While in Vientiane, we got the chance to spend Saturday with Pon and some friends and family from his village (including five kids). We rented a truck and drove several hours through the beautiful countryside with just a market stop. The rice fields were a beautiful glowing green and it’s always interesting to see the water buffalo!
It’s really fun watching kids who don’t speak the same language spend the day together. It does not take them long to find common ground. I always end up wishing that is was as easy for me as it is for them. At first, our three and their five looked at each other shyly from across the songtaew (truck). There was a lot of staring and a few small smiles. After the market break, we offered the Lao kids French bread, they ate Lao version of white wonderbread instead. Then next thing I knew, Silas was rolling on the ground with three of them, tackling them, grabbing necks, pushing them over backwards… and the ice was broken. Claire and Nang found a few Thai words they both knew (these kids normally speak Lao but it has a lot in common with Thai) and played hide and go seek and splashed each other in the water. For awhile they just sat close together on a tree trunk without speaking. They smiled at each other a lot. I tried to follow their example, smiling a lot, enjoying the water and the day, appreciating the food (not hard to do- amazing). I think we all enjoyed our day together.
One thing I notice about the few Lao people I know (and Thai people from the country-side) is that they are incredibly resourcesful and adaptable (very competent to handle any situation that arises). And they go on a trip like this, very well prepared. On a day like this, people from our culture would probably pack some sandwhiches, chips, fruit, drinks, right? Well, not this gang. We had baskets of sticky rice, raw, whole fish picked up at the market, pork, mint, limes, fish sauce (and lots of other seasonings), chicken marinating in lemongrass and oyster sauce, giant chicken wings, a grill cover, a mat for the ground, sodas and ice, etc, etc. When we reached our picnic spot, overlooking the reservoir, we checked out the water and then Pon and Lan made a fire and got to work on an amazing lunch. After a few hours playing in the water, we ate about 2:00- waterfall pork, fish grilled with lemongrass stuffing, chicken wings, lemongrass chicken, somtam, and sticky rice- wow! All dirty plates went in a bucket as rain started to fall and we headed out in our rented truck to see the lake at the top of the mountain.
The lake was stunning- huge with tiny islands and mountains in the background. The kids loved splashing and swimming there for awhile and laughing at Dig the dog, jumping on Pon in the water and fetching bottles. Then we headed back to Vientiane in the late afternoon. There were no scheduled potty breaks all day! Every now and then, someone would just veer the path for a minute. We had to find some sneaky ways to get the peeing done- once it got so desperate we had to stop the truck by the ride and hop out fast! It was pretty funny going behind a little shack we hoped no one was napping in! Also on the way home, a bottle of fish sauce turned upside down on the truck floor on the way home, so we all had some pretty fishy/muddy feet when we got back to the hotel. We were also pretty pink from our day in the sun.
It was a great “tiaw” (outing ) and a great way to get to know Pon’s family and friends a little better.