On the way home from the village to Pakse, Lan I had a few places for us to stop (Lan I and Lan II came back with us). First we dropped by a little church meeting that Lan occasionally is able to attend- a group of villagers that meets in a home. This is a group that has been broken up by the police at times. One of the men who was baptized with Claire (Ta) and continues to meet with Tom for Bible studies at the gas station where he works….his parents are part of this little group. We didn’t stay long because we didn’t want to cause a disturbance or draw unwelcome attention to the group (no pictures, also for this reason), but we enjoyed meeting them and praying together and they gave us generous gifts of rice and watermelons.
Next, we turned off the main highway (it’s a pretty funny main highway, I might add, where you have to stop for pigs and buffalo and cows pretty regularly) onto a red dirt road to the middle of nowhere.
At first it looked like this: pretty golden rice fields, palms, buffalo, a few villagers driving tractors (two wheeled tractors pulling wooden carts that people ride in). Then we turned of that road onto a smaller road and from that road to a yet smaller road and then the tiniest road of all through woods. The road was crazy bumpy and narrow and we all started getting a little concerned for our borrowed van and the limited number of hours we had to get home before dark (when things get significantly more dangerous on the roads). Finally, after about an hour off the main road (only Lan had ever been here), we all hopped out of the van for a bathroom break- ladies on the left, men on the right- because, as Lan explained, there were no bathrooms in the village. When we arrived at this isolated place, we met up with Khameni, a friend of Lan who used to work in Bangkok. He’s expressed some interest in faith in the past and came to a few Bible studies with Lan and Tom. We first visited his mother-in-law at the “big house” (there were pigs that looked like wild boars to me) and then went to Khameni’s house for lunch. His house had woven straw mats that didn’t meet the ground and a dirt floor. Thier own resources were clearly so limited (no electricity or running water or even outdoor bathrooms) Yet, Khameni’s wife had crossed the river to Thailand that morning to buy chicken and ice to host us. She was in the dirt yard, grilling chicken for us. It was very humbling. At the same time, as we ate some local popsicles and waited for the chicken to cook, I felt more and more anxious as the afternoon began to pass and we realized how long it would take to follow those bumpy roads back to the main road and to get our borrowed van back in one piece before dark. Finally we were able to eat and left soon after. After the long trip back there it seemed a shame to stay a short time, but I felt so terrible for any burdens we placed on them too. Khameni said that the rice crop failed this year and that most of the men in the village were out living in the woods, making a living hunting and logging in the woods. Khameni is planning to return to Bangkok after the first of the year to look for work there, so Tom hopes to have contact with him again in the future.
The next day, we had a very interesting tour of the water filter factory where G and M work and the kids had an educational field trip where they learned exactly how the water filters are made and used. So interesting!
That night, G and M treated us to a delicious Thai meal on floating restaurant on the Mekong- the river and bridge were so beautiful at night and we loved the cool breeze and wonderful food.
Our last day in Laos was mostly consumed by travel. Our only bus option was Pakse to Ubon first thing in the morning, which meant we would need to spend half the day in Ubon, killing time before the night train left. We knew that with a long bus ride, the border, and a day of waiting, it could be pretty tiresome for the kids. So we planned a little surprise! 🙂 But instead of telling the kids, we told them that the motto of the day was “go with the flow.” All morning we kept saying it.
The kids did great so when we got to Ubon, we took them for lunch and then the surprise- a little waterpark!! We pretended we were just looking for a place to sit down and I just loved their faces when they realized we were really going to rent suits and go swimming! 🙂 (I won’t show you my rented suit). The workers there probably thought we were nuts from all the jumping up and down and squealing. It was a great way to cool down and spend the afternoon (Silas could not get enough of the big slide) before bringing the night train home.