And you’re the best thing that he’s ever seen.

Thursday, February 4th, 2010

DSC_0447Noy and I excuse ourselves from dinner; it’s just after eight and people are heading to bed. The generator has been turned off, the moon is out and the fires are smoldering.

Here in Phayong Village, several hours from any main town, we live by the sun, the stars, the roosters.

This village of about 600 people sits in the middle of the mountains. An adventurous motorbike ride up a windy, uneven, and often flooded dirt road to get here. During the summer months, Phayong is cut off from any other village or town; rain falls and rivers rise, leaving them here, in this lush green pocket, alone.

As Noy and I walk the main path of the village, we hear sweet, low voices singing children to sleep, the crack and sizzle of water on flame, and the few lone roosters already starting to crow

Noy, who grew up in the city, in fascinated by life in the village. She is a part of Pencils of Promise because she deeply believes that everyone, regardless of status or location, deserves access to knowledge and opportunity. She says she can’t imagine being a woman out here, having a predetermined future of pregnancy, birth, work, repeat. Says she’s lucky for her wealth and choice.

At the top of the hill, we hear what is undeniably a teenage girl giggle. We shine our light ahead and see two girls, huddled together over a cellphone. This point, at the very peak of the village, is the only spot with phone reception.

I whisper to them, ‘saibaidee,’ and we share a quick understanding that nobody should know they are out here.

By all appearances, we share nothing, these girls and I.

But on top of this hill, huddled together, we smile, blush, and call our boyfriends to say goodnight.

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.