When you start having dreams about people in FedEx uniforms, you know it’s bad. I have spent two solid weeks waiting, and can wait no more. This morning I packed my bad knowing that I was going somewhere today, at first thinking I would take a side trip to a couple small towns east of here to pass some time. There is nothing really to see there besides some war remnants, so the trip would have been for the sake of feeling like I was going somewhere and would have ultimately brought me back to Savannakhet.
Alas, plans have changed! After looking into FedEx’s rerouting policies, I checked my email and got a suggestion from mother dearest saying that I should call the bank and have them send me a new card to Oxford, where I can pick it up in less than a month’s time. Perfect, no? The call was made an hour ago, and the bank gave me no problems. A new card will be sent out in the next day or so, and I am free to get a move on. Suddenly, life is exciting again.
There is one VIP bus that leaves from Ssavnnakhet at night and arrives in Vientiane in the morning. There are also a host of local buses that pass through in the daytime. And, as one of the guesthouse people tells it, there is a local bus that does the overnight trip as well. No A/C, erratic stopping, and no guarantees that the seats will recline or even have padding. I think I’ll take it. At the least the stops should be fewer than in the daytime, and if I have to tinkle I can do what I did in Cambodia and use the darkness to squat behind the bus in case we aren’t near a rest area. (Guys have it lucky on this front: they can hop off the bus and take care of business with their backs turned in plain sight of everyone.)
So that’s that! I am off to Vientiane and will spend the next two weeks seeing what I can see in Northern Laos. I had a few out-of-the-way destinations in mind that I likely will not be able to reach due to time. My visa expires September 10, and travel in the North takes up a lot of time due to mountainous terrain. We’ll see what happens from here.
For those of you at home, the familiar (if slightly shaggy) Matt Lauer has been to the land of a million elephants a few years ago on one of Today’s “Where in the world is Matt Lauer?” deals. The first segment is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wuBUPyoJNQs and the rest of the segments are easily found from there. If you have some time to kill and want to learn a bit about Laos, this is a good way to do it.
Now that my attention is off the waiting, I am feeling invigorated once again. I went for a stroll around town, and a couple small observations that I would like to share:
– An old woman, wearing the loose top and sarong that is the traditional outfit for woman, solemnly shuffled out of a house onto the road. She stopped at the window of a parked van, peered in, and started making monster noises. An unseen child inside erupted in giggles, to which she responded with more goofy noises. That’s how many people are here: playful and happy. Not a bad way to be.
– Texting and riding a motorbike seems like an instinctual no-no, but people here (and in surrounding countries) still do it with some regularity. An old man on the road had the furtive look of someone sneaking a text, and his left arm cocked below the handlebars was in exactly the right posture. On top of that, he kept glancing down at whatever was in his hands. I watched him approach on his bike, prepared to tsk at his recklessness. Then he passed, and I laughed at my own assumptions. He wasn’t texting; he was holding a chicken. And the chicken was taking the open-air motorbike ride in stride. I can only hope his final destination wasn’t someone’s dinner plate.
– A few nights ago, a local girl about my age and I turned down the same street at the same time, both heading home. I smiled at her, and we chatted a bit in Thai. She turned down an alley before the guesthouse, though it turns out she actually works at the guesthouse. I have seen her a few times since then, including this morning when I was pulling my overloaded pack through the doorway. She commented on a pair of sandals strapped to the outside of the bulging bag.
Side story: this whole trip I have had two pairs of shoes: gym shoes bought just before I left and a pair of flip flops I found discarded at a music festival. The flip flops were in rough shape when I found them, and the previous owner obviously thought they were on their last legs, which is why they were abandoned in the middle of a field with no camp or shoeless soul/sole in sight. Turns out they had another pair of legs in them yet. I have been wearing them ever since, and have a pretty righteous flip flop tan from them. But Meh (just like my mom in the States) wasn’t too pleased with the ragged state of my footwear, and insisted on getting me a pair of sandals. I wore them at home, but since then they have been strapped to the outside of my bag. They are pretty (leather-colored with lots of beading) but not too comfortable and not that easy to get on and off due to an ankle strap. (I like my footwear to be comfortable and easy. Even my gym shoes are slip-on, slip-off. I haven’t retied them in months.)
So, there they were, on the outside of my bag, and this girl commented on them in a nice way. I figured I wasn’t likely to wear them again, so I asked if they would fit her. A Cinderella match! Now she has a nice new(ish) pair of shoes, and I don’t feel guilty about not wearing them. Win-win. Plus, in the strange world of cosmic exchange, a tea seller gave me some free fruit shortly thereafter. If shoes can get me fruit, then methinks the Fraulein Fruitenberg may end up barefoot before too long…