Tuesday, February 22, 2011

sight of the day

Riding home from a meeting: a grown man, transporting a load of firewood and a machete on his bike. Which had pink training wheels.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Turning Asian of the day

Turning Asian of the day: This morning I had a big bowl of noodle soup, THEN coffee.

Things I've learned: The streetside lice inspections one sees are not actually that. I learned this while Lisa was cutting my hair recently. In addition to finding my first grey (no, I haven't let that go yet) she found a bunch of what Lao people call "itchy hairs." These are the coarse, kinky hairs that tend to grow out of the top of one's head. Well, Lao heads. And my head. I remember sitting in class in high school--probably in geometry or physics or something else I hated--and systematically feeling for and pulling out these strangely-textured, usually pitch-black hairs. It was a way to pass the time, and I had plenty of hair to go around, so I didn't reckon I'd miss them.

In Lao PDR, people believe these hairs 'eat' your other hairs. They'll take over your head, make your other hair fall out, and do other bad things. So when you see women squatting next to each other in the mornings, picking through each other's hair, they're not looking for lice, they're pulling out these itchy hairs. Who'd have guessed?

The public blackhead and booger extractions are still, as far as I know, what they seem.

I dropped a pair of chopsticks. I swear the sound they made as the clattered on the floor was “bo pen gnang”. Today is good.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Sunrise, sunset

It's no coincidence that Brett Favre retired and I found a grey hair within the same month (ish).

Goodbye, childhood. And adolescence. I'm not quite ready to add 'youth' to that list ("You're still young!" sigh).

But clearly, it is time for some very serious fun. I'm looking forward to it. (When I'm not in the middle of it, that is.)

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Monk dodging

Listen, monks. If you can't be bothered to slink slightly sideways when you see me approaching on the street, then neither can I. You're the ones with rules to follow, after all.

Monks aren't supposed to touch women. Women aren't supposed to touch monks, too, I suppose, but I think the first rendering is the more important one. It's easy to be overly charmed by the Buddhism here--the saffron robes, the chanting and drumming, the age of all the sacred manuscripts, the seeming asceticism, the living on charity. There's certainly a lot of it that's aesthetically and philosophically beautiful. But Buddhism has a lot of the same problems as any organized religion: Women are often discounted. Boys are abused in monasteries. Certain monks and certain temples enrich themselves at the expense of the poor. Wars are fought.

With that in mind, it becomes very easy to swing to the other side: who the hell are you to suggest that there's something unclean about me? But that's not the point either, I don't think. It's not that the monks will be somehow contaminated by coming into contact with a filthy fraulein; it's that their thoughts and their actions are supposed to remain pure. If a monk was to touch me, it would be both cause and perhaps effect of his own failure to remain detached from te pleasures of the world. It's not that he'd get dirty--it's just that it might lead him astray. That, I think, is the point.

So I'm not necessarily offended by the rule, as a woman. I give the monks a wide berth. But most of these monks are farmers' kids from faraway villages who have come here because it's the only way for them to be educated and continue to eat. They're no more holy and celestial than any other 11 year old--and I've been a teacher of 11 year olds, and I like to give respect back in the same measure as it is received. So you shuffle one way, boys, and I'll shuffle another--or we will end up meeting in the middle.

And, for once, that is not the goal.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

oh yes

It's ladies' night tonight at Icon. I'm supposed to be making a playlist. So far, it includes "Chiquitita" by ABBA, "We Love Dese Hos," (Outkast) "Dirty Girl" (Atomoshere!), and "Big Mouthed Woman" (oh, Johnny). Perhaps I'm missing the point?

I have, however, added "Jessie's Girl" by the inimitable (ok, imitable) Rick Springfield. That's positive, right?

I'm really not looking forward to making condom and blowjob shots all night. Condom shot: Sambuca topped with a layer of Baileys. Push your finger down into the Baileys and it pokes into the clear Sambuca and looks a bit like a condom. Hilarious, non? Blowjob shot: something, something, something, and whipped cream on top (can you feel my enthusiasm?). You take it with no hands. You get whipped cream on your face. The entire bar, presumably, collapses in shrieks and giggles. Stern--dare we say bitchy?--bartender frowns, smashes beer can against forehead.

Oh, hell. I don't know who I think I'm kidding: by the time I start doing it, I'll think it's silly fun, as usual.

But I'm definitely going to make myself a pin that reads "I'd rather be protesting."