With the philosophical route to my arrival in Laos sufficiently mapped out, I’d like to fill you in on some of the highlights that occurred in transit and some of what the early days of transition have looked like.
I left Seattle without incident to arrive in Seoul well rested and excited, cause ya know, its Korea, land of addicting dramas and cute boys! There was some historical re-enactment thing that I had to walk through to get to my gate and then I sat down excited to get caught up on my dramas before realizing that wasn’t going to happen. I had packed my converter in my checked bags and my computer was out of juice. Sad. That meant that during my long layover in Hanoi I wouldn’t be able to use the computer either! On the flight from Seoul to Hanoi I had been trying to deduce the Lao alphabet from vocabulary lists at the end of my Basic Lao textbook, an activity I found wholly pleasurable! Once I finally arrived in Hanoi, giddy excitement overtook the sadness that had hovered over the first half of my trip. I had been a little weepy in Seattle and Seoul but once my brain registered ‘new language to decode’ from reading the bilingual signs in the Hanoi airport, it danced in excitement from the reminder that once I got to Laos there’d be a lot more where that came from.
In the Hanoi airport the next morning I met a French woman who had been traveling for two months but was on her way back a month early because she missed her husband. I was impressed that she had made it the two months and that he had been ok with it. But she said he knew if he tried to keep her from fulfilling her need to travel alone for extended periods of time that that would be the end of their relationship. She gave me some kip and I gave her some Mexican money I had in my wallet and that was that. She was super nice and I was grateful to have someone to talk to while I waited for my flight.
When I finally landed in Luang Prabang there was no one to pick me up at the airport and I had bags beaucoup! I also couldn’t steer the luggage cart to save my life and kept running it into things and barely missing colliding with people. About 15 minutes later my bosses arrived and we loaded the car and set off for the museum. I was slightly preoccupied with the fact that my feet had swollen to the point that you couldn’t even tell I had ankles. It looked like someone had taken a latex glove and blown it up like a balloon. Seriously! I had this funny image in my mind of going back to my new place and popping them and then being lifted up and tossed about in the air as they drained.
After getting a short tour of the museum we went to go get a phone and get lunch. I tried to just get a SIM card for my blackberry but for some reason it wouldn’t work so I had to buy a new phone: a $13 Nokia. It sends texts and makes phone calls. The screen isn’t in color or anything, just the bare minimum. I was then instructed to pick out a number. I asked what difference it made and was informed that some numbers were more expensive than others. Apparently, the more repeated numbers in a phone number the more expensive it is because phone numbers are considered better based on how easy they are to remember. I didn’t see a problem getting the cheapest number because, well, I’m cheap, but felt slightly pressured to get a ‘good’ number, so I dished out the extra dollar and a half to get a $3 number.
Lunch was great, I got to eat with my hands! My bosses ordered a variety of dishes and we ate family style. They were all tasty. Not the best food I’ve ever had, but good and filling. Over lunch, my bosses told me that there was a big party that night that I was welcome to attend. So, I eventually went. At first I couldn’t find my way in the dark and was a little afraid of getting lost in the dark on my first night. It was beach themed (which I hadn’t known about) and there were a lot of expats there that I got to meet.
The most notable thing about the next day was almost fainting in the museum. I was getting a tour from one of the other employees and about halfway through I started to get really light headed and dizzy. Then I got nauseous and I remembered feeling that way once before while I was waiting in the line to get into the Opening Ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics (yeah, I went :)). That didn’t end well. As I asked if I could sit I noticed that my hearing was really muffled and my arms and fingers started tingling. They took me to a chair and got me some water and waited as I recovered. I was a little scared and embarrassed but I think the combination of the heat and not having drunk enough water (or really eaten much since arriving) got to me.
Sunday I stayed in mostly, afraid of the heat. I did go to this cute cafe in town, Joma Cafe and get breakfast, but once it got hot I went home. The problem with trying to avoid the heat is that I don’t end up eating lunch. The place that I’m staying in doesn’t have a kitchen either so its not like I can prepare food for myself at home. I skyped with people back in the states and stared at the gecko that took up post on the window in the sitting room.
Today was super fun! I got real Lao breakfast with my American boss, well, maybe not real. It was Vietnamese and not the Mango French Toast or Bran Muffin I had my first two mornings. It was legit local food though cause this afternoon Dianna* came by for about an hour to congratulate me on eating well. I was a little disappointed to hear that noodles aren’t really a Lao food. I am to noodles what Cookie Monster is to cookies! Then we went to a Chinese market and supermarket and I got to speak some Chinese. Then back to Joma cafe where I got ice cream and got to hear more about my boss’ story. Afterward I came back and grabbed my camera to take some photos and explore the other river in town. Along the way I heard two people speaking Korean and happened to run into them later in a textile shop. I spoke to the guy in Korean till we got to the end of what I could say. Then we talked in English and then when we parted to go our separate ways he said 一路平安 and I said thanks in Chinese back! Tonight I went to the restaurant right in front of my place and ended up teaching my server to say “what’s your name,” “you’re pretty,” and “where are you from” in Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Spanish!
Tomorrow I start work. 8:30-5:30 Tuesday to Saturday is my work schedule. On the top of my list of things to do in the near future are: find a language tutor, find my own place to live, buy the local skirt to wear to work.
This post is long enough so I leave my explanation of why life here is nothing like China for a later date.
If you’re reading this I’d love to hear from you!!
* All names that start with D are code for d-train unless otherwise stated.