Thursday, 24 November 2011

Vietnam Day 5 - Thursday, Long Xuyen 24/11/2011

We had an early start today. We picked up my passport and Phuc's ID from reception and headed off. It was a slight concern that Phuc had my passport, but I did not make a big thing of it on the basis that causing a scene can harden attitudes and a fight in the middle of the street would not be good.
Our destination was Long Xuyen to "get married". I knew that was not a possibility but still I was nervous.
Once again a lovely ride through the Vietnamese countryside. We passed rice paddies in the middle of being harvested and once again lovely views of the Vietnamese countryside. This is truly a beautiful country.
Vietnamese Countryside
In fact the rice harvest was in full progress. People in the fields were reaping the rice. Brown rice was laid out on sheets by the road drying. Bags of rice lined the roads and bullock carts and trucks were picking it up. I saw bags being weighed and tossed around. I reckon they weighed about 50 Kg each. I would have liked to stop and absorb the scene and the moment, but we pressed on.
We got to Long Xuyen and stopped outside a bridal shop. My heart hit the floor. However next door was an ATM and I was almost frog marched into the ATM. The ATM would only let me withdraw 3 Million VND, about $150 and Phuc was watching me like a hawk. She certainly saw the rejections when I tried to take out higher amounts. I think that this may have saved me a litle.
Afterwards we were met by Phuc's younger Sister. She is a nurse and I met her briefly on my last visit. She guided us to a Cafe where I was plonked down with our drivers. Phuc dissapeared with her sister for well over an hour. I arranged drinks all round and the boys ate. I wish that I had too.
Myself, Phuc's sister and Phuc. No one looks evil.
Phuc and Sister returned and shortly some friends who between them were to act as interpreters. It was an odd experience discussing at times personal matters to total strangers. We discussed several topics. Amongst these was the prospects of Phuc marrying me and moving to Australia. By this time it was the last thought on my mind but my poker face was in place and I explained that Phuc could not get to Australia without marrying me. The Australian Dept of Immigration simply would not allow her into the country any other way. In this conversation it turned out that her daughter, Jin, would not be coming. More warning bells for me as it reduced Phuc's total committment to coming to Australia as a Vietnamese marriage that could be annuled fairly easily. In fact in the future all she had to do was hop on a plane back to Vietnam. I had a mental image of being bled dry financially and when the money ran out her dissapearing on a one way ticket back home. If she was in Australia with me it would be very difficult to withstand a barrage of requests for money to be sent back to Vietnam. I was also asked if she did not work whether I could support her. I made it sound possible but tight financially.
We then went through the finances of the house purchase. I had the story fairly straight, she needed $15 million dong to pay on Friday, the next day and a further 10 million in 30 days. I could not get a straight answer out of her as to why I had to pay for this. Anyway we went through an accounting of money and with the money that she had stolen and had obtaind out of me since she was about 6 Million short. She then counted the 3 Million that I had withdrawn today and a further 3 million that I could withdraw the next day and she was happy that she could do it. I countered with a need for 1 million for bus fares to get back to Saigon money for Taxis at the other end and to pay for our current accomodation. She acceeded to that. She could make up the shortfall. I wondered where from. I suspected the $100 that I could not account for or from the $500 I had sent for her operation.
I was philosophical, I was going to buy my way out of a difficult situation. She still had my passport, I was not in a position to escape, not that I felt a strong desire to at this point.
We also discussed me returning to Saigon. Now I had to return on Saturday to catch an early flight on Sunday. Phuc new this, she had seen the itinerary. It was decided that it was not sensible for her to come to Saigon with me, I would travel alone. I liked that as I had a time frame to freedom.
Two of the interpreters plus sister
We then departed and made our way to an office that I assume was the Department of Justice, we discussed marriage with an officer there. Well that is to say I sat there trying to look intelligent and not understaning a word that was said. My passport was produced and inspected, it was returned, and I casually scooped it up and stuck it into my pocket. A piece of paper was produced that detailed the requirements for us both. Interestingly Phuc never made any attempt to explain it to me. I suspect that her desire to be married was at the same level as mine, we were merely playing a game now.
Incidently I should mention what happened when we left the Cafe. Naturally we had to pay for the food and drinks. Naturally I had to pay. I handed over 200,000VND, guessing that it would be enough to cover it. Phuc demanded more. Another 200,000. When the bill arrived it was for 162,000VND I never saw the 200,000 extra again. That was one way that she was bleeding me.
I should also mention that I did not mind paying for drinks and meals. The real bill was about $8. I can't get a coffee and cake for that in Oz, so the money was trivial. It's the big expenses that I was being shafted on that pissed me off.
On the way back we went shopping. That seemed natural to me, we were in a big city with supermarkets, when you live in the country you take advantage of these opportunities. I was pacified with a case of beer for 58,000VND ($3!!!!). The total bill was 400,000VND.
We then went to a karaoke place. We had a private room and each had to take turns at singing. I am not a singer but had to keep the Aussie flag flying so I did my 2 songs. This cost another 400,000VND.
At the end of the trip the drivers were each given 200,000VND plus their fuel tanks were filled. All up we spent over 1.2 million. This was handled without Phuc batting an eyelid. So much for scraping to get the 15 million together. The neon signs were now flashing very brightly and the warning bells were running continuously.
Once again the return trip was long, hot and through lovely countryside. We stopped for petrol at one stage and Phuc came to me "honey buy me motorbike". I had a moment of perceptual narrowing, I swear that I had tunnel vision and I was looking at her face but my mind was just seeing a scheming little....mmm....schemer. Why would she need a motorbike if she was planning to marry me and come to Australia? Answer, she wasn't planning on marrying me and coming to Australia. Where did she get the audacity to ask me to buy a motorbike, when she had just stiffed me for about $1,300 (operation $500, house $750) and wanted me to fork out another $500 in 30 days. I could not believe the sheer audacity. My answer was "I will buy you a motorbike in Australia". She had to accept that.
We got back to Lac Quoi late in the afternoon. I found myself a beer and pondered things. The prospect of the next day was not good, I envisaged one more day of boredom and then leaving on Saturday. Before the beer was finished I was ordered onto my bike and we returned to the hotel. We had dinner on the way. Two days without lunch, I hoped that I was losing weight.
Nocturnal activities were still banned and Phuc explained that she was having her period. I was glad to hear that as it meant that there had been no accidents that were going to make me a father and complicate things in the future. I was glad not to have sex. I would be able to leave a free man.
The Bludger went to bed a relatively happy man.

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