we’re serious…

Sunday, April 4th, 2010

DSC_1054it is this hot here.

Since I’m the kind of person that’s cold when it’s below 70, I don’t mind.

Since B is the kind of person who sweats above 50, he’s miserable.

We’re working on mind over matter and inner peace techniques. Beerlao, however, seems to be the best cure for B.

roadtrippin with my favorite ally.

Saturday, January 9th, 2010

bbbbAt dusk, the bugs come out. Maybe you thought they were out before. You were wrong.

In the headlight of the motorbike each bug glows an urgent, vibrant yellow. Then whap, hits you in the face.

You try not to laugh even though it all seems pretty absurd to you. Here, in these mountains, tuk-tuks of locals and water buffalo speeding past, machete wielding tots walking home, and you, an out-of-place falang on a motorbike up north.

It’s a common road for travelers in their VIP minibuses. But like this, you stick out.

You keep trying not to laugh. Your partner, whose driving face first into this insect assault, won’t be pleased. You begged him to come up here, to Nong Khiew for a spontaneous night in the mountains, on the river, in a hammock.

And now it’s getting dark. The insects are pelting and you’re afraid to say that you’re not too sure where you are. You could have sworn it was closer than this.

He sighs and shakes his helmet back and forth, probably at your less than thought out plan of a evening roadtrip.

But then, down another hill and around a corner into the valley, from the front of the bike comes, ‘Damn I feel hard-core.’

A sign for Mong Ngoi district; almost there.

And a couple of nice teenage boys who laugh sweetly at your Lao and say, yes, Nong Khiew is just up there. You pull onto a dirt road, swerving and bumping the whole way down.

Over the bridge and across the Nam Ou river, flowing fiercely even as the dry season sets in.

A room with two pushed together twin mats, bamboo walls. A clean squatter.

And a cold beer Lao.

Dham thak. Cheers to roadtrippin with my favorite ally.

through the skin.

Wednesday, December 30th, 2009

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.

salty, warm, thick.

Tuesday, December 8th, 2009

She ladles a vibrant red liquid into my cup—red like the center of a ripe hood strawberry. Red like fresh blood.

“Blood of duck,” she says, the fat one. (Her name is kuat, ‘slim.’) Before I look inside, I clutch my cup with one hand and chug it back. Blood of duck: salty, warm, thick.

Inside the singing is a low and constant murmur of hums and claps. A small cup of beer is filled over large chunks of ice. Fill it, refill it, pass it around.

We are at Noy’s sister’s house. Noy is a friend and now a co-worker. Together we will direct, organize, coordinate Pencils of Promise here on the ground in Lao. She’s taken Adam and I to this house to pick something up. But, in the Lao way, time and plans have changed drastically. She tells us we have ‘free time’ now, and takes off on her motorbike.

Adam is next to me in the circle on the floor. Here in Lao, he goes by his initials, AB. It is easy for Lao people to say. They fumble their way through Leslie. I say, to the one who knows a little English, that I need a Lao name. “Daak Vhay,” she says. “White flower of cotton. You are very pretty—very white.” She touches her skin and looks at mine.

Daak Vhay. It seems perfect. I pass along my beer, khawb jai lai lai, dhak vhay. ‘thank you every much, white cotton flower.’

It’s a culture of peer pressure here, in the best way possible. Drink more, faster, harder. They laugh when you wince and hesitate. AB and Daak Vhay. The falang will be drinking for a while.

I text B to get a ride here on Noy’s motorbike; that he will have to take the next beer lao shift. AB and Daak Vhay will have to make a quick escape before the beer, meat balls, bbq and duck blood soup settle into something scary.

Here, in Lao, we are happy. We have found a place to live (with Noy). We have cell phones, a nice café with solid wifi, my new job. We have strong stomachs (even mine), good pho, new friends. And eachother.