My life in Vietnam is rendered in brilliant Technicolor by a host of card-carrying characters that populate it. Here are some of them.
Hung, the motorbike parking kid
I see "em Hung" (literally, "younger brother Hung") every morning when I park my motorbike in the lot next to the Thai Van Lung Street movie theater. He's about 17 years old. He just thinks it's hilarious that a foreigner parks there and always tries out a few words of English on me. One time he saw me talking with one of the girls in the office who parks there and teased me about having a girlfriend. It's always a good idea to make friends with the giữ xe guy. He's a good kid.
Chị Kim, my cleaning lady
Chị Kim (literally, "big sister Kim," about 55 years old) is another character. She speaks slightly more English than I do Vietnamese, so we usually communicate in a mishmash of the two languages. She scolds me for being messy and feels free to give me plenty of unsolicited but concerned advice whenever she sees me. She really gave me a hard time when I came back from my trip to the USA because I didn't bring her anything. So I made sure to bring her a trinket from Bali this time. I'm finally cluing in that it's quite impolite to travel somewhere and not bring back small gifts for people. In the US it's not expected but of course people like it when you do. In VN they expect, oh yes.
Em Hue and em Dan (Dang?)
These are the "Little Neighbors" I wrote about in a previous post. They live in my little "hem," or alley. Hue is about 12 years old and her little brother is an early 3 I think. When I have my outer door open they sometimes come right up to the door and peer in to say hi. I think they think I'm funny looking, which I guess I am. Sometimes little Dang rides around in his tiny electric car, the kind I coveted when I was his age. I gotta get a pic of that because it's quite funny.
Cô Vân, the cigarette lady
Cô Vân (literally, "aunt Vân," pronounced "vuhn") is about 60 and also lives in the hem. She has a cigarette cart that is always parked at the entrance to the hem on the street. She's like a watchdog -- no one gets past cô Vân without her given you the once-over. I introduced myself about a month ago (as Lâm, of course), now we always exchange the friendly nod when I enter or exit.
The shoe shine guys
These guys just joined the cast today. I went looking for a shoe shine around lunchtime and found a guy with 3 of his friends hanging out. While one did the work his friend sat on his butt and joked that they split everything 50/50. We spoke mostly in Vietnamese, with me saying quite often "Tôi không hiểu. Xin nói lại chầm chậm" which means "I don't understand. Please say again slowly." Their constant joking and guffawing reminded me of the guys in that movie "Barbershop." They want me to join them for a beer sometime. That'll make an interesting post.
Hilda, the Colombian dance partner
I'm taking a Lindy Hop swing class every Monday night. We rotate partners quite frequently. Some women are really good, some are just hopeless. My favorite partner is Hilda, a tiny Colombian woman in her 50s. She's a great dancer. She follows very well and is so fluid she makes me look good even when I screw up. After class tonight I stayed for a bit and cut the rug with Hilda. She's got this little sashay that screams "South American hipster." I love it.
Figuring out how to type the Vietnamese characters above is making this post take forever. Almost midnight now so going to bed. More characters to come.