Friday, April 13, 2007

Day Seven (Friday, April 13th)

I'm not sure if Friday the Thirteenth has any significance in Lao, but some of the events of the day made me think that Friday the Thirteenth lurks worldwide.

I should note that I am typing from a very sticky keyboard so there may be some typos. Apologies.

Teri and I headed out in the wilderness with Tung, our guide. Teri and I were wearing trail shoes and sneakers respectively, Tung was wearing flip flops. We had one pack between the two of us and I offered to carry it noting that the first part of the trail was flat before we reached the mountains.

As we started, a little Lao boy ran up to me shyly, touched my arm, laughed and ran away. It's kind of cool to be fascinating to someone.

Teri and I must be faster than the average traveler on this trek because in no time we arrive at the first village. We dropped our packs and explored. Because of the New Year, all the kids were out of school and as we walked around the village there were usually about 10 children just following us and laughing and giggling and then running away and hiding. Very cute.

Teri had the chance to help thatch a roof. We joked about the poor soul who stands underneath that part of the roof when it rains. They will get wet.

I wonder if they get Desperate Housewives here. What would the Kamu village make of Wisteria Lane?

We left the village and continued upwards. My plan worked perfectly because at this point, it was time for Teri to take the pack. Our guide showed us a plant that is used to treat malaria and I considered putting some of it in the pack. Both Teri and I are taking the Malaria medication and it is making both of us a little sick. But being a little sick is better than having Malaria, I guess.

As we leave the village I think to myself how "real" that felt. Almost so real, a part of me joked that as soon as we left all the "actors" call their agents to file their sessions fees for our visit and they pack up and check into Le Meridien Laos. Oh, I just can't supress my inner cynic.

We got to the top of the mountain. Our guide put out a wonderful lunch and as soon as he did it started to rain.

Jamie can't wait to eat the whole fish. For those of you who don't know Jamie doesn't eat any fish. Or seafood. Nothing. No, not even lobster, or oysters. Nothing. If it swam or lived in the ocean she doesn't eat it. That went over so well in Asia. But even Teri wasn't brave enough to eat the fish. Tung got a nice fish to himself that day.

This was my chance to be smug. You see, I packed smart for this trip. I got Nylon and Polyester clothes, all quick dry. Not the most fashionable, admittedly, but smart. Teri on the other hand, brought cute little dresses made of cotton, and sandals and mascara. "This is who I am" she claims.

So, we're soaking wet on the top of the mountain. Teri is shivering. I am such a good sister, I give her one of my quick dry shirts. I literally gave her the shirt off my back. Now, she is wearing all pink which is funny. As we go through the bag I see that she brought her cell phone, also pink, and we take pics.

Jamie, on a conference call from the top of a mountain in Cambodia. Calling in a JRO to Barbara Wittig or getting a product knowledge question answered by Bob Cordell. Or just blatantly ignoring Rod Brown's orders?

It stops raining and we hike down the mountain. Actually, it's more like slide. I slip down about three feet on my feet, then I'm on my bum and then I'm just laughing. I have the pack on for the way down, clever me. Tung gives me a piece of bamboo to use as a walking stick. I keep sliding. Tung gives me another piece of bamboo and i joke that I practically have crutches but it does make the slide down easier.

Teri, of course, is ahead of me, steadfast. As I'm sliding down the hill I practically slide into a cow, who Teri is busy photographing. The cow has a wooden bell on it's neck and I am reminded of the cows and bells I saw in Switzerland. This is a very different cow. We have no originality, we call the cow Bessie.

View from the Village as we approach it

We get to the village and are led to a hose to wash off. The color of the water (brown) has me wondering if I'm going to get dirtier than I started by using it. It washes the dirt clumps off but sort of stains the skin like a fake tanner. Teri loves it.

Two girls are playing with a lizard. They have it on a leash and it's kind of cute that they seem to be walking the lizard. But then they spin the lizard around on the rope and it's not so cute anymore.

We walk around a little bit. There are animals all over the place. I see the goats and I think about my pal Ellen in Durham with her goats. I miss you Ellen!

Then I wonder what everyone else back home is doing at that very moment in time and then I realize it's 3:00 in the morning and my interest in what everyone else is doing subsides because they are likely sleeping.

More pics from our meander

Tung walks us to the school. It is white and new and doesn't really match the home grown vibe of the rest of the town. Apparently it was sponsored or something by a group in Japan. I have Teri photograph the name of the school so we can read more about it later.

That is one thing about this trip which is a little frustrating for me. I only determined that I was going two weeks before I left leaving me very little time to "study up" on what I might see. Of course, I'm learning quite a bit as I go along but I do like to get all the background on politics, history and so forth before I go. If nothing else, I want to learn the local customs so I can avoid being another rude, ignorant tourist.

One custom I learned about is never to leave your chopsticks vertical in a dish. It looks too much like the incense sticks that they burn for the dead.

We also explore a Hmong Village right next to the Kamu village. The most noticeable difference is that the Hmong houses sit right on the ground whereas the Kamu houses are up on stilts. Tung tells us that Hmong have many wives. Polygamists! Which reminds me, when does Big Love start up again?

It rains again but this time Teri and I are in the shelter of the community meeting area. It's a short shower, as many of them are down here, and the sun comes out. And then the kids come out. Some of them without their clothes! They're slipping and sliding and having a great time.

We all decide to nap. We wake up and again the children flock to us. My head is feeling a little achey so I decide to keep napping.

Jamie's Retreat into the Hut. Little do we know that this is a pivotal moment in the day.

While I am napping Teri goes from being Princess to Mother Theresa. She is braiding the girls hair, playing games, and doing cartwheels and handstands. The kids try to do handstands but end up doing headstands. Which has got to hurt on the cement.

There was also a bug. A really big one.

And some fruit. Also really big.

When Teri comes into our, um, hut? to check on me the kids start banging on the walls. Wow. Teri is in demand with this crowd.

But, what Teri find in the hut is me, and at that point it's not pretty.

I went back to try to nap. I hear the rooster cocka doodle doing and I really hope that thing goes to sleep at night. If not, I wonder if the townspeople will notice if it's missing in the morning.

My headache worsens. My body is still a little screwed up from being 11 hours ahead of North Carolina. The day prior my Malaria medication decided to get out of my body via gagging my throat and sending me to the restroom. We've just hiked and have been very hot and very cold.

I also start to feel feverish. And nauseous. And in addition to all the physical stuff, I know that my pretty little head is also part of what I'm feeling physically. Sometimes, when I'm not feeling so well, I drive it. And without realizing it, that's exactly what I did. I completely spun my thoughts and physical state out of control.

I am having a headache. About every two years I get a migraine. Maybe this is a migraine. I can imagine the white bag where the migraine medication is. In North Carolina. Maybe I have Malaria. I am in a third world country. On the floor of a hut. I am dirty. I smell. My wet socks hang above my head and drip on me. If I can't be in my own bed, I want to be in the heavenly bed at the Westin. With 600 count white sheets. Why didn't I get that trip insurance? What if I have to be airlifted to Bangkok? That would be kind of cool actually if I wasn't feeling so poorly. I really think I am delirious.

Needless to say, I start to cry.

This is when I summon Mother Theresa from the kids. She's understanding but urges me to ride it out and calm down - she can sense that I'm pushing it (probably the tears gave it away). Even though she's right and I know it I am pretty nasty with her. It's the headache mostly that's making me nuts but all the other stuff doesn't help.

Tung comes in with some medicine. Which, given the setting makes me a little nervous. Thank goodness, it looks like aspirin and I take it.

I think about eating. I sit in front of a plate of food that looks great but feel the need to run out of the hut and vomit.

At this point I make the decision to summon the van and get out of here. I'm concerned my condition will worsen - (I know, it all sounds dramatic and silly in retrospect "my condition" but at the time I genuinely felt terrible and thought I might be getting ill in a significant way and made the most reasonable decision I could make under the circumstances).

You can tell Mother Theresa is a little upset but she's my sis and won't leave me alone. Nor does she want to be alone here.

It will take the van an hour and half to get here.

In the meantime, I go back into the hut. Tung comes and rubs my head while he talks to Teri. Teri is using her affected slow voice which generally annoys me but right now it's kind of soothing.

Of course, as the van pulls up, I am feeling much better and had practically drifted off to sleep. I'm not sure if it was the aspirin, or the head rub, or perhaps the thought that the van was coming that calmed me down.

We get in the van. The road out is not paved. Sometimes it's not a road. If I didn't already have a headache and a stomachache after this I would. There are times when it's so bouncy that my whole body bounces off the seat, I am airborne. I have to laugh at the situation. What else can I do? Teri is a little annoyed because she thinks we look like idiots calling the van to get me and then having me laugh. I'm not laughing at the humor, I'm laughing at the hilarity. There is a difference.

We get back to town. We find a hotel room at the Villa Santi. I am thrilled. Bed. Teri is like "It's 10:30 - let's go out. I'm not just going to sleep again early." Ummmmm, Teri, I still feel like hell. She's annoyed and grumpy and goes to sleep. Understandably.

My last words to her are "I forgive you for not going waterskiing with me the other morning."

For the full collection of the pics from this memorable day click on the picture below to see the full album.

Day Seven (4.13.07)

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