Did you ever do that?
Because today, as I was leaving the school on my motorbike (in my dress with a huge backpack and my friend Linda on the back, turning against traffic on the sidewalk to go to our gym), suddenly I was face to face with my mother.
It was so very shocking. To see this face from my past with my very new independent life surroundings as a backdrop made me stop, put my high heels down on the ground (he was, after all, blocking my sidewalk path) and say, "Nam...what are YOU doing here?"
I'm going to describe his reaction as, uh... both sheepish and shocked. Yes Sheepish-Shocked was his look. He was not expecting me to come around that thick fence (where he could peek in at the door) in the opposite direction on the sidewalk (because, as you may recall, I would not allow him any sidewalk driving). And he was definitely surprised to see that I was carrying a passenger.
He began to look around and mumble. Something like "I, Mari, see you, goodbye, see you again." And then, "I say hi... Mari, goodbye." And then he pointed to Linda, confused. And then he moved his bike to the side and motioned me-and-my-passenger to pass on by.
I wave to Nam often in the mornings as I pass, but what was he doing all the way out here? The possible answers to that question make me more than just a little sad.
In any case, I will be relieved when Jessica comes, and then my family, so that Nam has something to do.
Many of you have written to ask if I am OK...with all of the natural disasters in SE Asia and not getting any blog entries seemed a little fishy to some. The truth is that, actually, life has been more than OK. I got a little lazy about writing and then our internet connection went out at the castle for more than a week (just back on tonight). A few of you asked if the Lack of Nam was the issue. AmyT begged me to put up a picture other than beautiful Vietnamese women eating greasy burgers (which she has now seen every day for the past three weeks). Here are a few things that have been distracting me lately:
Mostly, I've been caught up in the independence of having a motorbike. I traded in my equivalent to a '76 Ford pickup truck (an automatic Avilla) and down-graded in actual bike but upgraded back to coolness. Here is a picture of both Franco's and my Honda 110 Waves - both manuals, four gears...matching bikes at the castle, yep. Rented for $50 per month. To downshift, you use your heel, which is a little tough for tall people. I'm getting used to it.
It is so much fun to zip around this city. I get to take my time in the mornings because I have first period prep, so I kick around in the market trying all the soups and getting rice cakes if the spirit moves me. I also found another market on the way to school and have been picking my way through that, in a drive-up kind of way - meaning that I drive up to the glutinous rice cakes filled with custard stand and the women prepare them for me while I sit on my bike. It's so cool.
And after school, after I drive against the sidewalk traffic to my amazing gym and exercise, swim and sit in the sauna or steam room. Then I head home through one of the best food streets in Saigon. At least two times per week, I pick a new place to try - lately it's been mostly Japanese noodles, sushi and food from the epicenter of Food Vietnam, Hue. Two times per week is not nearly enough... actually, eight days a week would not be enough to try all of the goodness that is the restaurant scene in Saigon. Last year, I was like this country bumpkin, hardly ever eating outside of my neighborhood, but now I'm back to my old self, hyperventilating at times at all of the food choices before me. But then again, there is the need to stay loyal to my street. K and I eat from our Pho lady at least once per week, and my wonton guy still sees me regularly. The squid restaurant was a part of movie night last week, so I still get that one in, too.
Yeah, so it's school (teaching only English, so hardly any prep, first and last period planning, which I have never experienced), gym, eating, then either Bum Bum hair washing, watching pirated DVDs on the roof (just finished Season 3 of 30 Rock), or parties, parties, parties. Last weekend, Tarn met K and me here to go to a costume party and the three of us walked down our street as quite a sight - Tarn as a monk, me as Johnny Cash and K as one of Robert Palmer's back-up singers. I am not so aware of being looked at in our hood anymore, but that night we definitely got looks while walking toward a taxi. Yeah, so parties everywhere, and now kickball at the soccer fields every Sunday night. This is a fun group of teachers. Canadian Thanksgiving party on Saturday, too. And now a dinner club.
*Ever since our Swine Flu closure, the guards stand in front of the school in the mornings to give us hand sanitizer and the nurse shoots us with a temperature gun. When we go to lunch the guards give us more hand sanitizer. When I entered a theater for a movie last weekend, same thing. And when I went to watch the American International School basketball games - both boys and girls - play at the Australian International School (both teams were cheering "AIS! AIS"), more guards and more hand sanitizer. Is this happening in America? I kind of doubt it.
*And guess what...remember those two Swine Flu Days Off? Well, we had to make one of them up two weekends ago on a Saturday and the other one will be made up this upcoming Saturday. Yep, working Saturdays, just like Marysville did after that strike... This Saturday, our school is having a Spelling Bee Day, suggested by me. I will let you know how it goes.
*There is an electronics store that opens early in the morning and closes late at night, and I pass it both going to and coming home from school. Every single time I pass, a Michael Jackson song is playing. Today: "Billie Jean" in the morning and "The Way You Make Me Feel" in the evening. Every single time, I want to stop and go in. So I'm guessing it is effective.
*Thuy and Thanh have not called me fat again. We are busy planning things and having them not work out - but the Vietnamese barbecue place is on the agenda for this weekend, if we can fit it in around Canadian Thanksgiving and kick ball. I still see them every morning.
Now I am beginning to hyperventilate about all of the things I have neglected to write about in addition to all of the food I have not tried in Saigon, so I think that means I will sign off for tonight and start fresh with a new day and a new story tomorrow. Thanks to everyone who voiced concern over my lack of blogging. I appreciate it.