At that point, Co Va, Chi Huong's sister-in-law, came over to say hello to her old mother. Sitting in chair is intense exertion for an elderly person who hasn't left their bed for four months, so she didn't respond. Co Va totally freaked out. She grabbed her mother by the shoulders and starting shaking her screaming in Vietnamese, "Mother! Mother! She's dead! She's dead!" and calling on all sorts of things to come take her mother's spirit away. So there I was kneeling in a pile of broken brick holding the hand of a nearly dead woman while her daughter screamed and chanted prayers just over my head. I wasn't really sure what to do. I looked behind me at the ten-year-old granddaughter who thought the whole thing was hilarious and wasn't bothering to hide it. Then I looked up at my district leader hoping he would say something helpful. He bent down next to me and asked, "So...is she dead?" I responded, "Well...she handed me her water bottle a minute ago; my fingers are on her pulse; she just swallowed; and we can see her breathing...I'm pretty sure she's not dead."
Anh ca Hoa Minh was relieved because, honestly, this woman was nearly dead. It would not have been outside the realm of possibility for this whole moving house thing to be the end of her. Anh ca Sang told me later that when he saw Co Va shaking her mother, his first thought was "Well, if she wasn't dead before she is now..." We tried to tell Co Va her mother wasn't dead yet, but she didn't really listen. Instead, she went into the house and screamed to Chi Huong something along the lines of, "She's dead! Quick! Give me some money!" (for passage into a safe and happy after life or something...?) So Chi Huong gave her some money and Co Va came back out. Then she saw that her mother wasn't dead after all. Then she disappeared for a while. We don't know where she went, but she left the little girl.
Then Grandma was the only thing left to load up and move, so they called a tuk tuk and Chi Huong picked up her mother-in-law and walked out into the road, but when the driver saw the nearly dead woman, he yelled something in Khmer and drove away as fast as he could; he didn't want her to die in his tuk tuk.
I felt so sorry for Chi Huong. She was being forced to move because her mother-in-law was dying. Her husband had been gone most of the morning and when he did show up, he called her fat and threw furniture (I'm not kidding, and in the middle of this, I got a nail stuck in the sole of my shoe and she pulled it out for me - with a spoon! Anh ca Hoa Minh was thoroughly impressed and called her a boss). I'm not sure where she left her baby while she tried to move her mother-in-law. Then the tuk tuk driver left her standing in the street holding this old woman in her arms. Someone brought the chair so she could put Grandma down, but Co Va reappeared and sat in it, so Chi Huong squatted down in the road with Grandma in her lap. Then Co Va got up again, so Chi Huong sat Grandma in the chair and I held the old woman's head up so she could breathe because if I didn't her head dropped straight back and her chest stopped moving. Eventually they got another tuk tuk with a less-superstitious driver, so we loaded Grandma, Co Va, and the little girl into the tuk tuk and sent the truck and tuk tuk off to their new house in Branch 6 - where Anh ca Tien was waiting to meet them and help them unload. Let's just say that Anh ca Tien was late to district meeting that morning. We didn't call ahead and warn him about the tuk tuk full of crazy that he was about to meet. Later, when he walked into the church for the meeting, he pointed accusingly at Anh ca Hoa Minh and made a threatening noise I don't know how to spell. We all laughed.
As Anh ca Hoa Minh, Anh ca Sang, Chi Truong, and I were biking home to shower and change for district meeting, I said to Anh ca Hoa Minh that I wasn't sure if I could write home about our morning or if that could be construed as writing something negative about our area (which would be against the white handbook). He said, "No, this is definitely the kind of thing you write home about."
Christmas Eve was awesome! In the morning we painted a vocational training center next to an orphanage by a dump and in the evening we had Christmas at the North District Center. It was so fun! No one has been allowed to take their packages from the mission home for the past month because they were all under the Christmas tree at the mission home, but on Christmas Eve all the packages were distributed and anyone who didn't have a package had a gift bag and a card from the youth in a ward in Singapore. There was a dinner and ice cream and a Christmas devotional. The whole celebration was really good.
Christmas Day was less awesome. Remember when I mentioned a couple weeks ago that Anh ca Hoa Minh had some sort of fever and headache thing? Well, Anh ca Hoa Minh is a very generous person and he gave it to me for Christmas. Chi Dao got something similar, but it wasn't the same virus. Chi Ly and Chi Truong both got headaches. I told Anh ca Hoa Minh that there is such a thing as taking district unity too far. He told me to lie down and not move. We didn't get much work done last week. Everyone is fine now. This week will be more effective.
Happy New Year!