Co Anh


Co Anh (teacher Anh) is my Vietnamese language teacher. She is a very patient lady. She usually comes to my office. Twice a week for an hour. I have made good progresses under her supervision, though I do not put enough time and effort in my homeworks. But, as I said, she is patient and every time we have a lesson she does not ask me whether I did my homeworks or not. As I said so far she has come to my office, but today I went to her house. And what a nice surprise it has been for me. She lives in an old 1900 villa, in Cao Ba Quat here in Ha Noi. It is small street, with trees with lots of small shops . The house villa is built in French style. Yellow color. A small metal gate to enter. Few steps up to the front door. The villa shoes its age, but has a strong carachter. It is like it tels about the events that have occurred in this country since it was built. I entered the house and took the wooden stairs tot he first floor. Co Anh, opened a door and I entered a large room. Before stepping in, I realised that the other two rooms of the floor are occupied by a beauty salon. Many doctor practice bed one next to the other, with beauty customer lying under wet towels and red heat lamps. Some having strange colored facial on their faces and closed relaxed eyes. At first I though it was medical practice.
I entered the large room where Co Anh gives lessons to her foreign students. Large bright windows, with traditional green painted wooden shutters. A dark wood dining table inth emiddle with six chairs around it. On top of it a small tea pot with six glasses. A high double bed touched on of the walls. A dark wood cupboard. A modern TV that seems at odds with the old furnitures. A small light green old fridge and, on top of it kettle to boil water for the tea. A whiteboard is behind the chair where Co Anh sits and has some Vietnamese words that I do not understand on it form an earlier lesson. The chair where Co Anh sits is art nouveau style with small wells under the four legs to allow her to stand up easily to write on the whiteboard.
The lesson starts. We revise last week words: my family, children, wife, husband, street. She repeat for the n-time the simple conversation we have had for several weeks. I talk. She corrects my tones and pronunciation: I repeat. She says,”now it is ok”. But my mind is not here. Now. On my Vietnamese lesson. It is traveling through memories of similar houses in Italy that I saw when I was a kid. My grandfather house had similar high ceiling rooms. Similar okra tiles and geometrical patterns on the floor. The same dark wood furnitures. The same black and white framed picture on top of the old cupboard. Even the table I am sitting is solid as the one he used to have in his house and which I always found too high to sit comfortable. I imagine the shutters half closed of an early sunny afternoon. I am lying in the too high bed and see the lines of the shadow from the shutters mirrored on half dark ceiling. I am supposed to have a nap but I cannot sleep. I smell the fresh linen, the cool air in the room, the silence in the house. Now and then a car passes in the street. But it is summer and streets are very empty at this time of the day. A sun ray enters all of sudden through a small whole in the shutter. It is over my bed and I can see floating dust particles. Silence. I close my eyes and images fade. The sun ray fades more slowly in the dark of the closed eyes. I sleep.
I hear Co Anh voice. She calls me back. I do not pay enough attention and mixed ‘young daughter’ for ‘old daughter’.
I am happy I came here today for my lesson. I will come back again next week.