After we left Ban Phonsikhay, we went to buy some kanom kok Pakse to take to the relatives at the hospital. It was too early in the morning and the vendor was just setting up the place. Since we were on a tight schedule we went to Champasak Hospital to visit Grand-Mama before heading out to Muang Phonethong.
Driving across Sedone Bridge to go get Kanom Kok Pakse
I was glad to see my aunt-in-law not wearing her jewellery at the hospital today. When we picked her up at the airport the other day she was all decked from head to toes with kham Lao, wearing two big necklaces with 10 baht a piece with a smaller kham America. Then she was wearing bracelets on both arms with 5 baht a piece, plus rings and earrings. Apparently aunt Kian took her aside last night and told her to take off her bling bling. Many Lao Americans go to Laos and tend to dress in kham for whatever reason and they don’t realize how dangerous it is in today’s term to be walking around like that.
Things have changed a great deal in Laos in the past few years and there are many hungry people out there who are salivating when they see an opportunity like this. It’s not safe even at a hospital to be walking around like that because we don’t know who is who coming in and out of the place. When the aunt-in-law goes to the restroom at night, any opportunist could snatch her necklaces or do more harm to her. In fact when we got to Pakse, we were told of a story about a teenage girl having her necklace pulled while driving on her motorbike in broad day light. Her necklace was only sorng saleung but she sustained quite an injury. It was a big talk at the hospital of how Pakse has become just like Vientiane.
Does this mean Laos is not safe? On the contrary it is quite safe and tourists are rarely a target of this sort of thing if they carry themselves properly. It’s the same rule in Vientiane as Amsterdam or anywhere else in a major tourist attractions. Do not carry valuable items with you and be aware of your surroundings. For some reason Farangs are quite safe in Laos because the criminals know too well how they don’t carry much cash with them. It’s only the Lao abroad that are usually the victims and the local Lao who like to dress to impress.
After visiting Grand-Mama and a short visit with other relatives we headed out to Ban Dannavieng.
Going to Ban Dannavieng
Aa Tou (not blood relative) was our driver for the day. I told her we needed to make a stop at Ban Nongdong to pick up Na Bao and Na Sao as instructed by my parents in a letter they sent to me. My parents wanted me to have witnesses for the handover of the donation for the school building project at Ban Dannavieng. Na Bao and Na Sao are well known in the area because they are traders and well respected by the villagers and have an extensive network from tor ked to Pakse. They are also a big supporter of school building projects headed by Por Thao Yai.
When I told Aa Tou the name of Na Bao she told me that she knew him and his family well. I said to her in a joking manner that it must be true how they said Lao people all know each other. I then told her to drive to his house without me giving direction. As it turned out, Na Bao’s younger brother is Aa Tou’s best friend for many years and it was a big happy reunion when we got to Na Bao’s house. Na Bao and Na Sao were busy supervising taharn harvesting rice but they took a break to go to Ban Dannavieng to pick up my uncle (Aao) before heading to Tou Ya’ house. It was a happy reunion for all of us and before we knew it we had to head back to Ban Dannavieng.
We all gathered at my Aao’s house and more relatives showed up to join us for a meal. We talked about the school building project and Aao wanted to know more about Vienne and Nye Noona (the two donors for the school building project). He thought I would be bringing a friend (mou) with me but I told him that would be the next month when I come back to Pakse after Boun That Luang.
I told everyone about Vienne and Nye Noona, same information that I have said over the phone to Aao previously about their background. I said Vienne is a chef at the 5 Star Fairplay Golf Hotel & SPA in Spain and how he is so dedicated to promoting Lao causes and even brought cooks from Vientiane to work with him. Not only did Vienne help with the school building project, he is also a long time supporter of the Book Box Library.
As for Nye Noona, she is kind and generous like Vienne. She is a devoted Buddhist and also makes a website to share her knowledge about Buddhism, next to posting at her site and at my website (Laovoices.com). Right before I came to Laos Nye and her family members were busy restoring a temple in her state during the weekends. I told them how Nye is khon jai boun and pen khon mee shin mee tham and while she is not rich, she wants so much to help the less fortunate children in Laos. In fact she makes yor jeuan (spring rolls) to raise funds for the school building project and the book box library. I explained to them how Nye doesn’t want any recognition and wants to be an anonymous donor as I have stated over the phone. When we visit the school next month, she doesn’t want any ceremony and doesn’t want the school to know that she is one of the donors for the school building project and wants to be treated like a regular visitor to the school.
My Aao asked me where Vienne and Nye are from and I said that Vienne’s hometown is in Vientiane and Nye is from Muang Khao. Since Nye is originally from Muang Khao my Aao said she is “khon hao aeng vao gun dai” which means “she is one of our own and we can converse with one another with no problem”. I also told them how I met Nye through the internet but has never seen her in person nor have spoken to her on the phone. As for Vienne, I have met him twice in real life and hope to meet him again in the future, perhaps when he is in Laos during the time of the grand opening of the school. Of course everyone said to me that I have to bring the donors of the school building project over for a big boun that they will have for the official opening ceremony.
Before we left we all had a good laugh about how in the end we are all connected to one another either by friendship, marriage, or by blood. My family is getting bigger and bigger by the day and I have more pi nong than I started out on my second journey to Laos.