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Sunday, 13 February 2011

Memories of Vietnam 1965 1975 : photos,notes,stories from the war

Post 79

Finding a maid: Saigon: Vietnam 

I needed a new maid. It was always essential when living on what I think was called the local economy. Maids there were in abundance but efficient and trustworthy? I had heard of people going off to work and coming back to find their house stripped. I asked the people I was renting from to find me one. Over a year or so I went through quite a number until I eventually found the one that could deal with me. I had been utterly spoilt by the young woman I had had at Vung Tau.

One tried to give me a fork to eat my rice with. After all the effort I'd made learning to eat with chop sticks. Then she went around the black market trying to find tins of American food for me.

Another was a superb cook, at least for the five dishes she knew. I've never had anything to compare with them since. Her curries were out of this world. I think she had worked for Indians at one time. She only knew how to cook five dishes though. Her young daughter tried to take over my TV. This had just been introduced and was broadcast from a plane, perhaps an old Constellation, flying in circles around Saigon. Later they would build a TV station.

Another didn't understand electrical gadgets. She was afraid to use the small hand held hoover to clean my car. When the telephone rang she didn't know what to do. I had one of the rare telephones and didn't perhaps realise that there were people who had never used one.

Another had a bright twelve year old son. My landlord paid for him to go to school but she had an offer from a Chinese for the two of them to work in his factory for more money so she left.

In Saigon one had the choice of eating in US establishments. Not bad from time to time. Much superior to the field kitchens and messes up country. Or French or Vietnamese restaurants. If however one wished to stay for the long haul one needed at least a main meal at home every day. This meant going to the local market. The one at Tan Dinh was excellent, the food fresh, an abundance of fruit, fish etc. However without a maid one was lost.

The street vendors were an essential part of life. The Vietnamese seemed to spend their day eating small snacks. A foreigner couldn't buy directly from them. He could, but how to know the good from the bad, the price to pay? With no maid one was lost and had no status at all.

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