They say you can get lost in Laos. Mentally and physically, I agree. I’ve been away from the pages of LLOTP as editor to do so, but I’ve been away from writing for longer than I have liked. For good reasons, of course.
As I try to capture the conversations, the images, and faces and spaces of the Lao diaspora folks I have come across– it will be worth the wait to share with you.
This is the first of many posts documenting my time here in Laos.
I can finally say I have time (as short as it is) to stop and type away. It’s been over 20 days of nonstop traveling and conquering the flu. I’ve been through Laos zig-zagging around mountain tops and prairies during the coldest year to date for the region. It’s been in the 30s and 40s. As a Minnesotan, I’m not one to complain, but here there isn’t the comfort of central heating to shield the freezing walls around the village homes at night.
At first, I wanted to frame everything I saw and jot down notes of everything fascinating I came across. But I realized it was necessary to take the short breaths from sensory overload. It’s a dizzying whirlwind here.
This is Southeast Asia, after all. The cheap eats. The easy life. Sewage smells fill the city streets while the greener landscapes try to hold onto its authentic charm for the tourism industry to hold steady. This is the in-your-face and do-what-you-want kind of place. You’re lucky if you can escape it all.
I’m thankful my parents’ home is in a humble countryside village in the outskirts of Phon Hong province. Fast development is sneaking up on this side of town, but for now, the escape is far enough from the capital’s pounding nightclub music and the roaring motorbikes of raging teenagers.
This is my second time in Laos. The first time, it was for three months. This time, I’m not so sure how long my projects will take me.
When expats I run into ask how long I’m visiting and if I’m here for work or pleasure, I always say that I’m not here to visit, I came to live in Laos. It’s impossible to be an observing bystander as a Lao person. I know that if I want to continue trying to understand the Lao and Laos, I must eat, live and be like a local. It’s not to say I’ll be trying to fit in with the ‘hi-so’ of Vientiane or picking the rice fields soon, but being among my people– chatting away about their favorite hangouts, laughing outloud at generalizations of our own and ‘falangs’, and cooking in the same kitchen with the elders is just enough for me to get a glimpse into what makes up their livelihoods.
Till then…sabaidee from a brrry cold night in Laos.