Two weeks. Fifteen days. And innumerable novel experiences of a novice homemaker. Some things I have been keeping track of (the daily expenses, for one) and some things I let pass by me without thinking much about (that I spent 750000 VND on just a facial out of spite). You know how it is.
So you see, while I had written about the first week in Hanoi, and how it was to start making a home out of a house, I had skipped that bit about how in a pathetic attempt to be a good wife, I once actually served just an apple for breakfast to the husband, because there was nothing else in the house for the two first days! While I had written about crocodile meat being sold in Big C, I had skipped that bit about how I had nightmares long after I had seen an actual crocodile head being chopped off and displayed for show on a slab of ice, and how peeling the skin off and “dressing” the meat is “exhibited” as a form of art for a mesmerised audience. Sometimes we all do things like that. Not peel off crocodile skin, of course. Skip things we don’t want to talk about, I mean.
But in the last two weeks I have seen things I had never seen before, done things I hadn’t done before, and realized a few things I had never thought I would.
So while back at home, I had cooked from time to time, it was more of a hobby, not a compulsion. And now that I am actually running a kitchen, I am amazingly at ease with the whole concept of cooking three times in a day. Okay, two times. Lunch includes shoving containers of leftover dinner into the microwave and having it all by myself since the husband’s away. Like my sister never fails to add whenever people ask me if I cook, I used to cook just fancy stuff. Not the humble everyday meals. And I sincerely can not put into words the feeling I have after cooking something the way I had seen my Ma cook it, and then realizing with pride that it smells and tastes just like hers did! I plan meals with as much zeal as I used to plan eating out with friends. I am just as happy when the husband loves something I had cooked as I used to be when somebody told me I looked good. For the record, now that it is just me and the husband, this is not something I hear very often. But meh, whatever. It’s been quite some time that I have realized the dude is more expressive when it comes to food than he is about me.
Moving on. This must be the first time in my life when I have tasted four different cuisines in ten days’ time. From authentic Vietnamese to Mexican to Thai to French. I gushed over the crab spring rolls and bahn cuons and the typical Vietnamese green mango salad with shrimps, I fell in love with the Thai green curry served with rice, and the chicken soup with coconut milk that had a distinct lemon grass flavor, and I actually became poetic over my bacon flowers served on a bed of lotus seeds and caramelized pork. Once we both figured out how to go about eating it, of course. I mean, we didn’t even know what to do with those chunks of roll that they kept serving one at a time on a soup spoon until our starter arrived. But ah, my stomach is the last thing I have to worry about now that I am here. Oh, and I am married, which means I can afford to be a little complacent, at least for a few days (wicked smile)
But enough has been said about the food. I should probably talk about the silent haggling that I witnessed, much to my amusement, just last week. So just near Hoan Kiem is a huge shoe market where you can get all the fake Nikes and Adidas and Pumas that you had dreamt of, and more. The husband wanted a pair of slippers to wear at home, and when he picked one, the saleswoman, an elderly lady, promptly picked up the calculator and typed out the price. The husband raised his eyebrows as fast as he could, and typed out his price. I merely laughed, the supportive wife that I am. The lady shook her head, took the calculator from him and typed out her price again. After fifteen minutes of taking turns on the calculator, they finally agreed on a price, and I was amazed once again by how people have found ways around the entire language barrier. But then again, body language is universal. A nod will always mean a yes, and a shake will always mean a no. A smile will only be a smile everywhere, and a frown will only be a frown.
Between people coming and talking to me in Vietnamese and learning a little bit of it myself, between realizing that out here there are still places where they shape eyebrows with a blade (yes, a blade!) and between marveling over the most fresh, the choicest fruits and vegetables money can buy, I’ve also had a few Hanoi moments of my own. Like that impulsive dance move in the middle of the street my husband surprised me with as we walked hand in hand by the Hoan Kiem lake. Like seeing that cute kid with a proud mohawk (the rest of his hair was shaved) holding his brothers hand in the lift. Like listening to a Vietnamese song in the radio and realizing I could hum along with it because I had heard it once before.
Life, for the last two weeks has been different, has been difficult. But most of all, has taught me what life is really about. Making the best of what is thrown at you, and learning to be happy with what you have. Signing off before the homesickness gets to me yet again. Tam biet!