I'm going to start with this:
I haven't bought shoes in months. Shoes in Viet Nam stop at size 7. I wear size 9 and a half. I repeat: I haven't bought shoes in months.
I'll come back to this.
After school, I want to stop and get Tarn's birthday present (two castle birthdays in the same week): a Buddhist/Hindu flashing round light - the size of a clock - with a Hindu swastika in the middle. Tarn was looking at them at the beginning of the year but never bought one. The perfect gift. And I know just the store...Nam and I pass it every day coming home from school. So I point for him to pull over, ask the seller the price, and he writes "280" on a slip of paper. It's what I figured it would cost (around $18).
Nam won't allow me to buy it, though. He points down the street, he knows another place. Of course he knows another, better place. I hesitate. I'm tired. Nam says, "NO!"
I give in.
We drive all the way to the top of our street and enter a shop that has many copy machines, but no altar flashing lights. He wants me to special order one from a cute girl who doesn't understand what's going on. We speak to her for 20 minutes, and I gather that they will make me one, but that it will not be ready until Saturday. Tarn's birthday is on Friday. It takes me ten minutes to communicate that this isn't OK.
So, apparently, Nam knows another place. We get back on the bike and ride all the way down toward Ben Thanh Market. Another ordering place with no flashing lights to point at for reference. They want to know size, color, glass or aluminum... After all of this negotiation, they write "300" on a slip of paper, and tell me it won't be ready until 8 am tomorrow. It takes me ten minutes to communicate that this is not OK. Finally, Nam says he will take me back to the other place, which is about 20 minutes away, back by the school.
I have not stated this yet, but I am annoyed. And it's an hour and a half after I saw the perfect light at the perfect price.
Now, back to the shoes.
Because I am down by Ben Thanh against my will, I figure I can pick up the shoes I had specially ordered to be made three weeks ago...I have the receipt with me and everything. Another teacher discovered this shop and though it's expensive, it's totally worth it to get the right shoes to go with my dress-up birthday night this Saturday.
So I show Nam the address and it takes ten minutes to communicate that I want to go there now. He wants to go back to the light place. Finally, I win this one. We find the shop. I go in and try on my brand new high heel shoes. They're lovely. I'm walking across the store, back and forth, looking at my shoes in the mirror. Then I turn toward the front door.
Nam is standing there, peering through the door window, waving his arms frantically - like "no, no!" Then he holds his hands way high in a gesture that says "you're too tall!"
I communicate in the most international language there is. Not in words, not in music, not in writing. I communicate in the International Language of a Woman's Hatred for Man, through the eyes.
There is no possible way that any man - American, Sudanese, Japanese, French, Columbian, Siberian, Egyptian or Alien - could have mistaken my message. And this miniscule Vietnamese man gets what my stare-down means. He turns away and sulks toward his bike. When I come out, he mutters a meager, "Go home?" and I nod with no feeling whatsoever.
Nam can get away with looking in my market bags, he can tell me to wipe sweat off of my face when I am eating pho, and he can even show me how to break lettuce off the stem and how to peel corn.
But he may not, never-ever, run interference regarding shoes.
The blog game today just decided itself: who can affirm me best regarding this situation? Come on, Mungo, you CANNOT side with Nam on this one. If you do, you will feel my stare-down from across the universe.