riders were approaching, the wind began to howl.

Thursday, June 17th, 2010


My boy’s got a brand new toy.

(Well, newish.)

Here, in the land where fantastical dreams become our ridiculous realities, B is outside in the thick midday heat, tearing apart his new bike. Fenders are flying, girlfriends are stressing over tetanus, sweat is pouring, and B is loving it.

Second only to building a jetpack, gutting a motorcycle has been a major lifelong aspiration for him. And everyone here thinks he’s completely nuts for it. If you have a new bike, why do you want an old crap one?

We’re currently working on getting the correct translation for, cause it’s badass, duh.

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.

on the pavement.

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

Major development: I can ride a motorbike. A manual motorbike at that.

In the backpacker culture, I was awkwardly behind the game; I was starting to feel a little middle school in my lack of experience.

Today, just outside the city, Noy pulled over and told me to scoot up. (My only previous experience was two days ago doing two laps around a dirt track before I killed it and couldn’t restart.) Bryce blew past us on the back of Nu Si’s bike, with a look that I tried to interpret as confidence but was, most realistically, ‘what the…’.

Noy called each gear in my ear as we drove down the road, through the hillside and greenery on our way to Ban Kia Luang. We butted right up against a cattle truck: “Dhak Vhai, slow and slower. Three, two, nothing.” Nothing, it turns out, translates as neutral.

By the time we arrived at Ban Kia Luang to scout out some playground equipment, for B to replicate and improve on, Noy and I had only had one or two full-body muscle clenching moments. She informed me she would be driving home. “You are very fast learner. But enough for one day.” She wanted to let me rest, I’m sure.

On the way back, oddly running on schedule, B and Nu Si’s bike got a flat. Lao time. The number one Lao lesson: never expect anything to happen in a timely way.

Stuck on the side of the road in a small village, it didn’t take long before a pack of local kids were following B and I, the two falang. I had some pencils in my bag so sat down in the dirt with them and started handing them out.

Unsharpened and without paper. Perfect for drumsticks and swords. Kids came balling down the street to play with us; to have a good look at the two random falang.

We spent a while there, Lao time, waiting for the tire to get fixed. The first mechanic said he couldn’t help because he hurt his arm. The second directed Noy through each step and she did it alone.
On the way home I sat behind Noy. We shared my headphones, danced the whole way back. Johnnys in the basement mixing up the medicine, I’m on the pavement thinking about the government.