29 September 2007

It Was A Dark & Stormy Night Part Deux

Spelling Bee and I had a most warm and welcoming dinner at T's place. Based on the two homes we've visited, Vietnamese families keep their houses very clean, neat and homely, and are extremely hospitable.

[Apparently it's part of the Vietnamese culture for women to help in the kitchen and for men to stay in the living room and chat. We were told that if the men tried to help out in the kitchen, they would get chased out (friendlily, of course) back into the living room to sit down and be waited upon, as is rightful for men. Of course, the Singaporean guys in the group took to the idea like fish to water and the ladies were like "Hey! Show them how you guys are different! Do your stuff in the kitchen!"

Intuition cooked black pepper beef for our Vietnamese host during one of our visits; Spelling Bee and I didn't intend to help out much initially, but the thought of being labelled "this one not going to be a good wife" prompted us to at least show face in the small, neat and VERY CLEAN kitchen :P ]

It came to us as a surprise, for when we agreed to meet her for dinner, we thought she would bring us to a cafe near our hotel. Unexpectedly, when we both showed up horribly late for the appointment, she told us that she cooked "green banana soup" for us at her home, 5km from our hotel. That's when we piled onto her motorbike (look ma, 3 of us on 1 bike! no helmets! and no rear-view mirrors!) and she cried "Wah! So heavy!", struggling to balance with us heavyweights behind her. That's also when she approached the motorbike taxi uncle and my adventure began.

So we got to her place eventually and had a warm cozy dinner: T, her cute younger brother, her wonderful mother, Spelling Bee and me. Halfway through, various cousins, aunties and uncles (they all live next to one another) popped by to say "Hi!" to the Singaporean guests =) How very friendly!

The evening was full of surprises, really. We were surprised that T's mother could speak Chinese. We were surprised that green banana soup is savoury and green bananas could taste like potatoes, skin and all. We were surprised that green papayas were edible, and they ate them like pickles during the dinner. (Spelling Bee was surprised that they used green oranges in VN and was even more surprised that inside the green orange, it was orange in colour, and I was surprised she was surprised that the inside of a green orange is orange.) T's cousin had a really squeeky speaking voice and she often squeeled in delight (the register was high enough to almost shatter glass... almost) when playing games with us, but when she sang, it was as though an angel descended upon our midst; her squeeky voice became velvety, mellow and was pitch perfect. *cue dropped jaws and widened eyes*

As we were rounding up our night of food, singing and games, T's mother remarked that it sounded like it was about to rain and we should really be on our way. T and her best friend, P, would send us back on their bikes.

Just as we rode out of the compound into the town, heavy rain started pelting down. split splat Split Splat SPLISH SPLASH SPLISH *ThuUUUuunnDdeerrr....* The rain mercilessly beat down upon the streets and we had to stop by a shop for cover. There was no way our friends could send us back in that heavy rain. Traffic disappeared from the streets; all that could be seen are the occassional folks crossing the soaked streets in slippers and raincoats or the lone taxi inching its way in the rain. No motorbikes ventured out in that weather. We stood by the street and prayed for the rain to cease, but God in His sovereignty decided that it was good to rain. P called for a cab for us, so as we waited for the taxi, we huddled together under a small shelter and tried our best to avoid the rain.

The taxi came after 20min; SB and I made a dash for it. As we slowly made our way to the hotel, we noticed how a heavy downpour clears the roads of traffic. We also noticed that the drainage system can't keep up with the volume of water; even the larger roads were getting covered with water.
SB: Wow, it's getting slightly flooded.
Me: Yeah man...
SB: The drains are probably choked with rubbish.
Me: Yah lor, considering how it's the norm to throw things on the streets.
*sat in silence for the rest of the stormy ride back*

As the taxi approached the busy streets surrounding our hotel, it became apparent that the streets are slightly flooded; I could see the water level reaching the doorstep of some shopfronts. As we looked out into the pouring rain, some strange men looked into the cab and leered at us. What was that all about?! Disgusted, we looked away.

Before long...
Taxi driver: ok, hotel here.
Me: Could you drive nearer to the hotel? Move back abit?
Taxi driver: *frowns and points at another taxi blocking his way* No no, cannot.
SB: Aiyoh, so far ah?
Me: Yah, looks like we gotta swim to the hotel *squints at the rising water level in the heavy rain*

Taking a deep breath, we opened the taxi door and stepped right into a wading pool with a heavy shower right over us... the murky, cold water reached to our knees.

We: Aaaahhhhh!!! *tries to wade through the water while holding a bent and broken umbrella over our heads*
We: AaaahhhHh! *tries to avoid a low-hanging tree branch... *
SB: aaaahhhh*bangs into the branch* OUCH! aaahahahahhaha..!!
Me: AAAhhhhhh! *feels something slimy touch my feet and tries not to think about all the rubbish I usually see on the streets*

After blindly stumbling in the rain from the cab to the hotel entrance, we collapsed into the reception area, laughing like madwomen. The receptionist took a while to recognize us, all wretched and drenched; she looked like she briefly considered shooing us loony vagabonds back into the rain.

We climbed up to our room and collapsed onto the chairs, spent and stoned from all that happened in that one evening, as the rain continued relentlessly and the thunder rumbled on. What a night.

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