We've been busy. Some days are spent just looking around the Old Town, some days we set off, with a plan. We continue to blunder our way through each day, and Yes, we have learned to cook, working within the limits of our Vietnamese style kitchen. The counters are very low and it's definitely hard on our backs preparing and cooking our food. Clean up is just as challenging. I always thought Steve was a big guy, but take a look at the next photo of our friend doing dishes.
Most of you have enjoyed our Asian Chicken Chili and it's such a great comfort food, we decided to put it on our dinner list. When Steve and I went to open the cans of kidney beans I so proudly found, we realized we had forgotten one important step. We didn't own a can opener! Steve decided to approach a neighbour across the street to ask to borrow one (as if anyone would know what a can opener was) and after a great "acting performance" conversation, which brought on a good laugh from his audience, the women screamed to her man to take care of the situation. He used a chisel and hammer to smash open the top for us.
It is such a different culture here and we have made many, many Vietnamese laugh at us, as we've blundered our way through the many adjustments we've encountered.
When the laundry isn't dry and your yard no longer has sunshine, you simply put it out to dry in the middle of the street!
Steve's email to his brother: Hey Dave, Send me your measurements and I will have suit made for you.
Response: Hey Steve, I called Don Cherry and he wants 6 of them
A Vietnamese version of a child's car seat!
too old for the car seat. Still no helmet. You wouldn't believe what we've seen. Drivers hanging onto their bike with one hand and the other holding a sleeping baby.. It's unbelievable!
Delivery service and no straps holding the cargo!
Hoi An is known for it's tailoring but our friends are not known for impulse buying. One day we decided to divide and concur our daily morning tasks. Steve and I volunteered to ride the bikes, shortening the distance to a couple of stores that carry dairy products, while our friends would walk a short distance to the nearby Hoi An market for veggies and fruit. Steve soon realized we had forgotten our house keys but didn't panic knowing that our friends would be home by the time we got back.
When we arrived home, our gate was still locked and after a quick ride through the market we soon realized our friends had simply vanished and our butter & yogurt were getting warmer by the minute. Everything would have been spoilt if it weren't for Tao and Mr Hi (our local go-to Mr Hi Restaurant just at the end of our street) who graciously put our yogurt and butter into their cooler.
"This was very strange", we thought. "Our friends wouldn't be shopping, they just don't like shopping!" The idea was ludicrous...right? "Perhaps Mark got hungry and they've gone for some Bánh mì".
Well, not so! When they finally returned, we found they had been corralled into buying some tailor-made clothing. "G'zzz", we joked. "We can't let you out of our sight for a moment!" Julie replied, "I know, right!" They explain on their blog in further detail.
We've noticed an increase in decorative lanterns strung about in Hoi An and after some research, we've discovered that the Hoi An Lantern festival is one of Southeast Asia's most popular events.
For centuries, the Vietnamese have considered the full moon a time to pay their respects to their ancestors, hold candlelit ceremonies at temples and generally make merry.
We have friends and are enjoying our stay here on Lưu Qúy Kỳ (street) Hội An, Quang Nam Province
Last week while sitting in our front yard watching our laundry dry (or having a beer), a man walked in. After a few moments of polite confusion and help from his beckoned daughter-in-law (who spoke English), we found that we were being invited to a street party and the family was out collecting money towards the event. After asking what would be an appropriate amount, we together contributed 400,000 VND. They seemed impressed. I asked if there was something we needed to bring or if we could help out in some way, but the daughter-in-law informed us that all the women would be cooking for the event and insisted that all we had to do, was show up. When and what time was not clear, but we were told not to worry, someone would come and get us when it was time.
One morning Julie and I went to shop for elephant pants. A neighbour caught our attention and pointed to an erected tent, and put up two fingers. "Oh, okay", we replied and off we went.
As we walked by the tent it was obvious that something was taking place today. The tent area was being decorated and tables set out for whatever they had planned. The finishing touches were being made to a boat the men had been working on.
Julie later phoned the guys to let them know that perhaps the street party was tonight and perhaps at 2pm or in 2 hours time or in a couple of days..lol BUT most likely not next week at 4'oclock as we first thought.
Elephant pants are found everywhere, but we were looking for a deal so we headed out of the Old Town district. As we shopped, we made the mistake of showing interest in a particular pattern and walked into a store! Before we knew it, we were being put into a taxi, along with the owner of the shop and going to her factory. After a short ride to unfamiliar territory, we stopped at a house and were asked to step inside a house. "My factory", the owner pointed. It was a larger room with about 5 people on the floor, surrounded by mounds of material and heaps of elephant pants! I looked at Julie and climbed in. What a hoot! After deciding on a few pairs and patterns, we were helped outside to our waiting taxi and drove back to the shop to pay for our purchases. The owner spoke very good English and when we asked her if she knew anything about street parties. She shared all kinds of information. Simply stated, each area has a designated time to hold street parties and the time for our area of town (Minh An), was throughout this week and would begin most likely this afternoon. We scurried home.
Walking by the tent it seemed the celebration was about to start. Tables were full of food, candles, incense, flowers and assorted pop, water and beer.
At 4pm were asked to join them. Julie and I were the only women looking in from our front row seats. After a half an hour we were invited to share in the launching of their boat.
Only those who had participated in the first bit, followed the boat procession. We walked to the backside of An Hoi to launch the boat. I got these photos by standing in ankle deep mud!
After the launch, I ran ahead so that I could wash my feet and sandals with our outside hose sin order to not be late for the next bit. We have no idea what was taking place, other than it seemed a Buddha celebration and blessing. I managed to sit beside an older gentleman that showed deep interest. He got up to pay his homage and a neighbourhood child sat in his chair. When he turned to sit back down, they didn't get up so I offered him my chair, and from that moment on, he was my friend.
Like everyday, there was more burning. At the end of the blessing, the monk read the list of the people living on the street and set it alight and he tossed it under the tables. We had a moment of panic thinking the whole tablecloth would ignite and we'd have a major fire!
A few women entered the tent to pay homage and disappeared.
After the event was over, they started to dismantle all their decorative work and set it alight.
The food on the table, coated in soot and smelling like incense, was the food we were about to eat. It had been sitting there all afternoon! The tables were separated and placed down the street. We were placed at one table and some neighbours were asked to join us. A couple (who danced beautifully later that evening) helped us sort through the food. Honestly, I don't think the older woman across the street likes us and she was made to sit with us. More and more food arrived, beer was topped up at each opportunity, food was shoved into our bowls, and the music began as the night approached. I got up and walked over to the old man's table (there were about 12 all sitting together) and clinked glasses with my new "old man " friend. A big smile of acceptance ..phew!
Karaoke seems ramped here in Vietnam and everyone is invited to participate. If you can't sing, you're asked to dance.. You know me, bring it on! I got up and placed myself at the table of women. Julie was ushered over to join us and the men combined tables and the drinking began! Mark and Steve held up their end, while Julie and I were shared laughter and food with the women at our table, who were just sitting down to enjoy the food they had slaved over for the day's celebration.
The next day on the way to the market, my friend crossed the street to hug me and say Hi. I pretended I had a hangover and indicated that I was still full. She appreciated that.