I Get a Laotian Kid

I don’t usually start with an excuse but on this one I must.  Either this will be the longest post ever or I will have to do it in parts.  So much was done today, and I have so much to share, that as I write I am trying to figure out how I will do it.

Laos, as you know, has me prisoner.   Loatians or “Lao peoples”, as our guide so endearingly calls his countrymen, are gentle people.  There is no aggressiveness in their demeanor.  Even their smile is gentle: slowly, but steadily, corners of lips rise to remain in a smile for as long as you care to look.  Their eyes reflect the same.   I want to be awake as much as possible so I can soak up more of Lao.

Our tuk tuk driver has his headlight on.  It is pitch black outside but a convoy of 3 tuk tuks head out to the streets of Luang Prabang.

We woke early for we are giving alms.  Monks eat only twice a day.  They come out of their temples and collect their morning meal (around 5:30 am) from locals –and now tourists. Our guide has found a street away from most and in front of a temple.

There is a ritual that goes into our offering.  We put a scarf over our left shoulder, around our back, under our right arm and over our left shoulder again. We kneel.  We will offer sticky rice from a basket, still steaming hot, prepared by a local. They will not stop as they walk past us.  With our hands we will pick the rice and throw it into a basket they will open. We are ready.   We wait.

It’s light now and with it comes the river of flowing orange.        

I have finished my offering and concentrate on faces.  It is in observing that I see the children in some of them

the belief in their faces

and some generate in me cartoon-thought-blurbs, which change depending on their expressions.

I am not being irreverent or making light of it at all.  I was lucky to kneel next to a local giving alms and she gave me an insider’s look.  It has been special forming part of this daily ritual.     

Today we will have a “home-hosted” meal in a village in the mountains so, since we are up and in this daily ritual thing, we head to the morning market where Khamsouk gives us each a piece of paper with the name of the ingredient we have to buy for the meal.  

He also gives us the exact amount that we are allowed to pay.  Not that easy of an assignment when he refuses to tell us what we are looking for and where it might be sold in the market.   In Mission Impossible, weren’t they allowed to decline the assignment before the tape autodestructed?  Seems that’s not the case here.  Off we go!

The place offers such a wonderful array of colors, shapes, and textures, along with smells that could never attempt to be aromas, sounds of women bargaining, animals not yet silent, and odd noises –as that of a vendor keeping flies at bay by shaking a plastic bag at the end of a stick– all tangoing together in a not so graceful dance. 

 Yet this market is small and not quite as chaotic as others.

Am I buying carrots?  I say the name of what I want and the vendor shakes her head as she laughs and points further down the road.   Carrots are so big anyway I don’t think I’d have enough money.

Why does that bucket have a net?  Oh noooo, I’m not even asking if it’s frogs that I am buying.  Much less live ones!  So glad that Americans are known to be squirmish about such things and they wouldn’t expect us to buy them! 

Eggs, why can’t eggs be what I need to buy? 

I meet the others empty handed.  We go tuk tuking (freshly coined term) to the bus where our luggage awaits and a long ride, up a winding road to the village where the parent company of my tour supports a school.

The ride goes on for hours and the road is starting to look like the Death Road in Bolivia.  Thankfully, as I am starting to not like this much, we are directed to look to the right where our school children and their teacher are lined up with a little flower bouquet in greeting. 

One kid each.  

Each kid will give us a flower and take our hand and walk us to their classroom. 

We introduce ourselves writing our names on the board, then sit with them in class.  When I go to my kid he has written my name on his notebook and under it, his name in Lao.  I point at my name, then at myself.  He points at his, then at himself. 

They sing to us their anthem, we sing to them the Star Spangled Banner.  Then we sing “If You’re Happy and You Know It…”  They are having a blast.  We are too.  I look and at the window is a mother with her child observing us.  

He repeats everything I say and I thought he understood very little until we go to the library and he brings me a book “Do Kangaroos Have Mothers To?”  (Of Course they Do.  Just like me and you!)  It repeats, with the only variable being the animal.  At one point I take a breath after “Just like…” and he fills in –pointing at me-, “me”.  I say “and” and he says “you” pointing at himself.  I am smitten and want to take him home.

We say good-bye.  They go back to class as we head towards the meeting hall to be received by the village chief and the woman’s leader.  He will host lunch in his house for 8 and she will for the other 8.

On the way, these little girls captured whatever is left of my heart.  

The chief tells us about life here.  They support themselves by weaving.  I am fascinated.  Later I would buy a scarf at each of the vendors.    

For those interested in an authentic hand-woven scarf from Laos, just give me a ring.   Didn’t want any to feel left out.  Just tug at my heartstrings and I am putty in your hands.

Then off to lunch.   Our host is one of the warmest and joyful human beings I know. She is generous with her hugs and as solicitous as can be.

The meal is simple but really good!  Our main course is wrapped and cooked in banana leaves.

One more hug… 

And we say good-bye.  

We are headed a little up hill so that we can meet with the Hmong people in their village.  For that we must cross this village and go to the other.  You’ll see that tomorrow though, or this will never post!

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27 thoughts on “I Get a Laotian Kid

  1. You just made me so excited! We are going to live in Laos for two years. Thanks!

    • You just made me completely envious! Turning green with it and people are starting to stare!! 🙂
      Two years?? Wow.
      You will find the people the best asset this country has. If I can be of help just e-mail me and with my limited knowledge I will answer anything I can.
      Got to go now ’cause people are really staring… turning even greener with envy and I don’t think it’s a color that favors me. 🙂

  2. Piri!

    It’s nice to see that you have included yourself in some of the photos! They are a welcomed addition!!! Love the kids at the school the Monks and the traditional rice distribution. I am so proud of you and your wonderful blog…I can see this edited into a book when it’s all said and down! A picture book…:-) Posted some of the photos…big hug, Anag

    • Still not quite comfortable including myself in them. Glad that the film camera likes me but I still avoid the digital still camera as much as possible. But figured that if I didn’t include myself people may think I’m not even here!
      Thanks for posting the photos. Loving having you as a fan. 🙂 It’s impossible to take a bad photo around these parts. Everything is so amazing. But someone did make a comment in the group that I have a good eye.
      Big hug to you too!!

  3. Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous! Sooo thrilled that you are enjoying Laos so much, it really is some place so special! I loved this post and the vibrantly beautiful photos. I need to read it a couple more times to take it all in. 🙂 I actually took a weaving class while we were in Vientiane, using those amazing old fashioned looms and it was mesmerizing and magical…

    • A weaving class?! I’m so jealous. Never even thought I could do that. There must be something truly hypnotic about it. I lost myself a bit in just seeing the weaver move her hands and feet.
      I love your blog too! Need to get classes from you on how to keep it categorized and all. 🙂
      Thanks for reading.

  4. I LOVE your blog and pictures. Giving alms in Luang Prabang is really very special. Am so glad you got to do it.

    • Awww, coming from you I am honored. 🙂
      Giving alms was, indeed, truly special. It will stay with me for years to come.

  5. Thank you for sharing…such a beautiful journey you are on. I want one of those scarves 😉

  6. Frances Yniguez Miranda

    Such an interesting part of the trip. To me this has been the best part of them all. Thank you for taking me along with you.

    • Lovely to have you along Frances!
      Besides, your two last names are quite special to me so I “adopted” you as soon as I saw them. 🙂

  7. Mirta Sansone

    Ohhhh…those two little girls faces are adorable. How can you not want to bring them back home with you?
    Interesting places, beautiful people, they are peaceful, calm and yet their surroundings are limited.
    We have much to learn from them. We’ll have a lot to talk about at your return. Love you.

    • Weren’t they the cutest?
      Save some time and some tea my friend for when I return! Missing you and love you too!!

  8. Dave Silva

    Beautiful people making the best of their lives.Thank you for photographing the people of Laos. Most Americans don’t know anything about their culture. You are educating us and entertaining us.
    Mucho cariño mujer!

    • I think that struck me the most is that they don’t see themselves as lacking. And when I think about it… neither do I.
      I hope I conveyed the beauty of these people. They are, as peoples, very special.
      Mucho cariño para ti también mi amigo!!!

  9. Lovely photo essay! Thanks for sharing.

  10. It seems that these days you are livinng your life in full color, when sometimes I feel many of us live our lives in Black, White and Grey.

    Abrazos,

    Tu homie

    • This journey has heightened the vibrancy of the colors my life has had until now!!!
      Un abrazote of one that is proud to call you “mi homie”.
      Cariños,
      Tu homiette

  11. Mary Mora Cordova

    So enjoying your journey my friend. You are so courageous and I admire that you are able to travel so far out of my comfort zone and take me where I can never travel. I relish the pictures and moments as though they are mine, and like Richard says, enjoy the pictures even more with you in them. You look radiant and at peace. Thanks for continuing to share your days. What was the ingredient you had to buy at the market? Love You!
    Mary

    • I am, my dear friend, finding the good in me and trying to build on it. I am at peace. Open, more than ever, in mind and spirit.
      Appreciating what I have (and among that a huge part is a friend like you) in a greater way.

      The ingredient I had to buy was a specialty item. Sort of like a corn but much smaller and whiter. The guide pointed it out to me when he went back to buy it (since I didn’t figure it out!)

      Love you right back Mary. You know I mean that.

  12. What a treat to go to a small village and enter into the normal routines and lifestyles. Beautiful, Lidia – I can understand you losing your heart!

  13. Yes, what was the ingredient…how did those people prepare the meal if the ingredients weren’t brought?

  14. What really touched me most was their willingness to let us in into their life. No pretenses, no barriers.

    Saw your post on “I Love You” and have given it much thought. Came to the conclusion that I never say it as a “have a good day”. I really mean it and I think that those who know me, and are at the other end, take it as it is meant… with all my heart and truth.

    Oh and the ingredient was a small corn-like vegetable. The guide later went to buy it. I am very ashamed to say that I was the only one that came empty handed. All the others brought what he needed. So, if you ever need anything from the market, you know that I’m not the one to ask! 🙂

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