26 August 2005

Bed Linens

I wanted to bring sheets and towels with me. “No need”, I was told, “they will be provided for you”. I had a pretty good idea of what would be supplied, and what would be available, which made it even more important to get those items while stateside. But there was only so much I could pack into my trunks, and only so much money I wanted to spend before leaving. So I opted to bring nothing. At the last minute, I grabbed some old towels to tuck in around the top of my bags in the hopes that they would contain my items should anything pop open en route.

Linins here are the same as everyone outside of the US uses. There are no top sheets. Either you have a duvet cover or a very lightweight, cotton blanket that is laundered every few weeks. Sorry, but I need a top sheet. I probably would have been ok with the set-up for awhile, had it not been for my unfortunate presence at the changing of the sheets. They don’t use mattress pads and they don’t use pillow liners. I thought I would gag. (I don’t think anyone needs details).

I’d put it in the back of my mind until I’d lie in bed, and then I could barely get to sleep. (me and my germ/bodily fluids phobia). The final turning point though, was when I met the employee who had previously slept in my room. (I’m getting nauseous just thinking about him.) I had to get new bedding.

Back to my favorite store, MaxiMark, and into the house wares department. I already knew I would not find a US-style, complete set of sheets, but there had to be something. As I looked at the display of sheets, stacked up on temporary shelving, a young woman employee came to help. I pulled out my scrap of paper with the dimensions I needed.

She showed me what was available. Each packaged set had a fitted bottom sheet and two pillow cases. I found a suitable set. Now I needed something I could use as a top sheet. Through hand gestures, and her few words of English, she seemed to understand and signaled me to wait. She came back with a top sheet. I also grabbed a pillow. What I needed now was a mattress cover. That couldn’t be explained because I doubted if they had them, or at least not at MaxiMark. I started to walk the aisles in search of something I could use. At that point, another sales woman came over and said, “Madam, pillow?” I was about to respond when I heard my sales lady say something which sounded like a warning. Did they work on commission? Walking down the rows, I found another section of sheets and pillows. Now I was really stumped. Was this actually a group of different vendors under one roof? I picked up a different, cheaper pillow, but my sales person assured me it was no good. I decided since I needed two anyway, why not get both? For that mattress cover, I ended up with another top sheet.

Then I started to do mental addition to make sure I had enough. It was almost 600,000 VND. And that was what I had. I calculated when I got home and it was only US$37, but that is close to some people’s monthly salary here. I did not feel comfortable with that, and I knew the woman who does the washing would think I was insane.

New sheets and pillows are now washed and on my bed. Ahhhhh, I’ll sleep in crisp, cotton comfort tonight, and be cootie free! Oh, and those ‘packing’ towels from 1972 that I brought? I use them everyday. I can live with my own microbes for a lot longer than someone else’s.

Don’t let the bed bugs bite,