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Nhà Mới

A New House

After visiting Nguyệt’s house in Sài Gòn just before getting on the airplane to come back to Florida and being appalled at the minimality of the place, the squalor as it were, I determined that it had to be improved. I told her to go find another place, that I would figure out how to pay for it if she could get a better apartment. That would make things pretty tight for me back home and it is added to the support I promised for her little brother to go to trade school but it had to be done.

I  reordered some of my own expenses to increase what I send to Nguyệt and my daughter is helping , too. Nguyệt is is beginning “additional education” or, as we would call it, grad school, in the fall.  I promised to see her through to graduation from the University and am happy to add grad school to that.   I will have two kids with college degrees, even if one of them is not actually related to me.

Thương wants to be a motorcycle mechanic but I told him no. While there are many millions of scooters in Việt Nam, they are yesterday’s job market. He is a young fellow and the future is not in two wheelers. Their abundance must decline and automobiles must increase and there are more motorcycle mechanics on one street in Sài Gòn than there are in Georgia. That same prospect led me to propose A/C and Refrigeration training because  there is more money in that and the market is only beginning to open. Right now there is far more equipment than there is repair capacity but now I think he made the better choice. For now. Auto Mech costs a third of A/C and does not take so long.  So if he does well with it and shows some aptitude for things mechanical, then when he graduates from that I will push hard to go back for A/C. I want him to be prosperous. Thương and Nguyệt have already assured me, unbidden that they will take care of Ông Mỹ in his old age. I like that.

So Nguyệt and Thương and Lý and Khanh and Nham have a new place. They found it and moved within a week of my saying I would support it.  They could do that because Lý and Nguyệt both save money. I had told Nguyệt she should long ago. She did not “take my advice,” so much as it legitimized for her a propensity to stash đồng for that ngày mưa. She could do it without worrying that If  I knew  she had a stash I would think I was sending too much.  It was part of the reason for the scroungy mouse hole they were living in.  But I told them I would be sending more for them to get a new pad so they got a new pad, and for less than I had suggested.

Nguyệt sent me pictures.  They are kind of blurry and too much pictures of Lý and Nguyệt in front of the things I wanted to see but they show me that it is a nice place.
The house has windows(plural) and the bathroom wall is tiled so there is a shower and there is a door. There are cabinets and a sink with water. There is a staircase with a hand  rail.

That’s Nguyệt in yellow and Lý in pink.

By the way,  Lý needs a husband. She is educated,  industrious, sweet and 24.


Nguyệt’s house

With time getting short I wanted to see Nguyệt’s accommodations in Sài Gòn. After all I am paying the rent. I knew it was a hole and did not worry about that much because I had lived in holes in my own college career but was unprepared for the true extent of the holeness of the hole. The neighborhood is not too bad as student ghettos go. The street is a bit narrow  and two motorbikes make navigation tricky.

The street where she lives.

On the street where she lives.

Nguyệt was living there with her older sister  and her brother and a couple of cousins,  all students.  Lý, her  sister,  also has a job and is the only other support for the household besides the stipend from me.

The whole place measures out to about two hundred square feet on two floors. Downstairs is the living room, kitchen, and benjo- that would be bathroom in your house or my house but here it is just a rickety toilet behind a curtain in a tiny space with almost no room for the user’s legs.

Benjo on the right

There is no shower and water is from a tap on the end of a pipe that sticks up through the benjo floor. Bathing was taken care of in facilities at the university for the two girls and their cousins who are university students. Little brother Thương, who is going to a trade school, had to wash out of a bowl.

The ground floor is where the girls sleep and they must share it with four motorbikes and a bicycle.  At night vehicles must be sequestered inside or they will disappear. The boys sleep upstairs and risk their  physical integrity

The Staircase

the staircase

every time they ascend. There is no rail around the access hole in the floor above.

There is a window

The kitchen is a simple shelf with the ubiquitous two burner gas hotplate on it and a water bottle on a stand. There are no cabinets. Everything must be stored beneath and food preparation was mostly on the floor. At least the floors are tile and are washed thoroughly before time for dinner.  Food storage is nil. There is no refrigeration but for the most part refrigeration is rare in Việt Nam yet. The kitchenCooking at Nguyệt's houseThe day’s food is bought at market each morning and is fresh. Stored food is things pickled and preserved in big jars.

There is one window upstairs and the doorway downstairs for light. Inside there is one electric outlet on each floor that sometimes is live. “Hết điện” – outage- occurs often.

The beds are straw mats that are rolled up against the wall in the daytime.   Sleeping on mats on the floor or on a Vietnamese bed, which is a sleeping platform with no mattress, is much better than with a mattress when there is no A/C and it is 100+ degrees Fahrenheit. A thick soft mattress is an excellent insulator and is miserable in hot weather.

I am glad I got to see Nguyệt’s house finally. I wish I had seen it sooner but, of course, I was half a world away until a month before.  Hearing about it is not nearly so impressive as seeing it up close. Nguyệt has been living there for two years, Lý for five.  I knew immediately on seeing the place that it had to change.