Talk about cutting it fine! I was beginning to wonder if I would get to see Tiên Vien this year, because he had been off sailing the seven seas...working as a navigator, but he docked this week! I was delighted when he called to say he was back in town. Tonight he had a small party to catch up with old friends. Katie had been out for dinner with Tùng, and I caught up with them after I finished work.
Tiên had some interesting stories to tell. He was one of six new crew members - cadets - and the man responsible for ensuring they knew how to do everything exactly right had some radical training techniques... if they made a mistake, he would hit them over the head with a book, or punch them in the stomach (or worse!). Unbelievable! It certainly ensured that they studied hard and worked carefully, I guess. Other than that, he enjoyed life on the ship and wasn't seasick. He is now back on shore waiting for a posting to his next ship.
It was a pleasant surprise to find a bunch of my walking crew were there celebrating with him... Hải, Hiếu and Long are also studying navigation and Luyền came too. They had an hysterical time trying to get Katie to say "What's the time?" in Vietamese. It's "Bây giờ là mấy giờ?" (pronounced Bay zah la may zah) and is one of those phrases that just sounds funnier and funnier the more you say it...
Bây giờ là mấy giờ !
I have often been to small parties to celebrate different occasions over snails, but I hadn't been to this street food restaurant before. The owner surprised me by coming over and striking up a conversation in English. Apparently he is self-taught - very unusual for someone who is middle aged! He was trying to tell me about a book he had really enjoyed reading and it was an extraordinary flash of inspiration that gave me the words he was trying to pronounce... "The Thornbirds" by Colleen McCullough! Now that's an absolute mouthful when you are trying to work out the pronunciation all on your own, since none of those words are even remotely similar to any Vietnamese words.
Another night of laughter to finish off a marvellous day.