I have often written how great my wife treats me and cares for me in so many ways, making my life here both comfortable, interesting, enjoyable, and exciting. I know I am very lucky to have found this crazy woman, and try very hard to make her know that I know, and am grateful.
Tonight she even cooked Brussel Sprouts, little tender ones, for me. Doesn’t sound like a big deal until you know that brussel sprouts are beyond rare in Vietnam; in fact when she bought the last package of the 3 the seller had, everyone started asking what they were and what you do with them and how you cook them and how they taste etc, etc, etc. Most people here have never seen them, and certainly never tasted them. Surprisingly, they were amazingly fresh, delicious, and not expensive.
It is sort of neat. Here, people talk to each other at a market, even if they don’t know each other. Ideas about cooking, suggestions, questions, all kinds of conversations are exchanged even between total strangers. Also, many people shop at the same places at pretty much the same times, so they know each other by sight if not personally, and there are few snobs or economic differences acknowledged. Kim Lien has been going to the same market for 30 years, having coffee at the same place, eating pretty much the same food, so she knows the other customers–BUT DOESN’T KNOW THEIR NAMES. People just don’t know each others names, and even friends of 20, 30, or more years don’t know the family names of their friends. It would be like I never knew you as Your first, middle, and last name, just as Your First Name. There is always something new to surprise me with this culture, many, many interesting differences.
I go to this market often enough so that the people we buy from know me. They know my wife for many years and I have inherited some of their kindness and consideration they give to my wife. I can go to our favorite fruit vendor and just point at what I want, tell them how much, and return a bit later to pick up the packages and pay. All the fruits are top quality, better than even I would have chosen, and I don’t have to worry about being overcharged because I am a foreigner. Many times at many places here in Vietnam I have misunderstood the amounts the vendor told me and overpaid, but only one time did the vendor not return the overpayment. I don’t shop there anymore.
Often people will reject what I have chosen, and have given me a better quality fruit or vegetable. Even when I am a total stranger at a vendor, I am treated with respect, kindness and honesty. My wife may not know the vendor’s name, but she knows they have banana trees in their back yard, or the number and age and sex of their children. There is a sense of family that is extended to my wife, and she is careful to cultivate this and get the benefits of her friendships in the quality and prices of her purchases. Besides, she just likes people.
Many times we are eating breakfast at one of the food stalls and people will come to us and tell us that they have a special food they know I like, a quiche of eggs and fresh farm vegetables they made last night and brought to market today. We don’t pay extra for this, and in fact get a discounted price, because all we did was smile and say, “Cam on” or Thank you. A smile goes far here, and many people have said to my wife that”Your husband looks friendly, very big, but friendly.” I am often patted on the stomach because people 1. don’t believe it is really that big; 2. people think it is good luck; 3. women wonder how my wife can… Enough
I have a feeling that we will be getting a call the next time the vendor has brussel sprouts. I am certainly not complaining.