Rings and things

2009-06-17 18:06:00-0700

The fact that I didn't have a ring when I proposed to Tien did not mean I didn't intend to get one for her, even if Vietnamese girls don't traditionally get them. I wanted to get something for her before I headed off to travel so she'd have something to remind her that Id' be coming back for her soon.

Monday night she, two of her sisters and I went down to Long Xuyen to go jewelry shopping. We found a nice shop and I told her to pick out whatever she wanted. The styles were a little gaudy, not delicate, and neither of us immediately saw anything we liked but we managed to find something that suited her. She also picked out some earrings and we were both happy about it all.

In English, the words million and billion are only one letter different. In America only the filthy rich have a problem with those kinds of monetary figures. Out here in four-leading-zeros land we do have those kinds of problems from time to time. When it came time to pay, she thought I was joking when I said I didn't have that kind of money on me, even though I'd just gone to the ATM. I thought she was upset when she said "fine, we'll just go home." In reality she was joking and I had misheard the price as being in billions, not millions, 1000 times more than it actually was. This is still a source for a good laugh.

We went out to eat afterwards and had some kind of omelet that you'd wrap inside leaves. It was really good, perhaps better than simply having an omelet. During dinner a man rode a scooter through the restaurant and nobody cared. Lizards crawled on the walls. The owner asked about my soul patch and said I was too young to have one.

My Wonderful Fiancé On Tuesday Tien and I went out for breakfast. We found a restaurant with tables under grass huts with puppies and chickens running around. She picked out some new foods for me to try, including some weird seafood that I amazingly did not completely dislike. It began pouring rain during breakfast, and our grass hut did a good job of keeping the rain off of us as we laughed at the chickens running around looking for shelter away from the humans. We ordered some more food to wait the rain out with. Then it didn't stop so we just motorbiked home in the rain.

Later I began feeling ill and attributed it to dinner the previous night. My doctor had warned me not to eat raw vegetables because they had probably been washed in water that had bacteria that my body was not used to. I guess she was right. It began raining and didn't stop for hours. We tried to find ways to enjoy ourselves indoors, and I ended up finding some string and teaching her nieces how to make knots that come undone by pulling on them and other silly things.
It was a lazy day. Tien and I talked about visa and passport plans and did research about how all of that stuff works.

During one of the lulls in the rain I heard car horns from the street and dogs barking. I thought about how there might be feral dogs out running in the road, and it occurred to me that I haven't seen any roadkill here. I suspect that because of traffic dynamics the average Vietnamese driver is more alert than the average American driver.

I decided that I would go to Cambodia the next morning. The bus left really early though and the stop for it was about 2 hours away on motorbike. Her family had been trying to coerce me into staying, they love me and were pointing out that I had some wet clothes and was a little bit ill, but I had places to go and I didn't have much to do in Binh Hoa. I was worried that it would rain though, so I told Tien that if it was raining in the morning I wouldn't go yet.

We stayed up a bit later chatting and preparing for my trip. I was eying one of the books that I helped Tien pick out for her English student: New Era English Conversation for Absolute Beginners. Most of this book is very, very useful, but I happened to open it to probably the least useful but most comical page. In chapter 5 the following phrases were used as conversational examples for describing things:

"His long mustache framed the side of his lips like fire from the window of a burning house."

"The expensive cut of his suit and the quite dignity of his expression belied the single bullet hole in the left side of his head."

Wednesday morning Tien's alarm didn't go off when we thought it would. We were up an hour late, and although we probably could've made it in time if we went really quickly I didn't want to do this because motorbiking on wet streets and wet dirt paths is not a good idea, especially with Tien having to steer with the heavy load of me and my backpack.

Instead of going to Cambodia I spent most of the day sleeping. It felt like my body was fighting something off, so it may have been better that I didn't go to Cambodia yet. I also got in touch with my friend Scott from San Jose who has a cousin in Saigon who works at a travel agency. Small world. I'll probably end up going through them to get to Angkor Wat.

When I wasn't sleeping Tien and I were doing more research on her visa situation. We called the US Embassy at three different numbers and sent a few e-mails to which we got one reply.

It rained some more.

That evening we went out to Long Xuyen to look for portrait studios and so Tien could go to school. On the way in it rained on us. It was warm though and actually felt kinda nice. When it stopped raining the air was dry and warm and it was fully night. Tien went to school and I went with her sisters to get some dinner.

Other than simple containers with no moving parts, I don't think I've seen a single toothpick holder in Vietnam that isn't broken.

After dinner I headed out with Thu and Mai to hit up the wedding portrait studios. We went to a large shop on the corner of a main street. There were large books with photos of couples in many different scenes with romantic phrases written in engrish.

A lizard crawled across the ceiling.

A lizard crawled across the face of a beautiful girl in a photograph on the wall.

Thu and Mai talked away in Vietnamese with several girls at the shop, not another English speaking person in sight, and I just through the books and critiqued the photography which was mostly very good. It was really funny to me that I'd be taking photos like this the next day, and I thought about traditions. I think that ceremony often puts a bad cover on an otherwise great book. This photography thing is not the kind of thing I would choose to do on my own, but because it's traditional and because Tien wants to do it I'm happy to do it, even if I feel a little silly doing so. The really good stuff comes later, and that's what I'm looking forward to. Going to America, traveling around, discovering new places, rediscovering old places and living out this dream.

By Daniel, Category: blog

Tags: journal / life / photography / travel / cambodia / engagement / food / vietnam /