Thursday, February 25, 2010

Proud of my wife

Two days ago we were invited to a Tet (New Year) lunch. Our neighbour was finishing off the Lunar New Year celebrations with a big lunch at his home for which he had hired the chef from the nearby Sheraton Hotel.

We happily accepted his invitation and I picked up a nice bottle of Australian red wine as a thank you to the host. The host and his friends could not speak English. One of the other male guests was French, a neighbour as well, who could speak pretty good Vietnamese.

We sat down at the table with a big salad and various chicken, beef, pork and vegetable dishes. The wine I gave as a gift was sitting on the table. There was one other woman at the table, Lan: she's our favourite neighbour, she brings us nem and lets Celine cuddle her 9 months baby all the time, she's the French man's wife. The rest were all friends of the host; 7 guys in total. The hosts friend brought out 8 shot glasses; 7 for the guys and one for Celine. He poured the red wine into the shot glasses for each of the guests. I remember Celine saying it was a nice gesture to share the gift with everyone. The glasses were raised to a CHEERS and before I realised it everyone had downed their wine; with the exception of me, Celine and the French guy. Trying to fit in with the crowd I quickly downed mine as well. Celine and I found this very funny. It was the first time we had seen that. I am not sure if it was the taste or its lack of alcohol but the boys turned to xeo, the local rice wine after that shot.

Fitting with Vietnamese custom, the boys eat only a little and drink a hell of a lot. After two shots of xeo Celine realised she was not being included. The men would raise and clink their glasses but avoid Celine. Avoid may not be the right word as I don't think there was any malice in it, just that it is not the norm for a girl to be enjoying this drinking ritual. In six months I have only seen a handful of girls drink any alcohol and when they have it has not been xeo; instead sipping a beer. Regardless, for Celine I imagine it would be a bit disheartening. On the third shot she tried again with the same result. She didn't take it to heart though and persevered. We both realised it was a man's lunch. The hosts wife, one of two, helped prepare the meal and while we were eating at the table she ate in the lounge with her son. Celine contemplated asking her to join but we thought it was probably not the best to ask.

As I said Celine persevered. Celine spoke to the guys in Vietnamese and she was good. Celine commented about the food and about the host and about his friends. They laughed. Celine understood their replies. Celine made jokes. They laughed. Celine explained to me when I didn't understand. Celine raised her glass and said CHEERS and all the boys responded, raising their glass, a big smile on their face. In a man's world I was extremely proud of Celine. At times she owned the table and had every one's attention. She was invited, with me to come along, to a lunch at a beer house the following day.

All the guys at the table, 40 years old and above, are a part of a culture where the women usually play second fiddle when at a lunch/drinking celebration. They are often not even there. Seeing Celine speak and laugh and win these guys attention made me incredibly proud because I don't think it is an easy thing to do.

At one point Celine said she was fat compared to the Vietnamese women. They all shook their had saying "No No No" The host saying "No fat.........big boobs!!"...........Funny!

Dan explique qu’il est fier de moi parce que dans un monde d’hommes, je sais me faire respecter (surtout parce que je parle Vietnamien avec eux et ma prononciation dramatique les fait rire, ces hommes :))
Anecdote: nous etions invite a dejeuner chez notre voisin, que des hommes a la table, et je discutais avec l'hote de differences physiques entre les filles de l'Ouest et les Vietnamiennes. Quand j'ai dit que j'étais grande et tanquée par rapport, ils ont tous dis "non non pas du tout grosse" mais ont fait des gestes de gros seins. Les gens sont plutot pudiques ici et ce genre de reflexion n'est pas courante... Dan s'est etouffe de rire dans sa bière.

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