Here now and now here or nowhere

The title of this blog comes from a play on words that "now here" is also the same letters as "nowhere" just with a space added in the middle. I am always trying to get better at being in the here and now, and I've always been a bit of a joker so that is why I chose this name.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Ban Mano Highlights

Well,  I'm now no longer living in Ban Mano. Not sure the exact name of the village I'm residing in.  My friend came back from her trip abroad and I had to leave her  house in Ban Mano, understandably.  I had a GREAT month there.  It was a quirky little house, settled upon a pond. But the highlights of it were an amazingly lovable and smart dog named Leon and super great neighbors. Ai Lit (Ai means older brother) a silversmith by trade, is the kind of guy who is always happy. Never too shy to invite me to kin lao (drink beer) or eat with him and a whole crew of neighborhood guys who regularly get together to play petanque, eat random foods and, of course, drink beer lao.

I'm pretty bummed to leave both Leon and the boys, though I plan to visit regularly.

Below are some pics from my stay there.  Most have been tweeted about but for those not in that loop, here's a different medium.

Turtle soup and dog with the neighbors. The dog wasn't so tasty, but the soup was saep lai (delicious)

The head of the turtle, not my favorite cut of meat, but it's rude to say no.

i was sitting on the deck reading one morning when I noticed the neighbors goats were eating off our lawn. I was completely ok with it at first but then realized that this meant they got loose. I went to grab them and they ran away so i chased after them. A big foreign guy chasing run away goats on a street in Lao. I'm sure the neighbors and passerby's loved it.
 if you open this up to the bigger view you'll notice in the middle of the view is a man on top of a cut in half tree.  Ai Lit was selling some of his coconut trees for their wood.  I didn't see it all but the "lumberjack" climbed the trees and cut them as he climbed down to make it, I'm guessing, safer??? It was pretty cool to see him up there. He was also swinging back and forth on it just for fun.
Rain Rain Rain.  Well, a hard rains a gonna fall.  After a few days of steady rains, the levy broke and the pond became much bigger.  The brook next door ran high and into our pond.  The whole area was flooded, even Ai Lit's driveway.  Luckily water never got in the house, but it sure was close.  Leon loved it as it meant he could get muddy for fun.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Thanks, but really I'm already full

Of course how do you tell that to a lady who doesn't speak English and you speak minimal Lao?

I had been home for about 30minutes and was watching a movie on my laptop when I heard. "Andy." 15 second pause. "Andy." Very faint and I was absorbed in the movie but I gradually realized Siphon, the wife of my neighbor was calling my name. "Andy, khao poon." I went outside and there she was with a fresh bowl of khao poon, a dish I like and had mentioned to them the other night was one of my favorite dishes in Laos. In fact, in my first days of Laos I thought the food here was shit, except for khao poon. But I had just eaten a large amount of sticky rice and a small catfish (I did share some of this with Leon, the dog). I wasn't close to hungry and putting more food inside of me actually sounded horrible, but for me to refuse would be rude. I thought about saving it for breakfast but it wouldn't last or be good at all reheated. I tried to tell her that I was full, that I had just eaten a lot of sticky rice but I was so very tired and converting words in my head from English to Lao wasn't happening. So I ended up taking the food to be polite. Worse, I ended up eating it even though I was full because, well, it was in front of me and I like the dish.  Sure, I shared some with Leon as well because, well, he eats any and everything. (let's hope i write a blog about a day in the life of leon's eating schedule, it would be fantastic).

I spent the evening before attending a new exhibit at one of the museums in town and then walking across the street to a new exhibit at the art gallery in town (how hi-society of me, i know.)  These events brought out many of the foreigners living in town. Luang Prabang is INCREDIBLY cliquey, and so with all these people out an about you could see where the allegiances lie. I was upset with it and this made me upset with this town because I'm idealist and why can't we all get along. Why??? And so I was upset and full and was so happy to stay in at the house with just me and Leon. Much easier and more fun to be angry alone and do nothing about it, right?  So why did Siphon have to come over and generously offer me her food and help me remember again one of the reasons that I first fell in love with this town.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

I ran out of gas..

I ran out of gas last night when driving home from dinner. It was later at night, around 10:30 and the gas stations close at 7pm. Luckily it's a small town and I had maybe a 10 minute walk to get home. Maybe 2minutes into the journey of me pushing my bike I head an, "ahn-dee." I turn around and see a Lao person I don't recognize. But I meet a lot of  people and after a while they look and sound the same, whereas I am a 6'4"/193cm tall white dude. I stand out a bit you could say. He could tell I was puzzled and so he said, "touy (pronounced toy-ee) and I realized that he was one the neighborhood guys who plays petanque behind my house. His helmet was blocking his face so I couldn't fully recognize him initially.  He offered to push-drive me home and at first I didn't want to but then realized it would be easier and fun.  So off we went, me sitting on the bike and him driving with his foot on the back of my bike.  Near the house I asked him to let go and as I coasted down the street with the wind brushing my face I felt a sense of joy and happiness that gets lost on travel when you stay in the same place for too long.  It was a simple and kind gesture from a friendly person and something I've sort of also lost track of since, to me, most of the Lao people treat me more as a dollar sign than a human. A reminder that all walks of life have bad traits among them but there is also good and we need to find those and hold tight to them.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

PotD - Working Elephants

On the way from Luang Namtha coming back to Luang Prabang we drove past two working elephants. Yes, Laos still has elephants that are used for work. These guys were either trimming trees or getting something from the top by the side of the road.  As a lover of elephants I was ecstatic to drive by them. One day I even plan to take a mahout class here, but that may be a bit away time wise.

IMG 0246

To Catch A Thief...

A few days ago in my sunday yoga class a lady visiting town from London mentioned to me how her laptop was stolen very shortly after arriving to Luang Prabang. She told me how she still had the adaptor and should someone come into the shop I'm working at asking for one that it probably was for her laptop. Well today something even better happened, the thieves walked in with the laptop. Considering there are no apple stores anywhere near by I had a good hunch that it was her macbookair. Better yet, when I opened it up it had her name on the welcome screen. The culprits were trying to sell an unusable laptop to me. Unusable because it was missing the power cord and also because it was locked and being Lao people, they don't have any knowledge on how easy it would be to unlock the computer by reformatting. But I digress, so back to the point. I went outside and grabbed a police officer from the bank next door. After trying to explain to him the story, he still didn't get it. Again, the joys of living in a communist country where people have no real ability to think for themselves because they were never taught this. Again, a digression.  The police officer needed proof so asked for the password. I couldn't track down the owner but then I had an idea. I knew the place she was staying at and called them up. I asked the manager there, another student of mine, to tell me and then the police officer her full name. The reason why is that the login screen had both of these names on if. This could prove that it was not these guys laptops because a third unknowing party would be giving evidence pertaining to the laptop in question. Unfortunately the police office still didn't understand this and asked again for the password. Eventually the manager from the estate where the lady was staying came in and had a report of stolen laptop to match up with the stolen laptop. But the police officer was too young and/or scared to do anything. Since the laptop had been reported to tourism police it was next decided to bring them into the mix. When they arrived they did not take to lightly to the criminals. The estate manager, crooks, and tourist police went off somewhere and that was the last I saw of if.  the laptop owner came by the shop later to thank me and she told me that she still had to deal with the police and they were holding the laptop overnight for some reason.  Sort of absurd as she has the password to login which no one else had, being used as further proof. But this Laos and nothing ever make sense. There is a lot of petty crime here and people say many reasons why. They say the people aren't paid enough, or they haven't gotten enough schooling, or they want more and more, or that they are just lazy and feel owed something, or that it's just part of the culture and so therefore it's ok.  Well none of these are suitable answers, and as a falang (westerner) living here I find it horrible and more so that the Lao people will justify constantly.  Again I digress... so let's end this story with a funny story.  After feeling all good for doing the right thing and helping someone out I later was driving the wrong way on a one way street and police tried to pull me over. I don't take the police here too serious as, well they are a joke and don't do police work but rather just accept bribes. So I waved at the two cops and kept driving.  Behind them were two more and these two looked more serious but I kept on driving and they started to follow. But they are Lao and so lazy and after about 20secs chasing me, they stopped. I chuckled and found it amusing that in the same day I could do a good deed and then outrun police.  all in a days work :)  (note to all, mainly my mom. I'm not bragging about running from the traffic police nor am I condoning it. And I'm not worried about getting deported for it. More so I just think it's a funny ending story.)

update 9-24
below is a picture of the two idiots whom i caught. The guy on the far right was a police offer who was too young or two scared to do anything.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

A Missed Chance To Eat Porcupine

On my way back home from chiang mai to luang prabang my bus stopped for lunch in a small town whose name I don't know.  The lunch itself wasn't memorable however as were leaving someone notuced a weird looking animal in the kitchen.  Turns out they had caught a porcupine and were preparing it to be eaten.  I'm not sure that I've ever been so close to a porcupine before.  It's needles were something of natural beauty. Sharp enough to cut through skin but yet incredibly light and hollow. Sadly we had to leave and I didn't get the chance to taste this delicacy.

Hot washing the animal to help make the skin softer in order to have an easier time shedding the skin and needles.

IMG 0244Shaving the porcupine, notice the needles in the bottom of the bucket.