Sunday, January 13, 2008

Mysterious Knocker

This will be a brief post. It was basically an uneventful day. But, it did start out interesting when someone came knocking on our door at 6:00 am to say they were waking up Mr. Tam. We both popped up and Ron said through the door, there is no one here by that name. They repeated the message and Ron did likewise. We tried getting back to sleep, but then about fifteen minutes went by and the knock came again. The messenger said the taxi was here for Mr. Tam. Ron again shouted through the door, but refused to open it to speak to the guy. Speaking through a door to a non-native speaker who barely understands English is like expecting your pet dog to literally understand everything you say to them; it just does not work that way. The shouting match went back and forth for a good five minutes, before we realized it was not Mr. Tam, but Mr. Jam or James. They were under the impression we were leaving for the airport today and had a taxi waiting. The first knock was our wake-up call and the second go around was the taxi’s meter is running even if you are not. Opps! Right hour, wrong day, try again tomorrow.

Neither of us could get back to sleep after this. After a shower, we went down to breakfast where each male employee looked sheepish, so we could not tell which one was the morning messenger, but we smiled at all of them to show no hard feelings. Now we wondered if we were getting one to two nights free for the botched guideless boat trip, but either way, we were prepared.

Blue dragons seem to be a rarity, but I wanted one. The Hmong people make stuffed animals with their ethnic weaving and cloths that they create. I wanted a small blue dragon, but had only seen the large ones, while the small ones were lemon yellow, hibiscus pink, and tangerine orange combinations. We finally agreed on getting the large one since it was the correct color, but we could not remember where the store was where we saw it. After hunting for over an hour, I suggested we give up the search and Ron wanted to find the Catholic Church anyway.

When we found the church, it was overflowing with people at the 10:00 am mass. The next one was in French at noon, and then in Vietnamese at 4:00. Whiling the time until we could return, we found a café. The French mass was not nearly as well attended as the morning one, yet it was surprising to see how many people there were. Just having a French mass shows there is a need, which makes me wonder why. The interior of the church is something we have never seen. The entire altar and side altars were done in red and gold, very ornate designs, but really red and tons of gold. I felt like Dorothy in the Land of Oz after a Beijing makeover. It was unusual too that they still had their Christmas trees up and lit at this late date. Hopefully, they are artificial or are a real fire hazard.

Basically the rest of the day took us on the search for blue dragons. What we discovered was another restaurant run by former homeless children as a training program in self-survival and hospitality skills for future employment. We had refreshments here to show our support and bought a t-shirt from them. Next door is a shop that sells fair trade items produced in cottage industry workshops by village women, where we found a little gift for a friend.

Our dinner choice was a restaurant recommended by a friend who had lived in Vietnam for nine months, bless his tolerant heart. The desk clerk told us it is the most famous restaurant in Hanoi serving recipes from the entire country’s gastronomic offerings. Outside the hotel was a cyclo, so we climbed in after negotiating a $5.00 ride. This poor man really earned his money. It turned out to be quite a distance from our hotel, so his poor legs must have been tired. When we arrived, I gave him extra dollars, so he said he would wait for us to take us back.

Neither of us was thrilled with our choices for dinner. The starter was delectable, but the entrées were ho-hum not even coming close to the descriptions on the menu. Dessert was an interesting addition. I had mung beans in coconut milk with peanuts and jelly. Interestingly, many desserts are sweet soups. When we left the restaurant, our cyclo driver was no where to be found, but we waited ten minutes to see if we were overlooking him. We decided on a taxi back, which took thirty minutes due to the driver being young, not aggressive in his skills, plus never getting higher than second gear.

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