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.
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.
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.
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.