Wednesday, November 10, 2010


beyond my wildest dreams
Today: two kids, maybe a brother and sister, riding their bikes down the middle of the street, talking animatedly, holding hands.

Last night I dashed out of the bar at 9:45 to get food. The night market and most of the cheap street food is wrapping up by then. The crepe sellers are closer and linger longer, but I really only want to have to eat sweetish crepes with egg and cheese in a pinch.

I was lucky—I caught the last somtam girl, and her buddy, who was packing up, sold me enough sticky rice to feed a family. Just for the hell of it—but no, really because I hate the thought of, perhaps, not having enough food—I bought some other weedy, spicy Lao thing in a bag to eat with the rice. The bar had gotten busy around 9:30, but L was fine when I got back and I'd been there since three, so I took my feast home where I could eat it by myself, with no one to mind the fermented stink of the pa dek in the papaya salad, or me letting my mouth hang open and air out in between bites, because of the heat.

It was a lot of heat, this time.

A lot of the days are differentiated by what I ate: baguette, somtam, soup. Yesterday I discovered a new snack: sticky rice dipped in egg, grilled, and stuck on a stick with some spicy paste spread over it. Schoolkids buy it over the short wall that separates their yard from the venders outside on the main road through the middle of the old town. Sometime last week I splurged and bought a mint lemonade ice from the posh bakery, which appeared to employ most of the ladyboys in town, but is, apparently, run by devout Christians who require their staff to pray before each shift and have banned the Lao sarong, mandating pants instead. I guess I won't go back there, except maybe to sniff around for scandal.

There are also minor daily errands. I've been to the post office, to the stationary shop, to the small market and the big market, to guesthouses around town to hand out fliers. I've hemmed a shirt. Yesterday I opened an account at the Lao Development Bank with the million kip I've accumulated. (I took a picture of my deposit slip with the six figures. Somehow, the crazy quantities of money here are still funny.) I opened the account with someone else's phone number and an address (Bah Khili) that's just the name of the block I live on; no one even looked at my passport. And this is what I love about the developing world, or at least this region of it—everything is personal. My visa was organized because somebody knew somebody in the visa office—this aspect of it, I know, is problematic, but in regular daily life it's awfully pleasant. Take your food, sit down, eat it, pay when you're done, not before. People remember me and bring me my usual. Short of cash—at the post office, mind you, not a pub: come back tomorrow. Bo pen gnang. Today I'll go back to the bank to get my account number—yesterday, lunch interrupted the process.

Lao of the day:

mehn-neh: tomorrow. This is the closest I can spell it in English, but the vowel sounds aren't made in English. They're like the French "le" I think. I'd need an umlaut, maybe. Purse your lips and say "er." That gets close.

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