02 September, 2006

National Day

September 2nd is Vietnam's National Day. All over town, scarlet banners with golden words proclaim words, dates, pictures of Uncle Ho, big bright stars. Because of the holiday, no one has to work and many shops are closed. As if the skies were aware, the rains ceased and this is the first afternoon that the showers didn't begin at 1:00 precisely. In fact, I think this calls for some suntanning on the roof!

This morning I slept in as late as I could and then hit the streets: my goal, the neighborhood market. The purpose? To see if I could locate, purchase and prepare ingredients for my favorite Vietnamese lunch: fresh spring rolls. Thanks to watching the kids' mom, I knew which direction to head once in the market and I quickly found the tall piles of fresh noodles, sprigs of mint, tiny little limes, and crunchy bean sprouts. Using my few words, I bought all the ingredients and gave my thanks to the sellers. You know, going to the big market is really stupid. My little neighborhood market has everything I could need and they don't hassle me like the Ben Thanh merchants do. Plus, here I don't have to do my shopping under fluorescent lights or hear "Madam! what you buy? what you buy?" It was really peaceful. I spent a total of 45,000d ($2.90) and got: incense, a glass bottle of fish sauce which came with a glass bowl to mix it in, a plastic jar of jelly beans (couldn't help myself), sweet bean cakes, and all the produce mentioned above. Oh yeah, plus a plastic comb (mine disappeared somewhere between Princeton and Hong Kong) which is red. I asked for it by color, feeling really pleased to have remembered mau do. It has fishes on it. Soon I want to buy a nice wooden one, but this will do wonderfully for now. Across from the comb seller's stand, there was a dad and son who were chatty and shy, respectively. The Dad kept pulling his young son over to us and trying to get him to talk to me. Using pantomime and sign language we confirmed that the son was indeed 10 years old and that no, I did not want to sit next to him (the son looked really relieved). The dad read my mind and asked me (i think) if I was looking for lunch, which I was- but it turns out pho bo is so much of a breakfast food that no one in the market was selling it at 12:30pm. I really liked the dad and son. Their mannerisms were familiar, and I think his teasing was meant in a sweet way, to help his son learn how not to blush so easily. When I got lost on my way out, I found myself in front of them again, and we shook hands all around.

One thing I learned from buying things in the market is that I need to cement my numbers in my mind. I confused 6, 7 and 8 many times today. "Sau, bay, tam. Sau, bay, tam." I keep saying this over and over in my head. I'll get it.

I walked the incredibly short distance home and new things kept popping up in front of me: how had I never seen that there are TWO beauty salons right there? Why did I spend 20,000d on a motorbike ride to the center of the city the other day? Jeez, Jessica. Oh holy crap, there's a post office? There?? This is awesome! I am so in love with my neighborhood. Yesterday's walk was so fascinating. There are 5 hotels on the block behind my house. 5! Everyone, you need to come and visit me. Yes, the plane tickets are expensive, but my neighborhood will make it worth it!

Upon arriving home I discovered a few things. First of all, the sauce that I thought I was buying turned out to be entirely different sauce. It's not bad, but definitely not what I hoped I was buying. Hmm. That's one to ask about. Also, I might have bought the wrong kind of rice paper wrappers because I'm having a really hard time wrapping my spring rolls without them tearing. It was so easy back home in Charlotte at Pho98! What happened to my skills? I did the double-wrap today, which is when the first once rips apart just wrap the whole mess up in another one, a technique I learned in high school, rolling something a little less readily available and definitely not as tasty. Speaking of tasty, buying shrimp and them tossing them into boiling water has never before yielded me such sweet little pink bites before. Yay, seafood in Vietnam! Here's my meal, after the market and in the process:

The only bad thing is that when buying things by the kilo and half kilo, you end up with much more food than one person can eat. Looks like it's going to be a weekend full of spring rolls! Twist my rubber arm. Still, wish I had some Shimizus to help me finish up...


Russell said...

Jess ! Love reading this blogger and been following it since you got there. Love the stories. Keep having fun...i'll be listening.

Russ x

Anonymous said...

How awesome does that food look?!?!? If there is one thing that travelling has taught me, is that food always tastes better in the country it originated in (for those of you who don't believe...try sushi in osaka, then get back to me!)

Hey russ....glad to see i am not the only one keeping track of this blog! How awesome is it!!?!! "We can make a difference;)"

Just quietly...favourite bits so far are the conversation transcripts:
'Am i in the chorus? What's a chorus?'

Keep it coming Jess!!!
(and yes...we need to make this meet happen!)

Joe said...

That was me with the above comment, i keep forgetting my name...i will work out this fan-dangled new technology if it is the last thing i do!

Russell said...

Joe you are right with the food, Just been to Japan, didn't have sushi in osaka but had it from the bayside fish market in Tokyo ! Now that is the place for Sushi ! Fresh off the boat !
and yes " We can make a difference" especially in our sleep it seems ;)
still got the badge Jess ! X

Ken said...

Wow...If the fact that I already bought a ticket wasn't enough, those pictures seal the deal! Absolutely loving the blog!

I'm on Flickr a lot.

Jessica K.. Get yours at bighugelabs.com/flickr