Saturday, December 11, 2010

Me, May, My and McMeil

Please welcome Jenn Mackovjak to TYOLV.--BMc

On a lighter note from the last post ... One of the funniest quotes I've heard from Brett this trip was uttered Sunday evening in Saigon. "It was so good I can't even talk about it." It wasn't just what he said but how he said it: dreamily. Brett was describing his experience at Beauty Spa Ngoc Anh, otherwise known to us as the Saigon Spa of Amazing Acrobatic Feats and Tightrope-Walking Massage Therapists! So started our four-day addiction to the Acrobatic Spa, my addiction to tightrope walker Phuong and Brett's to Mi.

If you are wondering how to say Mi, so are we. After four days at the Acrobatic Spa and calling her phonetically "May," we learned it instead rhymed with Me. There was much confusion over this pronunciation, though, so all we really know for sure is her name is spelled "Mi." The following exchange happened the first day and every day after:

Brett: "So how do you say her name?" (when trying to make a reservation with his masseuse for the following day)

Front Desk Lady: "What?"

Brett: "Her name?"

Lady: "May" (phonetic)

Brett: "May?" (saying it exactly the same way)

Lady: "No, May."
Brett: "Yes, May."

Lady: "No, May."

This banter went on and we continued to call and ask for her by the name May, until we learned days later it was pronounced Me. It turned out Brett never did get to see Mi again. She was off the following day and called in sick the next. Maybe Brett exhausted her over the pronunciation of her name.

As Brett mentioned in an earlier post, these masseuses are trained in the art of full-contact, body-wobbling Thai massage. But the experience isn't just about the one-hour, $8 massage, it also is about the before and after, or tea time and nap time. When entering the spa, you are greeted with hot tea and ginger--refreshing after wandering around in Saigon's 90-degree heat. Then they call you in for your massage or, if you're Brett, theyjust forget about you and leave you in the waiting room for a half hour. At some point, the men go to the second floor and the women to the sixth--then follows the acrobatic, tightrope walking and pulverizing massage.

The first night, my spa lasted a bit longer than Brett's. As I entered the lobby, I found Brett sound asleep on the couch in the lobby. The next night Brett thought I was lost as he waited for me 30 minutes after he was done. No, I wasn't lost but fast asleep on the 6th floor, snoring away on top of a bed a of hot rocks. I was delirious after my spa/nap, and almost fell asleep at dinner, jet-lag fully sinking in. But as it was our last night in Saigon, we needed to fit in one fore massage so off we were to introduce Brett to his first foot massage.

The foot massage, for the super low price of $7 with tip, started off with a near electrocution when the cord to my foot bath of water was plugged into the wall. Sparks flew killing my foot bath! All this while sitting on large recliners watching Robin Williams and Nathan Lane in The Birdcage with Vietnamese subtitles. I think we both fell asleep in the recliners--at least I know I did as my thigh still hurts. I guess foot massages in Vietnam include the entire leg, arms, head and neck. It is amazing how strong the masseuse's hands are--the amount of pressure these tiny, slender women can apply with their fingertips is amazing and often can be excruciating.

Sad to be leaving our Acrobatic Spa but used to our daily $12 routine of being massaged, poked, prodded, stretched, and cracked one of our first adventures in Hoi An was to find a worthy spa. We thought we would be in luck - upon arrival at the airport in Hoi An, we were met by our taxi driver. He introduced himself as “Me.” We asked how he spelled it. “M-i.”

It was miraculous that Mi the cab driver met us at all. Even the simplest things are a test of fortitude here. Something as simple as placing a telephone call takes a lot of time and patience—hoping against hope that an English speaker will answer on the other end; figuring out how to even dial the number is it's own kind of confusing puzzle, what with dropped or undropped zeroes and area codes; relying on cheap pay-per-use phone service that drops more calls than it connects.

But Brett forged ahead and attempted to call our hotel in Hoi An to inform them our flight would be arriving ahead of schedule. After dialing at least 10 times before the call connected, he lucked out and was able to hold a decent conversation. It was the spelling of his last name--M-c-N-e-i-l--that really threw the hotel clerk. He spelled it 10 times but just as he was confirming the spelling for a final time the call was dropped. Another five or so attempted calls later, Brett got through and spent six more minutes spelling his name into the phone. The clerk claimed she'd lost his name and its spelling during the few minutes since the earlier call was dropped. I often have to go through this pain in the U.S. with my tricky last name so I enjoyed listening to this call with a beer and French baguette and cheese in hand (the only safe foods at the airport). We arrived at the Danang airport to find Mi holding a sign for Brett M-c-M-e-i-l. So I have been calling him this ever since: Mr. McMeil. Thank goodness I wasn't spelling my entire last name or we would still be on the phone with the hotel clerk.

We never did find a good spa in Hoi An - too much time at the tailors. That is an entirely separate post - to follow later ... .

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