Saturday, December 1, 2012

My Wonderful Walking Crew

Saturday. A tough start, but a fabulous finish to the day...  I have been putting off sorting out my stuff as to what to pack, what to throw away and what to give away - and I decided to get that onerous task done this morning for our schedule for the next 4 days is very busy.   I had to be pretty ruthless to fit all I wanted to keep in my one huge suitcase and my backpack.  I put a lot of perfectly good things in piles downstairs for my friends to go through and help themselves and chucked out  a heap of lesson plans and worksheets, clothes etc. ... even the shoes I have worn day in and day out. I packed everything except the clothes I expected to wear in the next few days and looked around my room. It looked so bare. It was very confronting. The reality that I will be leaving in a few days really hit home hard.

Khánh arrived with a dozen copies of an English Grammar text book that we had arranged for last week. It's a particularly good resource and I wanted to leave my nearest and dearest with a gift that would bring blessing in their futures. They arrived just in time for me to write messages in each one and give them out tonight. There will be some more that weren't ready this morning that I will give to some friends who won't be joining us tonight.

Meanwhile Katie had managed to pack Hannah's bag - (including a queen size quilt and 2 cushions !!) and Hannah had to sit on it to get it zipped up, so she won't be opening it again before we leave! Her cabin bag will be bulging too.

Khánh and Xuân had both come over so we went for a walk to find some lunch. We had a tasty meal at a busy restaurant that I have often walked past but never stopped at. I was struggling to hold it together though, every time I thought about leaving I just wanted to cry.  But like Khánh said: "Don't think about Wednesday, just enjoy today."

After getting up at 5.30am and going for my usual morning walk with Tiên  and Tuyền, then the emotional drain of packing to leave, I really needed a nanna nap ... a chance to lose myself and recharge my batteries!

So I had it together by the time my gorgeous walking team arrived. They were keen to cook us dinner, so they took us to Cat Bi Market first.  Even though it is not far from my home, I have never been there before, so it was a treat for me as well as for Katie and Hannah.  First we walked through the clothes section. It's like a rabbit warren jam-packed with clothing stalls and people. You'd have to be a mad keen shopper to have the patience to find anything there - seemed to me that the stalls had clothes of all styles and sizes jumbled together at random. Well, small sizes, that is!  We caused a lot of comment as we three white women made our way through the throng, very conscious that we are so much larger than the local women.

After the claustrophobia of the clothing section, it was nice to get to the food section where there was much more room...

There was the usual array of fresh food and delightfully friendly characters.

Thảo loves to bargain and she's a really astute shopper. It's fun to see her in action.

I must say, it was really good to be shopping with Tuyền ... at 6'4" he was easy to follow LOL !   He told me that he doesn't usually go into the market. If he goes shopping with his mother he always waits for her outside. (So we were very privileged...)

We waited on the road outside the market for the last couple of purchases to be made.  Tiên wanted to buy a couple of kilos of 'snails' - conical shellfish to add to the menu. We were entertained by this young roving troubador...

Finally we had all we needed for our feast...

So we piled in to a couple of taxis and went home.  Katie had offered to cook the chicken ... a great Vietnamese inspired fried chicken recipe that she invented at home.  So Tiên volunteered to chop the whole bird into small pieces.

Everyone (except me) got involved in the food preparation and the end result was a feast! 
 See those funny looking prawny things?  They are called Bebe and none of us had ever eaten them before, but they looked so unusual we just had to try them.  They were tasty enough... but a bit fiddly to peel with all those body segments and legs. We also had Katie's fried chicken, tofu and Bún Chả...

These two, Thảo and Nhung, aren't walkers but are good friends so they were invited too. They had both been busy studying all day and they went home after dinner ... but the rest of us went to karaoke!!

This is the karaoke bar with the fabulous slow strobe lights that are so trippy. There's no way to get photos to record what it's like ... but suffice to say that it was brilliant fun. We all danced and sang and danced some more... revelling!   One of the last songs we sang was the oldie "Those Were the Days" - everyone joined in the chorus as we rollicked it along... One of the best nights ever!

 Sáng, Trung Ho, Trung, Tuyền, Thảo, me, Hà, Hannah, Katie and Tiên 

Yep!  We had the best night!  


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