Monday, March 4, 2013

Into the next town over,

I've received your last letter and I can only imagine by the enclosed pictures that your house has been overrun by dangerous animals and weird alien creatures that are best left only to the imagination. I hope you've spoken to management about it all.

I myself through Gods grace was delivered from Vientiane. A place wretched and lacking in charm when the 99 degrees + beats down on you- your only sanctuary one smoothie and coffee house after the next and you know I mentioned the sporadic Wi-Fi.

But oh when it all is happening to you, you're just trying to get through it. I did meet the missionaries. They are delightful kind souls. We prayer walked along the river. I bought three aluminum bracelets made from disarmed ordinance. (more on that in ponsavan), and I ate some questionable fried chicken bought by my host of the eve. We made our way through the language barrier. And they offered to take me up to Vang Vieng the next day, since their daughter was there. That night I sat in the hall of the guesthouse. There's a mural to the left, a village scene. The fans spinning fast overhead. The owner watching tv in the open side room, an older man near me on his laptop too. And then to round the scene, two prostitutes standing at the threshold, wondering, rather politely if their services were needed.

I sat there just sort of gaping.

The next day was more aimless wandering from shop to shop, and I tacked a small flyer on sextrafficking to the board at my guesthouse, and then they picked me up. But I guess they were running 'late' and so we drove to their house and we all got out and I just stood there. Completely without direction. It was only until I sat on a random stoop that she invited me inside, explaining it would be cooler there. I don't know exactly what she thought I was going to do in the interim except I suppose she wasn't thinking of me at all. It was weird. I'm not a vampire but still I like to be invited in. An hour and a 1/2 passed with me sitting on their couch watching a Korean show called "running man" dubbed in Laotian, with their teenage son, whose friends left half way through, that just as I was getting comfortable and getting my laptop that they looked at me like, oh it's time to go. Didn't we tell you? Don't you know? No. No I didn't. Just in future don't make the guest, tagalong ask a lot of questions, when you yourself could answer it all by some simple exposition is all i'm saying. But anyway we headed out of town- I offered to help pay for gas, but they misunderstood thinking I was paying for all the gas- and when I handed them about $20, they said oh, that's not enough, to which I was like, but didn't say, so you're not going to take it or? And then we stopped and prayed for a pastor, and then just as things were getting dull we drove past a dead body.

A motorcyclist, no helmet. Covered in a too small redpatterened sheet; his feet splayed apart, sticking out from it, body prone, face up. The motorcycle nearby. A small candle at his head. And people putting things there as at an alter. I don't know why. The sheet being lifted by a young official as we drove by. Then we pulled over, and he went about talking to various people- the pastor. And then when I asked what happened- he mistook it for a comment rather than a question- or perhaps he thought it was obvious or had no words. I don't know.  Like yes, that is what happened. Or that is what happens. It is a happening.

We drove on, stopping at another village, talking but not getting out, and finally drove in to Vang Vieng- some 4 hours or so later. Again they said nothing about what they were thinking or what was happening, so I inquired if we were meeting the daughter and they said, oh we were going to eat at her (the pastors wife) brothers house, OBVIOUSLY. So I sat there in a large open room on ridiculously ornate wood furniture in the middle of a mishmash of things from tourist postcards (her brother is a tour operator) to a Buddhist sleeping on the floor, to a soccer game going ontv, and we ate white fish in a sauce, sticky rice- which is really just a ridiculous thing to have since they use it more in a bread and dip sense, and then vermicelli noodles in some sort of coconut sauce. It was difficult to engage them in the sense that I just had no idea what to say or do in any way and that had me just shut down.

And then of course when we weren't staying anywhere but across the street, and I asked how much the room was, which became awkward, as they looked at me like, why I was even asking- it was 100,000kip which is not bad, at about $13, but I asked if there was something cheaper- and the pastors wife went full mom on me and said, oh it's very nice- a/c. I will pay for you. Ok, ok?! And whisked out of the room. I was mortified. Seriously. Not even having the words as I asked what time we might meet tomorrow, as if it were obvious - again, that I didn't want her to pay but that I just was on a budget, nevermind the room was painted in this unholy limegreen color... oh dear LORD. But it was such a different vibe from the couple in Saigon who I was very money conscious with- as they didn't have much.

Meanwhile, the next day, they were in the middle of funeral rites for someone who had died- Buddhist. Holding vigil or watch next door- and there was a freak rainstorm- in the middle of the dryseason. (They paid for my breakfast- and shaking my brain internally at not being able to take their gifts to me at all well) I was glad for the rain respite but it sort of spun an already fragile sense of purpose into complete nonsense. And I sat for a couple hours learning how to wrap this mixture of pork, onion and rice into banana leaves and tie them with dried husk. A gift they give as people leave money for good luck. As the rain poured down around us- and one woman who looked at my work only managed to raise her eyebrows communicating in totality that though the work sufficed it was subpar. Luckily a much kinder woman continued to encourage me that practice and efficiency would eventually yield the quality work desired- I improved. Amazing Race challenge- PASS.

After that, more sitting, nescafe, smiling, nodding, lunch of the same stuff as the night before (funeral food) I made my escape, but still didn't feel settled. The daughter who I thought would show me around a bit ended up going back with them to Vientiane, leaving me here (not that they told me that until she was getting in the car hugging me goodbye)- ultimately glad of that though, since I didn't have a strong enough sense to be direct or authoritative, about what I wanted anyway. So I spent the day charting my course- onward. I moved rooms also. It rained a lot more, all through the night again- people explaining that it was a storm moving from Vietnam, as if it was their fault, but it brought blessedly cool weather. I bought my ticket home- with a promise to you my darling we shall have to meet somewhere soon. As I opted to stay longer and push on further north.

I signed up for some kayak/caving thing tomorrow, and am hemming and hawing over learning how to rock-climb. And I need to book my bus ticket out of here too. It is unimaginable that this is only day two of the town. I talked to a lovely Scottish couple that are venturing for a year abroad. Showered. Wandered through a field stopping short apparently of finding a couple caves- I wasn't prepared, walking over a rickety bamboo bridge, and coffee, and more soda water- and some more prayer talkin to God. And that's the thing of it. At least now, there's a terminus set. I can't believe it. I almost feel as if I can start looking for a job. Almost. (hahaha) I'm excited for the landscapes ahead. And I hope to spend as little time in cities as I can from here. Having overspent time in Saigon and Vientiane... Luang Prabang does tempt- with it's sultry palmtree, by the delta meets colonialism feel but I hope I don't chicken out by pushing myself a little further afield.

my love to you,
xo, m.



somebody's mom said...

Gasp and oooo.

almost anonymous said...

That is quite a lot of adventure packed into one post.