Wednesday, June 11, 2008

My Vietnamese Mother

The other night as soon as my class ended I got a text message from Huyen: "I am waiting outside of your school. I would like to sleep at your house tonight if that is okay." As mentioned, Vietnamese girls don't sleep at boys' houses. As also mentioned, this was one of the first weeks in Huyen's life that she was sleeping alone at her house and was extremely lonely and sad. So naturally I said what any gentleman would say, "Of course!!!!!!!!!!."

I got my motorbike and pulled up to the front of the school and Huyen was waiting there as promised. We drove side by side back to my house. I opened the front gate and the two of us parked our bikes. I then went back to the gate to lock it when I the door to the front house opened and Ming, the man of the house exited. Ming asked me to read the power meter so I could pay the bill. Sure no problem. A second later, Binh, the woman of the house came rushing out. This is roughly the conversation that took place:
Ben: Hi, Binh.
Binh: I see the girl. Vietnamese girl can not sleep here.
Ben: What?
Binh: No Vietnamese girl can sleep her.
Ben: Why?
Binh: You do not know who girl is. I do not know girl. Many girls rob foreigners. Then they rob us.
Ben: She's my girlfriend (yeah I used that word).
Binh: Girlfriend?
Ben: Yes.
Binh: You do not know her. She might rob you. And we are central. Police see her here and we get in trouble.
Ben: Why would you get in trouble with the police?
Binh: They see license plate on motorbike and we get in trouble?
Ben: What? That doesn't make any sense.
Binh: Girl must go!
Ben: Binh, your daughter is studying abroad in England right now. I'll bet you she sleeps over many boys' houses.

Okay, I didn't say that last line. Instead I told Binh she should meet Huyen and I could even get her a copy of her Vietnamese ID card if it made her more comfortable. Binh muttered something else and then rushed back into her house. Conveniently their kitchen light stayed on until Huyen eventually left. That's right, no sleep over was had. I was c-blocked by my Vietnamese mother.

Keep in mind, Huyen was feet away with our motorbikes. After she was very upset saying, "It makes me sad that people think very badly about Vietnamese girls." This is actually a great social study. We're talking about the old mentality of Binh vs. the new mentality of Huyen who is much more Western thinking. For example she has said to me before, "When a girl marries in Vietnam she is a slave to the man. I don't like this." Granted Huyen and I disagree on that last opinion since obviously women should be slaves to men. But anyway, the old line rings true here: "When In Rome, Do As The Roman Do." No sleepovers are in line for anytime soon....until Binh and Ming go to visit their daughter in England.