The working title for this post was Laos WoW Holy Cow Kapow which is just a nod to how much fun I had visiting the Southeast Asian country to the West of Vietnam, traversed by the Mekong River and known for mountainous terrain, French colonial architecture, hill tribe settlements and Buddhist monasteries. I’ve also been sharing some ridiculously personal aspects of my life on this blog, and thought to ratchet that vibe down a bit. I get it - I’m a teacher and being open-hearted and transparent and all that rot is a good thing. But long-winded posts about my personal pain as well as my healing weigh on me, weigh on me like a baby elephant, so let’s toggle over to some recent happenings that I think we’ll all enjoy in a lighter, airier sort of way.
Back to Laos, and more specifically the north central city of Luang Prabang, just a hour plane ride from Hà Nōi, VN, the name literally translating to Royal Buddha Image and the entire town an UNESCO World Heritage Site. WOW WOW WOW WOW. Actually the whole Laos pronunciation thing is a funny subject. I caught a back and white clip of a John F. Kennedy speech from 1961 at the UXO Laos visitor center - a local shop fostering awareness of Unexploded Ordnances, Laos being the most heavily bombed country, per capita, in history. - in which Kennedy, sounding like a Massachusetts hillbilly, pronounces it “Lay-Ose” . Much to discuss about Laos then, from its name to its Elephant Sanctuaries, amazing nature, awesome temples, history in South East Asia, etc. I also have to reconnect with my guide there Somphone Inthasone to confirm a few questions. When I met him at the airport, he said, “My name Pon.”. “OK, Pon, how do you spell it?,” I asked. Very slowly he said, “P-O-R-N…” I looked at him, he looked at me, and then I said, “You know, in our language…” to which he quickly cut me off, saying, “I know, I know, I know…” Language translation can be very funny, as the Vietnamese call the lizard a word that sounds like a guttural “Kentucky”. I know how to say it, but every time I see a lizard I ask Phuc, “How do you say lizard?” because I find it so funny. So there was much laughter and amazing experiences in the 4 days I spent exploring Luang Prabang, from the Wat Nong and Wat Xiengthong (Golden) Temple, to the Peace Pagoda to the neck of an elephant named Hmoung. There was even a Temple called Wat Mano which translates to “Broken Head” which I found hilarious. With Phuc and Porn guiding the way, we are definitely on a roll here people.
Let’s just call him Pon for translations sake. Pon was super cool. He would get excited when I asked him questions and respond: “Sho-war, sho-war”, his version of “sure, sure” and always touch my arm when conveying information. Just when I had a little Vietnamese down, he taught me a whole new language, from Sabaidee (Hello) to Kobchai Lai Lai (Thank you very much) to Bor Pen Yang (No worries). He also says “Hello beautiful girl” in the most mellifluous voice, I can’t find it in my notes right now but it’s a heart melter. At one point he mentioned “The Witch Doctor” the Mordu in their language. If this was a movie, I’d turn and speak directly into the camera, asking “OK there’s a Witch Doctor? . We are definitely going to see the Mordu.” We tried to meet with Mrs. Keo and Mrs. Sengha, who will supposedly smoke 10 cigarettes at a time to tap into The Zone, but neither were around. That’s the introduction to amazing Laos, a country of remarkable nature, people, architecture, and religious and cultural heritage, with a few more cool articles soon to come.