Every Wednesday Mama-San delivered our washed laundry. It was neatly folded and dry most of the time (sometimes slightly damp). Usually I turned in two sets of utilities and socks. I had given up wearing skivvies since my 25-day stint in Thuong Duc last July. *
Today I asked Hua to interpret the laundry transaction with Mama-San. This would be the last delivery. I explained I was leaving next week and thanked her for the excellent service she had provided. She responded with a silent stare, and there was no acknowledgment of what I was saying. Our talk ended abruptly as she got up and left.
Hua said, “Not how it works in Vietnam.” He explained that I must promise to come back. This was some sort of cultural issue. It had something to do with saying goodbye forever was not acceptable. “Just say I come back . . . It not a lie if in your heart. It is our way.”
This was a dilemma for me. My thought process was too black and white. In my heart I knew I was not coming back, but I would always think of Mama-San as a friend. It was like playing emotional charades, and I wasn’t good at it.