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$1.25 pedicure = free Vietnamese lesson

December 7, 2010

It’s hard to believe that it’s been three months since we got on that beautiful, blue plane and headed across the pond. I still don’t feel like I’ve settled into a normal life over here, but sometimes I wonder if aviation families will ever have normal lives. (I’m not complaining.)

After spending the last several weeks entertaining guests and gallivanting all over the place with them (once again, not complaining,) we are finally home for a while. No plans until Cambodia at the beginning of January, but that could change. It feels good to be home, even though it still feels strange to come home to Saigon. It’s nice to unpack, do laundry, and buy groceries knowing I’ll be here long enough to cook it all.  (Right now I’m experimenting with some dried beans that I bought because they are pretty. We’ll see how it goes.)

I just got back from my second visit to a local nail shop. The first time I went there I did so because it was the first one I came across. It’s a hair and nail shop run by twin sisters, neither of whom speaks a word of English.

Last time I went there they were shy as I typed words into google translate attempting to make conversation. While one of them did my nails the other pulled up a chair and sat right next to me looking at the words I would show her on my phone. I would try to get her to type a response, but she either didn’t understand or was afraid to try.

I questioned one about a scar she has on her neck, and showed her my matching scar. She nodded in agreement to the word for surgery. They told me they were twenty-four, and that twins were fairly common in Vietnam. An older sister is also there, and they indicated that there were six children in their family. I don’t know where their parents or the rest of their family is. Our conversations aren’t that advanced yet.

Let me interject that a pedicure over here is not like the ones back home. I’ve had several and only when I was at a spa and paid extra for foot buffing and scraping did they do more than my cuticles and nails. They are meticulous and do a great job, but I was surprised to find that the “spa pedicure” is a western thing.

After I had run out of things to translate, we sat in silence until one of their friends came in. She didn’t speak any more English than they did, but she was as bold and energetic as the other two were shy. She took the place next to me and immediately began typing words into my phone. Most of them didn’t translate into anything I could understand, but it was fun trying.

We started figuring out everyone’s names, but when they got to mine none of them could say it. The G-R sound seems to be difficult or impossible for about half the Vietnamese people I meet. Because of this, I told them I needed a Vietnamese name, and they all sat pondering for several minutes. My Dinh, the bold one, decided to call me My Linh, which I thought was the same as her name. She very empathetically put her hand on my collarbone and said my name. Then tapped her own and said hers.  And repeated this until she thought I understood. I couldn’t keep from laughing at the breech of personal space – not that there is such thing as personal space here. It made me happy that she was that comfortable with me and would sit next to me with her hand on my leg or arm as we attempted to talk. My Dinh got my phone number, but when she tried to call me later that day it was pointless.



Just like the ladies in the nail shops back home, I rarely see a Vietnamese lady in plain clothing. Sometimes they wear flip flops, but they seem to prefer dressy sandals or heels (even while driving motorbikes.) They wear cute printed tops with ruffles or some kind of accent or design. At first I was a little surprised by them wearing sheer printed tops with only a bra, or with a brightly colored bra underneath, but no one here seems to think anything of it. The style here is fun and sometimes amusing. It’s easy to feel plain in comparison. These ladies were no exception.

The mani/pedi cost VND50,000, which is about $2.50.

I went back there tonight because a pedicure is probably cheaper than nail polish remover, and I like the girls. On the way, I passed a lot of cafes where business was starting for the evening. They position the chairs in rows facing the street for better people watching. I recognized the young barber with hair spiked four inches high who buzzed my head for a dollar the other day. I doubt he’s shaved many other white women’s heads lately, so he obviously remembered me, smiled and waved.

Tonight, My Dinh wasn’t there, but fortunately the twin (Phuong or Loan – they’re identical) who wasn’t doing my toes was a bit bolder with the iphone. It took her a while to type out the words (English auto-correct doesn’t help,) and I could hear her consulting her sister on the spelling of some words. The literacy rate is high here, but I wonder how far some of them have actually gotten in school. The area we live in has some really poor parts, and I sometimes see children running around during school hours. I couldn’t tell if she struggled with the words or the phone.

Either way, we had a nice visit. From what I gathered this time, I’m pretty sure one of them is getting married in a few months, the one who is always translating does massages and facials, and their sister is an apprentice. The literal translation was that she was learning to listen, so I’m not exactly sure what her apprenticeship is about

It gives me more specific questions to ask in my next Vietnamese class. They are already paying off. Twice today, in produce alley, and at their shop, I understood a price given in Vietnamese.  It makes me happy.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Charity permalink
    December 14, 2010 18:34

    Glad the classes are paying off!! I was just thinking that I was going into withdrawals from your blogging and was going to leave a nasty gram when I saw that I was just behind on my reading. 🙂 I knew you’d get along well with the locals! Keep it up! Miss you and love you!!!!

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