Friday, April 28, 2006

three chapters and an epilogue

i am a lame duck tourist.

coming around the corner is a long plane ride, a long lay-over in Korea (which originally sounded exciting, but after emails from jacob and kham, sounds rather boring and uneventful.) i often fall into a deep depression after a trip like this, having to go back to the usa and face the reality of work, expensive groceries, my credit card bill, and new episodes of "lost", but i have many hours of video from the vacation, so maybe if i turn out all the lights and turn the tv up real loud, i can pretend i am not in seattle at all - if i could only transport the perennially peaceful chirping of the meng chakchanh back with me... i might be able to pull it off.

i now have the task of doing some shopping before i go home, which i will do today. tomorrow i head to bangkok and on monday night i head home.

i called my dad today, but it was really a one-way conversation (with the delay and all the bad reception). but i think my blog had him convinced that i wasn't having a good time. (dad you can comment on this if you want!) but i tried not to do that. (i just thought that the bug story was funny.)

so i will break it down like this -- this trip really has three chapters and an epilogue: chapter 1: visiting kham's family; chapter 2: vietnam; chapter 3: descent into southern Laos - and all that encompasses. the epilogue is now, and epilogues aren't very interesting as a general rule. in fact, i think that people write an epilogue cause they don't know how to end their book - so i won't spend much time commenting on the present. well, each part of this trip has been interesting and invigorating for me. obviously i haven't gone for the vacations where i went to a beach to soak up sun for a week (my skin is too pale for that), even though i can empathize with those who do. and maybe my dad can take credit (or blame) for that - the only thing that we ever did growing up that might be called "vacation" was going up to northern Louisiana for family reunions and that was always more educational and interesting than anything else.

i think i have said plenty about chapters 1 & 2 of this trip... and i am sure that my movie of kham's homecoming will have plenty to say to those who are interested... so i will say one more thing about my trip down south and then call it good.

two days ago, i paid for a car to take my client and his relatives to go to see Khonephapheng falls, (the large waterfall that borders Laos and Cambodia, and makes the Mekong impassable for shipping - and ultimately it protected Laos from the extreme "perils of french colonialism" that Vietnam saw.)

none of his grandparents (on his or his wife's side) had ever seen the waterfall before, and i was touched to see how excited they were; they thanked me over and over again. even though they are close to the falls, they cannot go because they haven't adequate money or resources. one grandma, after having swam in the water for a spell, came up to me, held my hand, and said in so many words- "today you are likely to earn a lot of "boun" (merit); i have been here for 60 years and have never seen Khonephapheng! but because of you i see it today." ...and the funny thing is it only cost me 20 bucks to rent the truck.

it was a full day, and by the time we got back across the river to done khong, and then got ready to take the long boat back to the village on the west bank, it was completely dark. no one had brought a light either, so my client had to scramble around the town to borrow one so we could navigate back through the many small islands and trees in the river. as we set out for the 3 mile trek upstream, i was amazed at the stars. with no moon, no trees to block the view, and no electric lights in close proximity, the sky was huge. i got a crick in my neck from staring up so long, and i saw three falling stars in the course of the ride back. my client's relatives were laughing at me; they see the stars every night, and i think they would probably give up a few of the smaller ones if they could have electricity in their village. but for someone like me, i would give up a few of the lights on my street (especially the sands and the waterwheel) if i could have a few more stars...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

JOSEPH!!!!!!! I just saw a story on "Fox News: Greta Van Susteren's" show about a 25-year old man from Washington who has GONE MISSING in Laos!!!!!!

Dude, get on the plane and come home now! That is an order!

OK, seriously, I hope you are being very, very safe and careful!
Have you heard about this guy "Ryan" who has 'disappeared?'