Saturday, September 12, 2009


I haven't been blogging lately because my definition for "normal" has changed so much... I ride my motorbike to school every morning feeling like an ant among many blaring cows, ride the three final blocks against traffic on the sidewalk - at times in the pouring rain, in a dress - teach in what feels like an earthquake school all day because of the construction outside, reboot my computer often when the powerlines are cut, teach 6th graders English English English all day, then go to the most expensive gym in Saigon when I'm done with work.

No mothers to annoy me, eating soup every night...absolutely nothing to report.

Well, here's something: I do find it entertaining how many people like to hold conversations with me while we are riding next to each other in such heavy traffic. Women laugh, embarrassed, and say "hello, Madame" to me all the time. Children on the back of bikes also snicker and say "hello!" Last night, a guy says, "Miss! Your lights aren't on!" and then, "Where you from?" and then, "Obama!" and then, "Will you be my friend?" all while driving down the busiest street in Saigon.

And I guess I could tell you that the pedicurist at the Bum Bum took a part of my heel off when she was doing the dead skin scraping thing last week and all the Bum Bum Girls gasped at the amount of blood that was pouring out of my heel and then one opened a cigarette to apply tabacco to the open wound (which wouldn't stop bleeding and the tabacco hurt so so so much my eyes watered...) They felt so bad that they didn't even charge me the 60 usual cents.

All of this is now in my definition of "normal."

Oh, and: just received a confirmed case of swine flu at the middle school. School closed Monday and Tuesday.

Yeah, so Swine Flu at the middle school and now a little story about the visit from the castle landlords:

This morning, the Landlord Family came to do a few repairs around the castle. While the landlord, Khanh, and his brother were upstairs repairing my shower, his wife and daughter stayed downstairs with me. The daughter speaks pretty good English, but it is strained. After a bit of polite conversation, I continued to make the babaganouj I had been making when they came. I took the roasted eggplant (that I get in the market for 20 cents), mashed it up, added Tahini, lemon, garlic, salt and olive oil. I was mashing, mashing, mashing when the daughter, Thao, comes into the kitchen and very modestly asks, "Excuse me, what are you making?"

Try to explain "babaganouj" to someone who has never had it. I got the end of the eggplant out of the trash, showed her the Tahini and the lemon. Of course, it has taken us a long time to find lemons and Tahini in this city, so she had never seen either before. I hadn't picked up any naan from the Indian restaurant yet, but wanted her and her mother (who had also crept into the kitchen, fascinated at what I was doing) to taste it. So I got a piece of thick Italian bread out, grilled it in olive oil, cut it up and spread some of the dip onto the pieces.

Both of them thought it was delicious. Thao wanted the recipe, so I began to write it down.

"Maybe I use mayonnaise instead of tahini?" (because I couldn't explain where to buy the tahini) she asks me.

"No," I answer. "It wouldn't be good."


Then I show her the lemon and say, "You must find this, too."

She points to a lime on the table and says, "I can't use this?"

"No," I say, "that wouldn't be good."

I'm trying to imagine what babaganouj would taste like with lime and mayonnaise. I don't think they would have liked that babaganouj.

Next time they come, I plan to have a take-out menu from the Mediterranean restaurant in town with me. I will circle things they should order and see if they try it; seems that many of the foreign restaurants only attract ex-pat crowds...Vietnamese people tend to stay away and eat their own delicious food.

So now I will contemplate what to do with all of my Swine Flu Time for the next few days. Hopefully, it will not be taken up with symptoms of the swine flu, because then my life would not be "normal" (unless compared to the students at Washington State University).


Amy T. said...

SFT; Marj, you've coinded yet another term! Swine Flu Time will be helpful as the local district has plans to close for 2-8 weeks should the Pig Flu show up here.

PS your heal injury is making me nauseous. Soooo sorry 'bout that.

Michelle said...

I am horrified by your heal injury. I bet you had trouble walking on that foot.

Brian Bowker said...

Now if you're around someone that's trying to look cool whilst smoking you can casually say, "I don't smoke; it's too inefficient. Instead I just slice open my foot and shove the tobacco inside."

We are expecting Swine Flu here at WWU this season, but I doubt we'll get any official Swine Flu time.

Mungo said...

Time for my mayo and lime sandwich...

I hope your heel heals.

Brian, you frickin' slay me.


Just need to shout that once in a while.

Tim Baker said...

I think you should use your swine flu time to compile some positive statistics on HCMC. Joan and I saw a Vietnamese movie called The Owl and the Sparrow last weekend. It showed the seamier side of HCMC. We need some good advertising for HCMC.