16 May 2009

co huong

Co Huong, my maid, talks to me more than anybody else these days. The first day I met her, when she came to the interview dressed in a suit, I understood one in 20 words she said. now im up to 3 in 10. the pride she takes in her work easily puts me to shame. I’m not that passionate about anything, least of all work. She cares more about cleanliness and the house than I do… so im asking her to go home and sleep but she insists on cleaning something.

When im sick she offers some leaves plucked from her garden, or a piece of wood, some white paste… so I’m nature boy now. She feeds me vegetables and leaves that I’ve never seen, some plucked from my garden, experiments generously with Indian cooking and keeps me well fed.

When I come home drunk she’ll scold me and put some salt in my coconut water, which she knows I dislike. But the next morning she’ll bring green tea and watermelon juice to wake me up and threaten to pour chillis (plucked from my garden) in the next meal. Sometimes she really pours chillis, like a wicked joke. She once said that nobody in her place drinks… when we had a little beer party at my place, her sister was the beer dealer who delivered, and co huong took a splash. She later said she drinks only on occasions and 3 pints.

Co huong tells me she was born in 1960 (though she once claimed to be 55), in Hanoi. When you go from Saigon to Hanoi, ‘r’ becomes ‘z’ and ‘y’ becomes ‘z’, so there is quite a buzz as you go north, and co huong is very proud of it. She likes the 4 distinct seasons in Hanoi, for which she holds it higher than Saigon. In 1971, when she was 11, her dad was killed in the war and he wasn’t found until November of 2008. co huong grew up working in the rice fields and moved to pleiku where she now has three kids my age. The kids speak a mix of Hanoi and Saigon Vietnamese, and they help translate to English things she buys in the book of accounts.

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