Monday, March 16, 2009

Taking Stock: My Life in Vietnam Do's and Don'ts

Things I don't do (much or ever) anymore:

-wash my own hair
-go shopping at malls
-go to grocery stores
-cook with an oven (the castle is without)
-go to restaraunts regularly
-clean my own house
-drive myself
-listen to complaining students
-forget to be thankful

Things I do:

-spend an hour three times a week reading books while a Bum Bum girl washes - scrubs - massages my head - first in the chair downstairs, then up up up three flights of steep, narrow stairs where I recline for the second step of wash+cucumber facial - then back down down down the three flights of steep stairs where she dries my hair. Then I continue reading while the only Bum Bum male employee takes about half an hour to straighten my hair. Sometimes I even do a double...get a one hour massage from Tran, come down, look at them sheepishly and request a hair wash, then they laugh and sit me down for more. And sometimes I even do a trifecta and request a pedicure. But mostly I spread it out throughout the week.

-print pictures of clothes I like from the internet, get advice on matching the material from a variety of friends and vendors, and have the clothes made to perfection...meaning, if it doesn't fit exactly right, we add a band or take in the sleeves, shorten or lengthen. I have made tons of mistakes, but just tonight, K and I picked up some really cool things. We're kind of getting it.

-buy everything there is to offer at the morning market... whole fish which are skinned - and therefore killed - right before my eyes, dried fish, marinating fish. Prawns that are so huge I must cut them in half lengthwise (after I rip their heads off as they squirm). Strange fruits and vegetables and mixes and pickled things. I thought I was rather brave before coming here,

The only thing I kind of miss is cheese.

-buy already-roasted things, like - get this: there is a new vendor who ROASTS EGGPLANT OVER A FIRE PIT EVERY SATURDAY now. I could not believe my eyes when I saw this two weeks ago, but there she is, at her station each Saturday...that first day, I bought three whole roasted eggplants for sixty cents, then found tomatoes, basil, peppers and already minced garlic and made my FORGETTABOUTIT EGGPLANT DIP. Amazing.

- eat almost exclusively on my street. I have always been obsessed with restaurants - like, I have been known to spin out of control when someone asks me to choose a place to eat. Should we go somewhere new I've read about, or a standby? How do I not take everyone to the taco bus? I can't go to the taco bus again! But here, I'm just not that into them. What I find on my own street has yet to leave me feeling like I need anything more. Every once in a while, we walk the ten minutes to the backpacker district and find Italian, Indian, Mexican, burgers and fries. But if it doesn't happen for weeks, that's OK. It's nice to be free.

- enjoy never cleaning anything. Every Wednesday, we come home and the whole castle is clean. The dishes are done, the floor is mopped, shoes straightened, toilets scrubbed. The entire castle, including the rooftop deck. We pay our maid well at $15 per week. Worth every single VND.

- have Five and Seven drive me everywhere. You all know Mr. Five (Nam) all too well, but perhaps you will be getting to know Mr. Seven a bit more. I used him last Saturday for running a bunch of errands. He's cool. He doesn't get in my business. It's exactly the break I need from Weekday Nam (whom I will never get rid of, Mungo...don't go defending him like you tend to do).

-teach excited, positive students. My sixth graders don't ever complain. They like everything. They are always respectful, ask insightful questions, study for tests, hand things in (mostly) on time.

-light incense on my roof in my hammock. I like the three sticks of incense idea so much that now I hold regular ceremonies on my roof, in my hammock. I do it like they do: light one for me, one for my family, and one for the whole world.

Maybe my next post will be about all the bad stuff.


Brian Bowker said...

I predict that you'll experience some culture shock when (if) you come back.

Michelle said...

I am so jealous. I want my hair washed right now! My face is beginning to suffer from the lack of cucumber strips and massage treatment. Oh, and I want to be up on the roof, sitting in a hammock lighting incense and looking at the amazing skyline. My shoulders are sore and I am in deep need of a massage but don't have the required $100 to get one here . . . how much would it cost me to return to HCM???

Amy T. said...

No, we don't need to hear of the "bad stuff." You don't live there; you live in the good stuff.

You live in the place we are all traveling towards: gratefulness.

Mungo said...

My wife just finally used a gift certificate I bought for her a couple of Christmases ago to the Olympus Spa here in Lynnwood... She had a full body scrub and pedicure and manicure and everything else... only $250.00. (!)

She absolutely loved it, but, obviously, not something she can do every day...

Better start saving, smarj. That is, IF you ever come back...

marjie said...

Amy, maybe you're right...the only bad stuff I can think of that I live in is the motorbike madness every day (plus pollution). Crossing the street - sometimes it still paralyzes me.