The best day ever…according to Nancy

This is one of my favorite pictures from Vietnam. It’s such a slice of life. Notice everyone is eating but Nancy, Su and I. We are all about the picture. The day started out with breakfast at my grandmother’s. My mom had gotten up early to go to the market to buy fresh shrimp and fruit for it. She pre-made our spring rolls (she knows I love spring rolls). I didn’t have the heart to tell her I make my own at home and know how to wrap them.

I think it’s pretty normal to sit on the floor and eat and I totally see the appeal. Their homes are not big. If there weren’t so many of us, they would have sat around the coffee table to eat. I’m not exactly graceful getting up but hey, if my elders can do it, so can I. Plus I think I had Nancy pull me up (I have crappy knees).

Fresh fruit was brought out after breakfast. I love me some fresh fruit. Not a fan of dragonfruit, it just doesn’t have much flavor to me. I bought one once at a market in Atlanta and hated it. Thought I just didn’t buy a ripe one. Nope, don’t like it in Vietnam either but it’s very common here.

They also brought out  this fruit which I don’t know the name of. It seems to be a delicacy to them. You scoop out the seeds and then eat the tender flesh.  I didn’t like it but because they were so excited I ate some. They tried to get me to eat more but I told them to eat it, I’d rather have someone who enjoys it eating it. I think Nancy and Su liked it more than I did. They also had a plate full of mango which I loved.

Here’s a fun family photo. I can’t tell you the name of most of the people in the picture or remember who is what number. So many people all at once it’s hard to keep track but it was great being surrounded by extended family. While I have a large family, I’m not very close to my extended family (since most of them live in Vietnam and don’t speak English) so I was soaking it up, even if there was a huge communication barrier.

We pretty much left this day up to my mom to plan. Whatever she wanted, we would do since this was her home turf. The original plan was to take a taxi around all day but because of the holiday, the prices were outrageous. So mom decided we were going to have to take scooters and was I ok with that? I said sure, as long as Nancy and Su weren’t driving. A couple of the cousins took me back to the hotel to put on a long sleeved shirt since we would be outside all day. Too bad the shirt I wore was cut off, I should have kept the t-shirt on that covered my shoulders, oh well, live and learn. While going to our hotel I was totally comfortable on the back of their scooter. I have never ridden a motorcycle before but I loved being on the scooter. They ride them as an extension of their body, since they are pretty much raised on them. I actually felt safer on the scooter weaving thru traffic than in the back of a taxi which is funny because when they get to an intersection and there’s no light they don’t stop and let the first person there cross. They just honk their horn the whole time they are crossing.

Nancy chased around these chickens that were running around my MeMaw’s neighbor’s house. They are quite skinny. They are fighting cocks according to Nancy. I don’t know if that’s true or not because it looked like all of the chickens we saw in country were that scrawny. I hope not every chicken is a fighting chicken.
After we got back to MeMaw’s it was time to hit the road. Nancy was super excited because my mom had a hat that she could wrap around her head that would protect from the sun. It wasn’t sexy but it was fun.
Our scooter was a 3 seater. The beautiful one rode with us all day and she was standing the whole time. She would just lean forward or back to rest. No complaints at all. That’s my mom riding shotgun behind the Beautiful one’s mom.
Our first destination was to my mom’s friend’s house. It’s who she usually stays with when she’s in town. I asked her why she didn’t stay with her mom and she said, with full conviction, “who would wash my clothes and cook for me?” Really, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Those are words I live by.
Her friend is a famous Vietnamese opera singer. We drove thru town and beautiful country side to get there. It’s was just an amazing ride. Once we got out of the city the honk of the horns was a lot less and we could just enjoy the beauty of it. I even got to the point where I no longer had a death grip on my driver, who will be now known as yellow pants, since that’s what she changed into later.
The rice fields don’t have one growing season. I believe they told me that they could get 3 different rice crops in one year, some fields we saw were green, some bare, and some yellow, which means they were ready to be harvested. They plant these fields by hand. It’s insane.
We get to the opera singer’s house and there’s a room in the back that’s dedicated to my mom. I do not exaggerate when I say this. I can’t remember if I mentioned the fact that the only picture on the wall at MeMaw’s is a giant one of my mom. Well that same picture is in this room and there are 8×10’s of my mom all around the room. Well, there’s also a painting and a couple of larger pictures of her. The few photos that aren’t of my mom are of my siblings. Notice I said my siblings, not of myself. Yep, my mom took me to a home where she has pics of everyone but me. Even my dad is on that wall (they are divorced). Luckily, just like my mom, I have a healthy ego. She says she didn’t have any large pics of me. Don’t worry, that will be taken care of.  The only real question here is I’m wondering why my friends don’t have a room dedicated to me yet? The gauntlet has been thrown.
After our quick visit to the shrine of my mom (took 40 minutes to get there and we spent 5 minutes there), she just wanted us to see it, we went to a temple that is really popular. It was also really busy. She wanted to bring us earlier in the day but the lack of transportation slowed us down. We all said no. I have no interest in crowds and as you know, I’m not a very touristy person. After we wove thru the masses we made a stop on the side of the road. I thought it was lunch time. I’m always ready to eat. Nope, we stopped to have a drink. Mom decided that we were hot and needed a refreshment. What does a gang of hardened bikers who need a drink drink? Fresh squeezed sugar cane with a touch of salt on top. My mom used to buy sugar cane at the Asian market and chop off pieces and we would chew it. I don’t love fresh sugar cane, I’d rather have water but I didn’t tell her. It was nice to sit in the shade for a few and just watch the people go by. See the beginning of my beautiful burn.
Next on the agenda was going to my Uncle’s house. I’ve been spending time with my mom’s maternal side of the family and now it was time to go meet the paternal side of my mom’s family. Along the way we saw all kinds of animals, sheep, cows, water buffalo. We had to stop for a few crossings. The animals just wander where they will.
Vietnam is a male dominated society. Even tho my mom is much older, her brother is the patriarch of the family. We brought him and his family goodies also. How did they like them? We don’t know. We never heard back. You know what they will be getting from me next time? A large photo of me. A gift that keeps giving. Shockingly, no picture of my mom on the wall. Mom introduced me to one of her sisters. When her sister was born, my grandfather looked away in disgust and said she might as well have been a dog. I was horrified that this story is such common knowledge that they talk about it in front of her and yet my grandfather was beloved by all and most especially his children. The men are the ones who carry the family name tho and I think out of all of his children he had only 1 son live into adulthood.

My cousin took me up to the shrine to see a picture of my great great grandfather. He had fingernails so long that they curled. Somehow that pic of him ended up in France and they were able to get a copy of it. There was also a huge Ha family tree. I can’t read Vietnamese but I could see my mom’s name on there. What I didn’t see is any of her 9 kids. There was one name added to the family tree, my uncle’s son. So I go back and ask them about the tree and the fact my name isn’t on it. My mom says it’s old. I point out that my cousin’s name has been added to it, he’s still in college. The obvious reason is it’s the Ha family tree and I don’t carry the name Ha but as I pointed out, my cousin is 50% Ha and I’m 50% Ha. I didn’t let them and their old school way of thinking off of the hook. They saw nothing wrong with it. My uncle even said to me, who is more special, me (in reference to himself) or your mom? I was so surprised by this question, that he honestly thought he was more special that I didn’t answer it how I should have answered it. I just said, I don’t know. I should have said my mom, because she gave birth to me. Needless to say, I didn’t bond as much with my Uncle as I did the rest of my family. 3 months later I was talking to my mom, they were having a family reunion for the anniversary of my Grandpa’s death and my conversation about the family tree was still being talked about. I planted a seed that will one day become a tree.

After we left my uncle’s it was time for lunch! Yay!!! We stopped by a roadside to eat rice and chicken soup which was amazing and have balut, which are fertilized duck eggs. The Philippines is knowns for balut but I grew up eating them and very much enjoy it. I know most people are grossed out by the idea, not me. When I was young, it seemed like forever for the water to boil when my mom made them. I specifically requested balut because I don’t eat it often and Nancy and Su never had it. Su was down to try it but Nancy was a bit leery. I know how to get her tho, I just told her to think of the stories she could tell her dad.

Yep, she caved, LOL. Normally I don’t eat the baby duck. I scoop that part out and toss it. What I love is the broth on the inside and the yolk. The white part of the egg is very rubbery. Every now and again I’ll eat it if it isn’t too rubbery. These were the perfect size of everything and because I was in the Nam, I ate the duck. What did it taste like? Chicken.
Normally I eat balut with salt and pepper but they serve balut with fresh herbs. I enjoyed it more than Su and Nancy but I think Su ate a second one. Nancy’s stomach wasn’t up to having another one. We ordered more eggs than we ate so they sent the ones we didn’t eat back and that got taken off of the bill. How awesome is that?
At some point we stopped to get gas and waited for the rest to join us. Next you know I see Nancy passing us on some strange old man’s motorcycle. I expected them to turn around but they kept going. Oh well, someone finally got their white wife.
They took us to a big bridge where we could get out and watch the sunset.  It was stunning. We wandered around taking some pics and eventually Nancy joined us. Apparently she wasn’t abducted. Mom had decided for some reason Nancy needed a bathroom break (Nancy didn’t have to go) so they stopped at some relative’s house and then Tank’s dad’s bike got a flat so the uncle gave Nancy a ride to where we were. While we were wandering around the bridge my mom went ahead to a different relative’s place which is where we met up with her for dinner.
Mom was wiped, shoot, we were all wiped, lol. But not too tired to eat. We had more spring rolls but this time we made our own and the fillings were different.

MeMaw was happy to see us come back. I had given her some money to help make life easier on her before I left for the day. I came back and she had bought herself some gold jewelry. She was very excited to show me. That’s something I wish I hadn’t known. But hey, it’s her money, she can choose to spend it how she liked.

After dinner the younger ones took us out for a coffee. I don’t drink coffee so I ordered a juice. They didn’t have it. I ordered a smoothie, they didn’t have it. Finally I just let the girls order for me. I really didn’t care as long as it wasn’t coffee or tea. They brought me a coconut jelly “drink”. It ended up being more than anyone else’s drink and it wasn’t even a drink, LOL. One of the cousins spoke a tiny bit of English but we basically communicated using a language app. It was fun.

One of my cousins pulled up a facebook page and had us all friend it. I sent a bunch of pictures there. Even tho it was a girl on the profile pic I didn’t recognize I got the thumbs up from my message. When she asked me if I spoke Vietnamese I realized, this isn’t my cousin or his girlfriend. I had no idea who she was. Later when I saw my mom I asked her who it was, she had no idea. Well, it’s my mom’s niece, she can’t keep track of them all! It’s Oops’ other daughter. We’re still friends on FB even tho we never met. I smile every time she likes one of my photos.

Our coffee shop was also a karaoke bar and very happening. If we hadn’t been exhausted and had a train to catch the next day I would have gotten my karaoke on!

 

When the cousins dropped us off at our hotel they drove their bikes into the hotel and parked right in the lobby. Good to know. They wanted to check out our rooms so they came up. I think Nancy ran up first to throw our clothes into the closet. We weren’t prepared for company. The little ones played on our ipads, they were in heaven. Being the great hostess I am, I started rummaging around for food to give them. I had an open pack of dried squid I bought while at the airport in Japan. It’s like fish jerky. They loved it. Now every time I go to the Asian market I pick up a bag so that the next time I go home I can bring them some. They have that in the Nam but it’s not as good as what I brought.

We also gave yellow pants my broken Samsonite. The wheel got broken on the very first flight I used it on and I never got around to getting it fixed. We planned on ditching it in the Nam, just used it to bring over candy. She was thrilled. We were going to leave it in our room. We were thrilled she was thrilled. I’m sure she’ll get it fixed, unlike my lazy butt.

And thus ends the tale of Nancy’s best day ever. I have to say, there was something magical about going around a foreign country with people who live there and aren’t working to get money from tourists. We spent the day as locals and it was an amazing day. Definitely one of the best days of a trip ever.

Leiha

I like to eat, sleep and experience the world, one meal at a time.

10 thoughts on “The best day ever…according to Nancy

  • April 7, 2016 at 10:23 am
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    Almost broke my neck taking that family photo, lol. It was a truly AMAZING day!

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    • April 7, 2016 at 11:11 pm
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      Why isn’t #9 daughter in the pic?

      Reply
  • April 7, 2016 at 11:45 am
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    I love how your rebel ways are affecting the family tree. Changes are headed that way! The day truly was glorious , thanks for sharing with us. Nancy looked adorable in her wrap around hat.

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    • April 7, 2016 at 12:03 pm
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      She loves that hat, have to find a way to incorporate it in real life. I bought myself one. I’m looking forward to shaking up the family dynamics some more on my next trip. 🙂

      Reply
  • April 8, 2016 at 9:46 am
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    What a day! I’m stealing your idea and getting 8×10’s of my myself as gifts for everyone next time I go home! I think you need to visit the nam more often. Your family needs you to ‘shake’ things up some more. Also, you should take me lol

    Reply
    • April 8, 2016 at 9:49 am
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      Sue, consider yourself invited to the Nam. You know I’m going back (ok, I want to go back to every place I visit but that’s a minor detail).

      I need to work on getting 8x10s made of me. I’m seriously slacking.

      Reply
  • April 8, 2016 at 4:07 pm
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    Another thing I noticed after riding all over Vietnam is men just pee anywhere…. If I ever took a green card husband he would have to sign something saying he would only pee in the toilet, not the yard.

    Leiah’s family was so welcoming and generous. I loved that they didn’t trust us to make the spring roll’s correctly and made them for us. That makes me think I need to make some breakfast spring rolls soon. Eggs, sausage, shrimp… all the good stuff.

    It is no lie, I love my hat. Thu (Leiha’s Mom) brought me back a larger one, so I returned the one she gave me. I think we need to get scooters so we have a reason to wear them here… now who is going to get me the money for that?

    It was so wonderful riding around on the scooters. at one point I was so relaxed I almost fell asleep on Tank’s dad – yet another made up name because we didn’t know anyone’s name. We rode through the city, the rice fields, some forest, and finally on a ridge above the ocean. My phone battery had died so I couldn’t take a picture. Instead I worked really hard taking a mental picture of the trees, fishing nets drying, the ocean all with the sunset in the back. I just close my eyes and I am back!

    Reply
    • April 10, 2016 at 11:21 pm
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      Dang girl, you spelled my name wrong TWICE! Firs time I didn’t say anything but now I’m calling you out since you are supposedly my best friend, LOL.

      Yeah, the peeing outside was pretty funny. Remember the cab driver who tried to say it was just lower class guys then the next guy we passed was in a business suit?

      Sadly, the scooter dream is slowly dying but at least we have our hats. Maybe we should wear them camping.

      Reply
  • January 26, 2017 at 1:02 pm
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    I cannot believe that I somehow missed reading this post until now!
    Leiha, I want to try balut! I don’t think I’m woman enough to try durian yet, but someday…
    I love all of the pictures.
    I’m so glad y’all had such a blast.
    Maybe we can visit next time you go; I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

    Reply
    • January 26, 2017 at 1:59 pm
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      I love balut Brenda! I think you would enjoy it also. I am debating about how long I’m going to stay in Vietnam, if I do decide to stay, I hope that you and Brian make it out! <3

      Reply

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