Vuan and I have a weird relationship. She mocks me a lot.
But then she tells me I’m beautiful and gives me a hug, ‘ohhh, gnam lai, dhak vhay.’
Vuan, who is our friend Kamon’s girlfriend, is petite and stylish. She classes up her traditional school skirts with a little bling on her flip flops and flowers in her hair. She’s touchier than most Lao people; doesn’t hesitate to put her arms on me and ramble off some Lao things and giggle with an almost adolescent squeal. (She’s 22.) She tugs at my clothes in either admiration or disgust.
She knows I speak hardly any Lao, but talks to me constantly.
We made dinner together tonight, sat chopping vegetables for a good hour. I think we talked about Kamon. Or maybe this other girl, On. And I’m pretty sure we were laughing together. Or maybe at me.
We taught eachother our mother tongue for every vegetable, then severely mocked one another when we botched the pronunciation.
When Noy left halfway through the process and handed me a large slab of raw pork, Vuan nearly fell in the fire when she saw my expression. She was, however, very patient with me while learning how to cut through pork skin, (it’s quite tough). And in explaining that no, you do not cut off the fat, skin, hair, etc., it all goes in the pot.
She saw my look of panic when I was done muscling my way through the meat and there was nowhere to wash my hands. She stared me down until I did as she did–rinse in a bucket of water then eat a slice of deep fried eggplant.
So soon we will sit down together (our pig is barbequeing right now), drink some beer lao and eat our meal, Vuan in her pleather studded black pants and shimmering pink shirt, me in my laundry day clothes.
And we will laugh at each other, or maybe together; it won’t matter either way.