DISCLAIMER!! You should not read the following post if you have a weak stomach!!
The other night I took my Aunt and her friend out to celebrate a belated International Women’s Day (Phu Nu Quoc Te), which is held on March 8th of every year. IWD is apparently a big deal in Vietnam. It’s like Valentine’s day all over again. Many women expect flowers and to be taken out to dinner. I never even knew this day existed until I arrived in Vietnam.
My Aunt (Mo Bay) actually called me Sunday night and told me that she was going to take me out to dinner with her friend Huyen Anh to celebrate Phu Nu Day. Phu Nu (woman) is one of the words I have learned only since coming to Vietnam (I’ve always called them Dan Ba)….and it still takes me a moment when someone says it for me to register what it means.
I was a bit confused so I asked my Aunt, “isn’t Phu Nu a woman?”
“Yes”, she replied
“Then why are you taking me, a guy, out for Women’s Day? Shouldn’t I be taking you and Huyen Anh out instead of vice versa?”
She laughed and said “I guess so.”
We made plans to go eat on Tuesday night (3/9/2010) since my Aunt was busy on the 8th. She picked a restaurant on Nguyen Trai because they are renown for their Cari Ga (Chicken Curry) which my Aunt knows I like. My Aunt orders the Cari Ga, I order the Beefsteak Khoai (Steak with french fries)…since I have been craving steak for the past week, and Huyen Anh just ordered a couple of appetizers for her meal. We all ended up sharing what we ordered with one another. I thought the food was really good….perhaps one of the best meals I’ve had since coming to Vietnam.
Since we ate pretty late, I didn’t end up getting home till close to 11pm. I read for a little bit and went to bed at just about 1 in the morning. I woke up at 2:30am with horrible stomach pains and rushed to the restroom. I basically reenacted that famous vomit scene from “The Exorcist”, but from both ends of my body. IT WAS NOT PRETTY. I’m thinking it was either my steak or the crab appetizer I ate that was the culprit.
This whole episode only lasted for about one hour….but in that hour you just wished that someone would come and put you out of your misery. I have only had food poisoning twice before in my life….and this time was not nearly as bad as the previous 2….but you wouldn’t know it from the aftermath. I pretty much clogged my Aunt’s bathroom drain with big chunks of undigested steak. My mom asked me why I didn’t puke into the toilet instead of the bathroom floor….but I explained that when you’re exploding on both ends….you kinda have to pick your poison. Do you want vomit on the floor?……OR…….I’ll just leave that up to your imagination. 🙂
This one instance allowed me to better appreciate the design of the typical Vietnamese bathroom. I’ve always hated the idea of sharing the toilet floor with the shower….since most Vietnamese people spray their butt with the “bum gun” (shower head) after performing #2….so there is bound to be poop residue on the floor which means that you should never walk into a Vietnamese restroom without slippers. After my unfortunate incident….I have reevaluated my opinion and I don’t mind the design so much anymore. It is much easier to spray down the walls and the floor with the shower head….then having to crawl around with a bottle of Fantastic for an hour scooping up leftover spewage.
It’s official. I lasted exactly 71 days before I got sick from ingesting something my body couldn’t deal with. I’m surprised it took so long since I haven’t really been avoiding eating anything at all….and I knew from my earlier observations of the local hygiene….that it was only a matter of time before I would develop a case of food poisoning. Before I came to Saigon, my mom warned me to never eat unboiled greens/vegetables or drink anything with ice in it….but I feel that if I am going to live in Vietnam for awhile….I have to live and eat like the locals. It’s unfair to have my Aunt (Di Tu) change the way she cooks just to fit my demands or to have restaurants prepare my food in a different way than they do for their other patrons.
Funny thing is, my Aunt and Huyen Anh ate exactly the same things I did….and neither got sick at all. I guess it’s due to my weak American constitution. I know that this is bound to happen again in the future. Hopefully it will be longer than 71 days until the next incident. I’m also going to take my sister’s advice and keep a bucket in the bathroom. It’s was no fun to having to clean the bathroom drain the next day.