Sunday, 31 July 2011

This is what happened today

Nathan is not a morning person, but this morning he woke up uncharacteristically chipper. We went out last night with his brother Heath, who is visiting, and some friends. We had drunk rice wine at Chim Sao, and then beers at GC and then more beers at whatever that place is called next door to GC, and then cocktails at Southgate. And yet this morning Nathan leapt up like a sprightly little liquor-loving deer. More precisely, he was like a sprightly little liquor-loving deer concerned with home cleanliness: he got up, got dressed and said he needed to put the rubbish out, at 9am. He disappeared out the door, assuring me the bin was "very smelly" and needed seeing to immediately.

He came back upstairs to tell me that it seemed today was "a special day", and that there were exciting things happening at the pagoda. I suggested that I would celebrate the "special day" by continuing to lie in bed. 

And then we both heard the sound of a boisterous brouhaha lion on the street.

My favourite Vietnamese tradition is the lion dance. You can hear them coming thanks to the drums and cymbals that parade along with them, luring people out of their houses to watch the performance and feed the lion lucky money. The dancers endow the lion with so much playful personality that this furry, bedazzled and pom-pommed creature really does seem alive. Last year, during the Mid-Autumn Festival, when the lions dance through the streets almost every night, there were information display screens along the road near our lake explaining their significance to Vietnamese culture. They referred to them as "boisterous brouhaha lions", which is just the most perfect description. They do create a brouhaha, and they are boisterous. Umm, and they are lions, yes. That too.

And so, knowing I could not resist the lure of a boisterous brouhaha lion on our street, Nathan bundled me out of bed. "Quick!" he said. "Get dressed! We'll miss it!" I threw on some clothes and with bed-head and hungover eyes, said I should have just done as the Vietnamese do, and wandered out in my pyjamas. As we made our way out, I told Heath he was pretty lucky to witness such a perfect little cultural vignette on only his second day in Hanoi. 



Our neighbours were gathered in the street, coaxing the lion over to them by waving 10,000 dong notes, which he'd snap up in his flapping mouth like the Cookie Monster. 


He was a delightfully playful kitty, this one, rushing towards you then lowering his big fluffy head for a scratch behind his ear. 




As Nathan manages to do when presented with any child or animal, he made the lion particularly frisky. If there was an information display sign written about Nathan it would probably describe him as a "boisterous brouhaha Nathan". He teased and tousled it, and the lion responded by prancing around him, leaping in the air, creeping backwards, and then barreling towards him; I was reminded of how on windy days our family cat used to work itself up into a frisky frenzy by running up and down the hallway and then rolling itself up in the rug. Laughing too much to take any decent photos, I was also reminded of how much I love boisterous brouhaha things, be they lions or Nathans.



The lion then stepped away from us, and pulled his big head close into his body, arching up. "Uh-oh", I said to Heath. "It's like when cats do that backwards wretching thing before they vomit". 

And then the lion vomited. 

He vomited a diamond ring into Nathan's hand. 

An enormous cheer went up, and applause; there was a crashing explosion of cymbals and drums; and the lion threw his head back and danced wildly. Nathan got down on one knee, and I was half-blind from the tears and half-deaf from the sobs. He picked me up and twirled me around and around and around, and all I could see was a blur of red fur and gold sequins and all I could hear was the brouhaha and all I could think was "yes".




Our neighbours came to congratulate us and shake our hands, always using both their hands to clasp ours so firmly. A teenager who could speak English translated their well wishes for us. They all said they had never seen anything like this happen before to anyone else. I agreed that it was a most singular thing to happen to a person before breakfast on a rainy Sunday.


The crowd dispersed, the lion undressed and while still reeling from it all, a family across the road invited us to their house for tea. We sat in their loungeroom, me with Nathan's grandmother's ring on my finger, drinking cups of green tea and glasses of this indescribable drink of sour fruit that the Vietnamese so love, and eating longans and yoghurt, listening to the story of the happy, twenty-year marriage of our hosts, both born in the year of goat, just like me and Nathan.


36 comments:

  1. AHHHHHH!!!! I'm crying now! I just read this to Brendon and my mum and I couldn't help tearing up each time at the vomit....how wonderful! I love you Nathan! and you too Tabitha :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. So happy! So proud! My mum will be happy too!

    ReplyDelete
  3. wow!!! congratulations guys!!!!!..thats the most awesome story ever :)

    ReplyDelete
  4. Yipppppppeeee!!! xxx

    ReplyDelete
  5. WOW CONGRATULATIONS! Awesome proposal Nathan!!!

    ReplyDelete
  6. This was beyond any sort of prediction. What a winner! I'm crying tears of OMGS and exclamation marks. xxx

    ReplyDelete
  7. Nathan, you are just wonderful. So happy for you both. Congratulations xxx Lani, Az and Musique

    ReplyDelete
  8. Delurking to say congratulations and wow. Just wow.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I love it! So beautiful (and told so well, like all of your stories). Congratulations!

    ReplyDelete
  10. WAHOO! Congratulations to both of you.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Brilliant! Congratulations Guys!

    ReplyDelete
  12. love it! what a wonderful proposal! i'm so ecstatic for you two! xo

    ReplyDelete
  13. bloody hell and congratulations.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Brilliant! Thank you for sharing such a precious scene! Well done, Nathan and we wish you both much happiness, and -- because you are in Viet Nam -- fertility.
    Sonia, Cameron and Emilio

    ReplyDelete
  15. That's the way to do it, mash Tabitha's brain then bamboozle her with brouhahaness! I'm so happy for you both, perhaps even happy enough to make you another celebratory t-shirt.
    Love to both of you,
    Simon

    ReplyDelete
  16. Oh my God! Congratulations!! What a great story, what a great everything!
    Awesome!!

    -Julianne

    ReplyDelete
  17. wonderful news!!! Wishing you both much greatness and adventures of learning and joy forever.
    x

    ReplyDelete
  18. Congratulation to the both of you. Will there be a rice belching dragon on the big day?
    Being a land of copycats, I think we should reasonably expect a sweeping trend of diamond rings retching boiterous brouhaha lions accross Vienam.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Hello, I don't know you but I love reading your blog (I lived in china for a while and your writing resonates with me). Congratulations, that is an awesome proposal and beautiful story!

    ReplyDelete
  20. Thank you everybody - those we know and those we don't - for such lovely comments! It really means a lot to me.

    Not quite sure if I'll ever top that post, so please lower your expectations for next week's entry!

    ReplyDelete
  21. cath @chunkychooky2 August 2011 at 15:04

    Oh Yay!!! Congrats!!!GO Nathan- that is so f*cking awesome I cannot even tell you how good I think that is. Buster is here now insisting we read the post and I did and I was just a bit excited for you both!! eeeep!!! Awesome awesome awesome.

    ( sure beats a certain person I know who proposed after I refused rough sex against the kitchen sink as in do you wanna... ok wanna get married then?)Pfft!
    xxxx
    Cath and Neil xxx

    ReplyDelete
  22. Oh my. I may have cried a little bit.

    Congratulations to you both!

    Ros xxx

    ReplyDelete
  23. Hurrah for the influence of Beyonce and also the ingenuity of Nathan and the loveliness of this story and the greatness of you both as a (soon to be - rightly! - married) couple. xoxo

    ReplyDelete
  24. This is Anna's Mum - many congratulations, may you have many brouhaha children :-)
    And please can you teach Anna how it is done .....

    ReplyDelete
  25. That's pretty awesome. Congratulations!

    ReplyDelete
  26. CONGRATULATIONS to you and Nathan, and thank you for sharing such an unforgettable proposal with your characteristic wit. I love your blog and check it every few days for a post that i know will make me chuckle out loud. What i didn't expect this morning was that it would also make me cry. May you have a long, happy life together!

    ReplyDelete
  27. Hooray can't wait for a boisterous brouhaha wedding, congrats you two!!

    ReplyDelete
  28. Oh my God, that's amazing. Best proposal ever. Congrats!

    ReplyDelete
  29. I liked your blog a lot before but now I like it even more. Congrats!

    ReplyDelete
  30. this is an amazing and wonderful story. best wishes to you!

    ReplyDelete
  31. Do all you people leaving comments realise what you're doing to the SIZE OF NATHAN'S HEAD!!!???

    Simon

    ReplyDelete
  32. Nathan you legend, congrats guys

    ReplyDelete
  33. I adore this post. I had to read it twice; the first time reading faster and faster, caught up in the excitement and then the second time, to confirm what I thought I'd just read.

    Congratulations! I'm so pleased for you both.

    You don't know me from a bar of soap but I laugh at your experiences and appreciate your insights.

    And really, it was a spectacular proposal!

    ReplyDelete
  34. Thank you to everyone who has commented since my last thanks. This engagement is the gift that keeps on giving!

    We've really been feeling the love, so much that I've actually teared up over some of your kind words. Sniff!

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!
    x Tabitha

    ReplyDelete
  35. Can't wait to visit Hanoi in Feb 2012 hey Many Congratulations

    ReplyDelete

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.