In between breakfasts (rice cake appetizer at 7, something else at 10), I find "other" things to do. I sit in T and T's house and use the computer. I get my hair washed. I go visiting. This morning I went to see Sweet Seamstress and her brother, Ut - two doors down from the castle. Ut is pretty shy. Remember when he worked up the courage to ask what Katherine would do with her bike when she left because he wanted it so badly? Well, he still rides it with pride.
I arrive at the front of the shop and Ut is holding this bag - quite nervously. Passing it from hand to hand. Finally, Sweet Seamstress nudges him and gestures toward me. He hands me the bag and says, "For you, Maggie." (He speaks very little English.)
Timing is so strange in this place. I find out later that he had tried to get SS to bring it to the stand, but she said he had to give it to me. I guess he was working up his courage when I happened to come by. I'm pretty sure it's the best give I have ever received. Well, actually I will have to think about that, but right now it feels that way. It's beautiful, a one-of-a-kind Ut design. I tell him how much I love it, and how he should sell them in the neighborhood - or in America (don't ask me how we communicate, it just happens).
He just shakes his head and says, "Only one."
Later I am walking by Nam's mother's house (just past the fabric stand on the left). Usually his sister-in-law sells fruit right outside, but she has disappeared momentarily. I peek in and see that she's awake, lying still on her hard bench. She sees me and beckons me in. So I slip inside and pull up a plastic stool. She gives me her hand and we smile at each other...usually there has been someone there to translate. But now it's just the two of us. She points up to the wall where she is pictured at age 70 (I know numbers and she tells me that).
"Beautiful," I say in Vietnamese.
She nods. It seems she is telling me, "That is who I am, not this."
Then she asks me what number child I am, and I answer, "Two."
Then she removes her hand from mine and picks up her other hand - the one that lies limp from her stroke - and places it in my hands. She indicates that she would like me to massage it to get the blood flowing.
So I do - I massage her from her fingers to her elbow and back. I stop for a moment and she nudges me with her good hand, like a cat. I laugh and keep massaging. She laughs, too.
After probably 20 minutes or so, her daughter-in-law - who returned to her station shortly after my entry into the house - peeks in and gives a little gasp. She is quite surprised to see me sitting there.
And then there is nervous activity and Nam's sister is fetched, who then fetches her English-speaking friend, and our secret moment disappears.
Who: Marjie, a life-long resident and high school teacher from Seattle What: Decides to rent out her condo and sign a ten-month contract to teach sixth grade English and Ancient History at a relatively new, quickly growing international school in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam When: In August, with one month's notice - along with 33 others from the US, Canada, Australia, Britain and New Zealand (most of them last-minute, too)
p.s. (That was last year; now she's on Year #2)
Frequently Mentioned Cast
The Castle - a five story stack house with a rooftop deck, in the midst of the best morning market in the city. Katherine - castlemate and the primary PE teacher from Montreal, Canada. Franco - castlemate and a third grade teacher from Portland, Oregon. Tarn - former castlemate and the high school librarian from Wellington, New Zealand (in many of last year's posts). Pretty Lady - Tarn's bicycle. Nam (or "Mom") - Marjie's motorcycle-taxi driver and surrogate mother. He is also Marjie's self-appointed food screener. Nam's Family - sells fabric at the morning market. Thuy (pronounced "Twee") - sells fabric at the morning market and serves as the castle's Sunday night cooking instructor. Thanh - (pronounced "Tawn") Thuy's sister and business partner. Sweet Seamstress or Ms. Hao - seamstress who lives three doors down from the castle. Her assistant is Lieu and her son is Ut. Bum Bum Girls - girls who work at the Bum Bum Salon in the alley near the Castle. Katherine and Marjie's "second home." Tran - Katherine and Marjie's favorite massage therapist at the Bum Bum (she's not there anymore; now she comes to the castle for massages on request). Banana Cake Lady and Rice Lady - women who supply Marjie's breakfast each morning. "The Band" - Four people who regularly comment on the blog: Brian, Karyn ("the norris clan"), Amy ("amyt"), Bill (used to be "kumma" or "sbill" but recently transformed into "Mungo") and one person who makes star appearances: Rita (of One-Minute-Poem fame).