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Stories From Rhava

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  • 2 weeks later...

Lan picked up her pace, clutching paper bags close to her body and tipped her nón lá  to hide her face. In a sea of people, she was basically unnoticeable, except for the jade bracelet that circled her hand. As she walked through the bustling markets of Dinh, she felt very uneasy. Moving from shop to shop, only buying necessities she felt watched. The grubby street was surrounded by tall stone houses, with dusty red roofs, and black and gray blankets draping over the street, casting a shadow over the town. Down on the floor there was a loud din, with lights coming from ground floor red torches and lanterns, and the fires from food vendors serving soups and meats. 

“One nem nướng Aunty.” Lan glanced back and forth as she waited for her favorite snack to be prepared. 

“That will be 13 san” said the stout lady. She had black hair and even blacker teeth, and wore a stained yellow dress. Her eyes wandered to the bracelet on LAN’s hand. “So, you from out of town or somethin’?” Lan looked up from getting her wallet from her pocket.” 

“No aunty, I’ve been here my entire life.” She smiled showing pearl white teeth, and then quickly glanced down. The woman grunted, and shouted something into the kitchen. Minutes passed, and Lan looked back and forth as the sun continued to set. 

“Here you go little girl…what was your name again?” The stout woman looked at her inquisitively as she handed fresh nem on a stick, steam pouring off it and fading into the crowded air of the market. Lan paused and then answer: 

“Mê Thi Lan.” 

The woman’s eyes widened, but Lan had already disappeared into the square. Lan’s steps quickened as the sun continued to set, she climbed the ancient stones as people continued to empty the streets, a towering complex looming in the distance as she broke into a run. 

“Lan, next time you will not be so lucky.” The doors closed as Lan entered the compound, her Ba speaking to her in a worried voice. Lan hid the nem behind her back, not wanting him to know she visited the market. 

“Dạ Ba.”

A couple minutes later shouts could be heard from down the road, as fires blazed. “Give us our freedom! Bikammic don’t have to be silent!”

Edited by Rhava (see edit history)
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  • 3 months later...

4:39 AM - Bà Ha wakes up in her small apartment building in district 3, prays, and then grabs her motorcycle and heads for Phố Cua Vàng Market. 

5:01 AM - Bà Ha arrives at the market, with not that many up yet and heads into the dimly lit tents with see through roofs draped over stands, the transparent droplets from last nights rain and morning dew stood on the tarps. She makes her way to the fish isles, choosing the freshest juiciest prawns from Một Trăm Đảo, dried squid from Thuy Luc island down south, and dried shrimp from Vạn Xuân (Yanseng) island. Making her way to the butchers she buys pork lard, minced pork, pork liver, sliced pork, and quail eggs. She then buys fresh chives, garlic, scallions, and celery, recently imported in from the fields in Pamai Sikhav province. Bà Ha returns to her motorcycle and makes the journey home. 

5:46 AM - Bà Ha starts on her broth, creating a smoky broth for her stands specialty, Hủ Tiếu Chó Vàng. She was one of the best vendors in Ngọc Nước City, and had a large community for support. She sets up her shop anticipating the time when her soup will be finished.

6:23 AM - Bà Ha serves her first customers fresh Cháo Heo and discusses their mornings, where they were going, and yesterdays work day. 

7:38 AM - Bà Ha starts serving more dishes including Bánh Bao and Bánh Bèo bringing people from all over the city for the puffy buns stuffed with sausage, meat, and quail eggs, and small rice pancakes with scallions and crunchies, dipped in nước mắm. 

9:00 AM - Bà Ha during the usual slow time chats with her neighbors in the alleyway of her home where she sold her wares. They discussed the laws passed by the Seng-Souk regime, the increasingly hardships of street food in the province, and how their children were in college. 

11:55 AM - Bà Ha prepares for the lunch rush, finishing up her soups and washing the plates and tables. 

12:06 PM - Bà Ha serves 15+ customers her famous Hủ Tiếu along with fresh papaya salad and grilled mudcreepers with kharai chilies and coconut along with cold glasses of Cà Phê Trứng.

12:31 PM -  Bà Ha takes a quick break to pray, take a sip of durian juice, and clean off tables. 

1:25 PM -  Bà Ha starts making the dinner menu which includes her Hủ Tiếu, freshly fried egg rolls, and pan cooked quail. She and some of her children sit there rolling up rice paper while some dice fresh vegetables.

2:54 PM -  Bà Ha takes a break with her children to pray, and then continue with their preparations. 

3:19 PM -  Bà Ha serves all her customers coming in from jobs hot soup, crunchy egg rolls, and hearty quail. Many people giver her a lot of thanks, praising her cooking. 

5:34 PM - The last of her soup has either been eaten, or has been put away. She sits in her alley cleaning up plates and dishes, putting on the tarp and closing down shop. 

6:51 PM - As the sun set, Bà Ha prayed once again and began to make dinner for her family. 

7:28 PM - Bà Ha prays one last time, and then heads to bed with her husband, as her peaceful alley becomes dark, and the only sound is the distant honking of the street. She goes to bed with dreams of a shop, college for her children, and what she will find at tomorrows market. 

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