Wednesday, March 25, 2009

office chit chat around the water cooler

This morning I brought one of my coworkers home-made dulce de leche as a thank you for doing some negotiating on my behalf with our landlady (who is also a dear, but needs to pay for a new air conditioning unit...) Anyway, somehow this got her talking about the pre - doi moi period in Vietnam, which it's not always easy to get people to speak about.

When she was growing up, standard meat consumption was 100 g per child per month. Milk was absolutely a luxury, and many of the supplies they got were from the USSR (and sometimes already expired).

As for choosing a husband, always a good idea to go for a driver or someone responsible for selling petrol - if you found out the guy had a PhD he was definitely a bad prospect!

Standing in line for a half-day or day for your rice portion was standard, so you'd use a brick or a bowl to mark your spot. People who distributed goods - purchasing them and then reselling them at a higher price - had a special name in Vietnamese, that roughly translates to 'scum.'

These are women just a bit older than I am, who now rock cute outfits to work that put my fashion sense to shame. They are raising kids in a totally different world, and they just take it all in stride.

These were the days when the few countries that had aid missions here sent staff, but those staff were not permitted to speak to Vietnamese except for things like transactions in the market. (Though I've already heard of one love story of a Danish woman falling in love with a Vietnamese guy, despite government prohibitions against their speaking and the fact that they didn't share a language. They're still married).

1 comment:

Lisa said...

Does this Danish woman still live in Viet Nam, speak fluent Vietnamese... and work in the office next to mine? I think I know her!

Great post, Katy.