A Fortune Teller Told Me…
Our pack of Honda motorbikes has been navigating choking rush hour traffic for close to an hour. I’ve never driven this far down the Red River dike road. We turn into one those ubiquitous tiny alleys and wind our way deeper into the arteries of Hanoi. Despite the narrow passage we maintain our pace, swerving to avoid flow of motos, chickens, steamed corn vendors, buckets of water strewn from second story windows, and other moving objects that appear from above, below and either side.
The leader of our expedition comes to a quick stop in front of a rundown duplex house. A few young kids are running around and a half-naked man helps our party park our motorcycles in his humble front room. This is the house of the fortune teller.
We take off our shoes and pass by a fish tank with a particularly sad-looking suckerfish inside. The children guide us up to the top floor where a woman with lots of large rings is waiting. She asks us to sit on the bamboo floor mat in front of her. The fortune teller is perched on a bamboo chair in front a chaotic red shrine with a mixture of Taoist, Buddhist, and Animist statues. Painted tigers prowl the walls of the humble penthouse, and a statue of Buddha gasps for breath in glass box overflowing with crisp ten-thousand dong notes.
The fortune teller asks each of us for a fifty-thousand dong ($2.50) note. It must be one I was carrying before entering the room and, no, I can’t pay for two people with a hundred-thousand dong note. I hand over my note and scoot forward. The fortune teller cleanses the air between us and her hands with a few pumps of perfume. She asks for my left palm and takes it gently in her hand. Her two children watch quietly in the corner. The fortune teller asks for my name and I reply “Tim Rann.”
“Ah, Tim Zann,” she replies.
“Khong. Tim Rann.”
“Rann. Zann. Rann.” She lets out a laugh. The kids are also practicing my name, but their pronunciation is more crisp and accurate. The fortune teller silences them with an angry command.
She returns her attention to my palm. She runs her fingers over my left hand and is about to say something when her mobile rings. She picks it up in one hand while massaging my hand with the other. After a vigorous, laugh-filled exchange, she hangs up the phone and focuses on me again.
The fortune teller tells me…
If you’re interested in fortune tellers in Southeast Asia, check out “A Fortune Teller Told Me: Earthbound Travels in the Far East” by Tiziano Terzani.