Saturday, July 20, 2013

Mugs and Makeouts

In two of the supermarkets here you can buy beer on tap. There's no place to sit; the taps aren't at some bar/waiting area carved out of the store. There's just a stand in the middle of the beer and wine section, under the fluourescent lights, with a shiny steel tap countertop sprouting a few taps--Efes and a few other brands--and a tall gas canister shaped like a missile. I guess you can order a mug of beer and walk around drinking it as you shop? This is something I'm going to have to explore.

People are affectionate in public here, which I find strangely comforting. I'm used to seeing affection between friends, especially women, in other parts of Asia, and it's common here as well--women walk hand in hand with friends, sisters, mothers. But here men and women aren't shy about showing affection to each other, either, which is something I haven't seen for a while. I don't enjoy watching strangers neck at the mall, but it somehow puts me at ease. I guessI feel like the leash has been slipped a bit: there's a broader field of acceptable behaviour and I'm less likely accidentally step out of it. It's nice knowing that I won't be pegged as a fallen woman if I were to hug a man in the street. Not that that is likely to happen, but you know--should some dark-haired, high-cheekboned batyr swoop in to rescue me from a rival clan's hunting falcons, well, I might be tempted to throw my arms around him and plant one on him. And I wouldn't be cast out of polite society! Tra la.

(Whistle in the house, though--that's another matter.)
You'll never get away.

As nice as all this hand-holding is, though, there is quite a lot of it that seems to extend to the possessive. I see a lot of women walking with one arm stretched totally taut, extending away from her and across her companion's body, gripped fiercely in his opposite hand. It's a bit more like being marched to the gallows than a casual interlacing of fingers. Or you see men with their arms draped over both their ladyfriends' shoulders, enveloping them. The line between "they're so in love" and "he's making sure she doesn't bolt" is often blurry.

A walk

Being lonely, broke and bored, and today being Saturday, and being in need of drain cleaner, I took myself on a long walk to not one but two malls. It was clear, finally, after a week of rain, and the clouds in the blue sky were spectacular. I like clouds. I like them at home, I like them in Luang Prabang where they form great vertical eruptions, but here they are something else. In LP the sky is cut in every direction by mountains; at home it is interrupted by buildings or trees, but here it just goes on and on and on and the clouds spread across it, unspooling in thin, horizontal stretches or piling up like one paused explosion after another, with distinct foregrounds and middle grounds and backgrounds and internal shadows and shadings of purple and gray amid the bone white edges. It's like a huge, complicated cloud landscape, and it takes up as much of the area one's eye takes in as the land does. Maybe more. And the sky feels co close at hand--it must be a trick of the distance--it's like the clouds are going about their business just at the height of all the not-very-tall buildings, like cloud wildlife among us. And as this city seems to have no wildlife beyond pigeons and magpies, the idea of having a bunch of sentient clouds hanging around just out of reach is very welcome.

Oh. Today I also noticed the wildflowers. Two-and-a-half foot dandelions. Huge dandelion puffballs. Something that might be wild thyme. Iridescent blue chicory. Woody, tightly petaled things, mostly low to the ground, mostly muted. Lovely.

Monday, July 8, 2013


One of the things I like about this place is that, because it is so new and planned, a lot of care has been taken in the design of public facilities. Almost every bench or fence has a pattern or design that either carries some cultural meaning or is simply more beautiful than it has to be. It makes looking around a pleasure.