach them anymore. Even though I can't eat them, I still buy two or three a week and either give them to friends or throw them away when I get to school. Because she is so friendly.
3) I walk past the Pineapple Lady every single day and I am afraid I am going to cause her early death. You should see the ferocious way she gestures for me to buy her produce. Every single day. And all I have ever bought from her is six cents worth of pineapple. I must walk by her and pretend I do not see her convulsions.
and now, this:
4) I have two friends who sell me material, teach me to cook Vietnamese food, and who invite me to family celebrations... but they seem to have cheated my friends. This cheating was revealed to me by their soul sister, who is almost my next door neighbor. Now I must not let on that their soul sister has tattled on them and has subverted their business, but the whole neighborhood saw us get on their motorbikes and ride out of the neighborhood, and the wholesale woman sold us the material that they sold us for half of the price, and she sells to T and T on a daily basis. Talk about a conflict of interests. And - I walk past T and T every single morning on my way to meet Nam; they see and comment on the clothes I am wearing. They will see this material.
Now, if this had happened to you - tell me, wouldn't you have had to come home, ascend stairs, turn on air and go to sleep?
Thursday, February 05, 2009
Guess how many wires are connected to this pole.