It is still day 6 in Laos (October 11, 2008) and my second day in Pakse. I need to pick up the pace of this story telling or else we will be here for months. After taking enough photos at river bank of Ban Houaylao uncle Khao and I headed back to the house for a hearty breakfast before heading off to Ban Phonsikhay.
Since it is Saturday I want to go to Muang Phonethong to visit the relatives and make arrangements for visiting Dannavieng Elementarty School and NongDong Elementary School. Aunt Phone told me she wanted to visit her family in Phonsikhay because she has not seen them for almost four years. Uncle Khao and his baby sister also wanted to visit their sister in Paling. It would be more efficient to combine all the trips in one day, so we don’t waste time and money on the gas since the price is so high at the moment.
We took the back road from Ban Houaylao to Ban Phonsikhay. This road was being built during the time I visit Pakse in early 2007. The new Pakse Airport is starting to take shape and pretty soon this will be the only road for people to pass through. The houses along the main road will be demolished and the owners have been compensated for the loss with money and new land elsewhere.
Ban Phonsikhay is a typical farmer town. It was founded by a few families many years ago. Grand-Mama’s family is one of the three or four families that decided to relocated to this town to form a community around the wat. An Ajarn decided to build a wat here and a few families a ban by Sedone River in Pakse followed him. Grand-Mama’s parents own a great deal of land in this town and being the only child in the family, she inherited the wealth. Now, there is a little piece of land here and there, enough to be passed down to her children. That’s how life goes, the up and the down, the good and the bad.
As for aunt Phone, she is also from Ban Phonsikhay and all her siblings are farmers. Her father passed away when she was at a young age and she has been like a sister to aunt Kian. In Laos, when you are related, you tend to live side by side. This is also the case for aunt Phone’s family. Her brothers and sisters built houses next to one another. Her younger sister, who is Khek’s mother is still building a house from little saving that she is earning by working at a restaurant in Bangkok. Many people in this villages have crossed over to Thailand to find work and leaving their children behind to be care for by other member of the family.
Khek is fortunate to be able to live in Vientiane and attending the National University of Laos for her major in English. Her younger sister on the other hand is no longer in school. She has to stay home and take care of the younger nieces and nephews and run the convenient store at the house if you can call that. This is a way for the family to earn extra money and it is also a place for the villagers to gather on a daily basis. There is a television for them to watch sports or soaps, a place to the kids to buy candies and drinks and for adults to come have coffee and beer.
This is how life is for many people that I know. The term “ha pai gin pai, tah mee gor torn teur la lek teur la noy” is often mentioned during my travel in Laos. Yes, you save what little you could so that someday you can provide a better life for your family. You work hard so khuam vang jar dai phen khuam jing.
I have never seen ping khao (wrapped in banana leaves and grill) before and was taking pictures like a typical tourist. Aunt Phone asked if she could have some ping khao for me to eat because I can’t eat much of anything at the moment. Her relatives didn’t mind at all and even invited me for a meal at a later time.