Dinner and Blackout

After a visit to Nongdong Elementary School, we made a couple stops on the way home. The first was a short visit to Mair Ya and the second to Na Bao and Na Sao to invite them for dinner. When we arrived home my Aao told me to just relax and watch some TV with Nang, my little cousin. While I was sitting there watching cartoon with Nang, a student teacher who is doing her residency came into the room and was spraying a can of strong smelly thing on top of us.

At first I didn’t think anything of it and thought it was a can of spray deodorizer. The smell was so strong and the fan above our heads was spinning on high speed and since I didn’t like the smell of it I asked her what she was doing and when she told me it was a can of mosquito spray I ran out to the backyard so fast to get some fresh air. I can still remember my Mama getting sick the year before in Pakse when my father’s niece sprayed the bedroom with mosquito repellent.

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I later joined the relatives in the kitchen to give a helping hand but my Aao told me to make a visit to Por Thao Yai and told my cousin to walk me to his house. I have asked my Aao ealier if there is a Kok Mong in the area and he told me Por Thao Yai has one at his place and I can go check it out and see if someone would be there to make some Khao Mao.

I don’t remember much about Por Thao Yai and didn’t get to spend much time with him when my parents and I went to the south in January/February of 2007. He brought up the subject of my deceased sister and how she fell ill during his visit to us in Vientiane. I didn’t even remember this part of the event until he mentioned it and I recalled other relatives that were staying with us for three months around that time. We then talked about the US and then about the school building project. He told me how he has been building schools way before 1975 in the area and it is his passion to promote education in this rural part of Laos. Por Thao Yai said they would have completed the school, at least having cement floor and walls and windows if they didn’t have to pave the road to Wat Dong Yang.

Por Thao Yai said it is unrealistic to expect the villagers to contribute to two funds in one year. He said it was a burden already to have the villagers contributed the usuual amount of money for the road (that would have been for the school building project)  plus extra based on how many vehicles a household has.  He said to be fair you have to give the villagers a chance to “ha you ha kin” which means to make a living. Por Thao Yai said they would have to wait until the following Pee Mai Lao to start the collection again. I asked him how much money would they need to complete the school and Por Thao Yai estimated the total cost to be around 100 million kips. They need to complete the floor, patch the inside and outside walls and installing doors and windows and then paint the walls. The cost is high because they have to hire contractors to do one task at a time.

Por Thao Yai then told me about how he told the school to make certificate of recognition(Bai Yorng Yor) for the donors to the school building project and they are investigating on the price and how to do it by the book with the official stamp from the officials in the province. I then informed him of how I have written down the donor names and given the list to my Aao already. I also told him about the next visitation to the school with my friend and told Por Thao Yai wanted to know more about her but I told him he would have to ask her himself whatever questions he may have for her and the only thing I can tell him is that her family is from Ban Muangkao.

By then it was time for dinner and Por Thao Yai invited me to have dinner with him and would not take no for an answer so I joined his family for a meal and the typical chit-chat during meal time and after helping with the clean up I asked Por Thao Yai’s permission to check out Kok Mong on his yard. It was starting to get dark already and it was only 5:50 PM and while I was examining the Kok Mong I was called home to get ready for dinner.

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My Aa was worried about me and she didn’t want me to be hungry so she told me to go wash up and eat the khao phoon that aunt Kian bought for me while waiting for dinner. I was not feeling well and only ate a few spoons full of the soup and when Na Bao and Na Sao showed up for dinner I barely touched the rest of the food and told everyone that I already ate some food at Por Thao Yai’s house. We talked more about the school building project and I told everyone about the trust issue that some Lao nork have with helping the people of Laos. I listed the various incidents of how some individuals have exploited others into giving money for a temple reconstruction project or a school building project but in the end it was just a scam so many people are turned off with request of donation for helping this cause and that cause. Na Sao told me that she spoke for all of them that I have nothing to worry about she “hup pa gun” that they are not out to lie and cheat their “louk and larn”.

I then told the relatives not to expect future financial assistance from Nye Noona or other donors because the economy in the US is really bad at the moment. I told them if future help comes then it is meant to be and if not, then don’t be disappointed because we are in a middle of economic crisis. The relatives told me they knew life is the same everywhere whether in Laos or in the US and how things are not so easy for many Lao living abroad because they have to live in work in “ban phern muang khao” and at times don’t get the good old Lao food like they do back home.

We were about to clean up when all of a sudden we heard an loud explosion and the lights went out. It was pitch black in the house and outside and my Aa told me to go check on my room and lock all the doors and close all the windows. Na Bao and Na Sao went home to check on their children and grand-children and my Aao and cousin went to check on the source of the blackout. They came back later and reported that someone said a snake was crawling up the power line and caused and explosion. Of course I decided to join my Aao, the teenage cousin and a village guard with his AK 47 to investigate and see for ourselves if it was really a snake or something else.

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It was quite an experience to be walking after 8:00 PM in the rual area with no light on the street and from the houses along the way except for Por Thao Yai’s house. There were two different lines going through the area with different voltages. As we got closer to the power pole we could smell something was burning really bad but couldn’t see much of anything with such a tiny flash light. We headed back to the house and my Aao made a call to the power station and then got on his mo-ped to track down someone who was on a duty at the station.

By 10:30 PM we realized there won’t be any light tonight and were getting ready for bed. I was not able to sleep however as I sat all alone in the dark and was not feeling well at all. I was feeling dizzy since the early evening and by this time was having problem breathing normally. I felt so dizzy had the urges to vomit but nothing solid was coming out. I started to feel sad and scare since I didn’t even know where the nearest hospital is located and thought about how my parents would react having to hear the news about me being hospitalized for something. In the end I had enough sense to stay calm. I did my best to breath through the mouth and flushed my system with plenty of water. I then said my prayer and mediated for awhile and spent the rest of the night breathing through my mouth mostly. I was wide awake at 2:30 AM and only was able to sleep for a short time after and woke up before 4:00 AM. By 4:20 AM my Aao and Aa were up and so I went down stair to take an early shower.

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