|This was dinner, but you get the idea of eating arrangements.|
|Cleaning the Fish|
|Fish feeding time, the nets keep the fish from swimming off.|
I missed out on lunch that day, I don't think it was deliberate just that everyone ate privately and forgot about me.
In the early afternoon Phuc loaded me up onto a motorbike and we went to the nearby town of Ba Chuc. Once again no explanation just "later". Our first stop was a Pagoda built on a jumble of rocks overlooking the flood plains. Quite pretty and we could see back towards the nearby hills. It was a nice spot but I was not allowed to linger.
|Phuc with the Delta in the background|
|The Stupa. Bones and skulls behind the golden posts inside the glass case.|
A little later Phuc came to me and informed me that she needed a lot of money to buy her parents a house. She had promised to buy a house for her parents and needed to make a down payment on Friday (today was Wednesday) and a final payment within 30 days. I was astonished as it was clear that I was meant to dig her out of the financial hole. By that time I was surrounded by family members and it was difficult to give a straight out "no". I did not feel threatened but I was uncomfortably aware that I was in the middle of nowhere heavily reliant on these people to get around and that I could not even find a bus to get me back to civilisation.
I was trapped. If this was by design it was a very neatly executed trap. If it was by accident, they had managed to happen on a clever way of seperating me from any support. I feigned a lack of understanding and suggested that we needed an interpreter. She managed to get a commitment out of me to assist. It would be easy to say yes now and renege on the deal when I was safe! I took the safest course.
I was left alone again with my thoughts in turmoil. This place is really remote, no one speaks English, and as I later discovered I could not have arranged to catch a bus out on my own. It only occurred to me much later that I could probably have gone to the Police, but I already knew that they did not speak English. I didn't want to escalate that far as it would be easier for the family to accuse me of some mis-demeanour than I could defend myself.
Late in the afternoon I took a walk, I ended up taking a couple of the children with me. I managed to buy some beers and some drinks for the children with me. I made a faux pas as I overlooked buying Phuc a drink. She asked me if I had bought her one and made me feel guilty that I had not. She had a point, it was not very thoughtful of me. However it is not every day that you are dragooned into buying someone's parents a house.
|Beer and fish with the neighbours.|
I was informed that we were off to Long Xuyen in the morning to "get married". That scared me. I had by now got serious doubts about maintaining a relationship.
Serious doubts! I was trying to work out the quickest way of leaving. I was never on my own long enough to make a run for it and being the only Westerner for miles, I would be quickly found if I did make a run. I had another sleepless night.
As it happened nocturnal activities were cut off that night with no explanation. Adding it all up I think that my usefulness was almost at an end. The marriage bit worried me, but I knew that Vietnamese buraucracy would not allow that to happen the next day.
The Bludger was putting on a poker face and dreading putting up a front for the next couple of days.