But the most important thing is that it is a one-minute walk to Thuy and Thanh's, a ninety second walk to the castle...and only thirty seconds to the rice cakes.
It's 7:15, and I'm using the computer in the hotel (which also has air and a fridge, in case I was complaining too much), about to spend the next few hours in the market. By the way, this computer accesses Blogger, but Thanh's doesn't (maybe because she has dial-up?) And I can't load my pictures on this computer, but I can at her house. So there is a bit of juggling taking place, but I'm grateful for my Blogger Support, my brother.
Thuy's baby is truly Thuy and Thanh's baby; Katherine can attest to the fact that where one sister ends, the other begins. I was somewhat surprised to learn that Huang has not left this neighborhood since he was born - six months ago.
"Here I have help," Thuy tells me. And she does. When she sits at the stand, Thanh is inside feeding, rocking or bathing Huang. And vice versa. At times, their mother takes her turn.
"We're so tired," says Thanh. He requires a lot, this baby. I mean, he hardly ever cries, but he's a lot of work. He has to be hand-rocked to sleep, and he spits all of his food all over himself every time he eats. They are constantly bathing him, changing his clothes, and trying to get him to keep food down.
Thuy's husband comes by after work for at least an hour every day. Last night, when Thanh and I returned from our downtown walk, all three of them were sleeping on the floor.
"When will Thuy take him home to District 7?" I ask Thanh.
She laughs. "Maybe one year. Maybe never! Here she has help."
No daycare provider for this baby.
Yesterday, when it was my turn to hold Huang, Thuy points to him and says, "Maggie. I want him go to America. For school."
And it's understood. If he wants to come, he will come through me. I love this.
So our downtown walk was kind of horrible. Ho Chi Minh City goes all out for any holiday - regardless of the religion. So they are doing New Year's big. LIGHTS EVERYWHERE. And the motorbike army is out in full. I cannot believe I ever rode in this. It's crazy. It took a while for me to get back into crossing the street, too...walk slowly, deliberately, without stopping - like the blind man.
I hate all of the flash. I don't have a reason to leave this neighborhood, really, except for my 48 hr. trip to Nha Trang next week - Thanh is coming with me, and it will be her first time on an airplane...not to mention that it will be perhaps her third vacation ever. They don't talk in terms of days off in this neighborhood. We will visit some beloved former principals of AIS, Fran and Ann. But other than that, I have no agenda, no reason to venture out into the city, except to see former students and a few teacher friends who remain.
Last night I was taking note - I saw almost NO bags around anyone's shoulders, either walking or on bikes. I mention this to Thanh and say, "Why did Nam let his wife carry a bag on the bike?" He was always so strict with me; those who rode with him - Sue, Jessica, Pam, Michelle, Lewis, Rita...you can all attest to the fact that he stated safety procedures ad nausea. He didn't earn the nickname "Mother" for nothing.
So that is when I learned that I had the story somewhat wrong, which happens to me here all the time. You see, Thuy and Thanh will both say "Yeah" if they aren't really sure. For example, at first I thought she told me that he was hit by a bus.
"Hit by a bus?"
But then it turned into the story I told you yesterday, which I thought was correct. But last night, after expressing confusion over the bag question, Thanh says, "No, his wife was driving. He take them back from the hospital. He sick, and they upstairs. They don't know he need help."
Either way, I got so mad last night, watching the motorbike army, thinking about these cowboys and their drug habits that are so all-consuming. Thanh asked me how I knew Nam - I was well into my driver relationship with him by the time we became friends - so I told her the funny story about how I refused to get on a bike for two weeks, then finally realized that I was actually living here and had to do it, and how I had "interviewed" some really crazy drivers until the day I found him on the street, and how he had driven me so slowly and carefully to school. And then, on the second day, he had recognized my love of food. And that was it.
"Nam was fun," she said. And that pretty much sums it up. He was fun, and funny, and always thoughtful and strict. And he drove me crazy, in a way that entertained me endlessly.
Anyway, back to the good. There is so much. I visited Henry's family last night - the family who lives across from the castle (the castle has had a for-rent sign on it for two years...now the neighbors freely park in front of it. They always did before, too, but now they don't have to move their bikes to let us in. And they can hang their laundry from the gates.) We had such a nice visit.
And now for more good, because I am heading to the market...