Back to loving my bed and Lyle Lovett more than ever: I'm sure you understand now. All I have done for the past week is come home from school and get into bed. I have been sleeping, sleeping, sleeping, waking only to post and eat insignificant little things. I really didn't even want my banana rice cake with tapioca sauce all week. I've been zapped.
I still have a few things to wrap up from the trip, and then I will get back to neighborhooding. I have stories from this week still waiting to be written.
First of all, look to the left. Don't the stairs to this temple remind you of those fair slides - the huge wide wavy ones? Don't they look so inviting (but not as much fun to slide down)?
From the top of this temple, you can look across the border to Thailand. It's in the little border town in Laos that acts as base camp for The Gibbon Experience.
Our first night there, we walk up this slide to explore the temple and monk's quarters under the stars. We meet five monks going up, and, this is something K and I are used to, they comment that we are "big" and they are "small." They are so friendly, and happy. When we get to the top, we find a teenaged monk walking around listening to Christina Aguilera on his cell phone speakers. His colleagues are circled up on the floor of one of the temples, discussing.
I decide to get up early the next morning to watch the sunrise from the temple. It's 6:30, and I hear beautiful bells and chanting as I head out to the street. On the main street of this small town, women with their children are kneeled on the side of the road with containers of food and a line of orange-robed, chanting monks are walking down the street, stopping to take food from each one. I am standing at the only intersection in town, and when they get to me, half of the line (the older half is in front, the younger half behind), turns down a side street where more women, children and food are waiting.
It was such a surprise. I head back up the slide stairs and the view is beautiful, surely such a peaceful place to be in the morning. I sit at the top of the steps until the monks return from a different back entrance. They all give a kind nod as they pass.
I don't know what I thought about monk life before this trip, but we see them everywhere, through all three countries ( I have seen hardly any in Vietnam). We see them buying cell phones at a Mobifone stand, riding bikes, buying candy at 7-11 (7-11's are all over Thailand). One was driving a bus. One was annoyed at the customs border crossing, just like me.
My hypothesis: monks are just people.
REUNITED WITH THE SPECTRUM OF LAYS POTATO CHIP FLAVORS
In China, there are approximately 500 flavors of potato chips. There is hardly any reason to ever buy real food because you can get roasted turkey with gravy chips, Peking Duck chips, and even Louisiana Fried Chicken chips. Vietnam has a terrible assortment of chips.
Lao has an OK selection. Pictured is one flavor I did not see in China, "Double Pork Cheeseburger." China does carry the other, "Mexican Barbecue." And you know what, they taste like their names. Lao also has Nori Seaweed chips.
Don't you think all of these flavors would be a huge hit in the states?
HOW DID I LIVE WITHOUT IT?
You may recall that I mentioned a little pen flashlight my brother sent to me last month. Little did I know how much I needed it.
Begin with the last day of school, the day before our trip. I come home and the electricity is off. This is not uncommon, but I flip and flip and flip the switch...nothing. There is a notice on the door. I take it across the alley to the man who lives next door to candle neighbor and he tells me that since we didn't pay our bill, they came and shut our power off. It's hard to pay bills on time when you can't read them. But anyway. I have a Christmas party to go to at Alice's house. I have to pack. The top of the castle is pitch black with no lights.
So I grab my make-up bag and head to my favorite place on earth, the Bum Bum Salon. I show them the notice, and tell them I must get ready there because I have no lights. They are so understanding and gentle, even about shameful things like this. I love every woman there. They wash my hair (have I written about how amazing hair washing is...oh, yes, about fifteen times)...they dry and straighten it (after an hour long head massage and cucumber facial, for $3 - oh, I have mentioned that, too). Then I do my make up there. I love them so much.
After the party, at midnight, I come home and negotiate my way around the dark castle and pack with the flashlight. It's quite difficult. It's only a little light. But it works.
I also use it to read the street sign heading to Angkor Wat. I use it to play euchre in the treehouse and to keep my eye on the tarantula. And every once in a while, I shine it out of the treehouse to investigate a noise. I use it to discover my nibbled bag and spread-out sandwich. I use it in the village of the Chiang Mai trek, and I use it to read when I don't want to disturb sick sick sick Katherine.
What a great gift, Brian.
K and I hold a Southeast Asia Massage Competition. The research for this is so exhausting. Thailand loses again. The way they press your muscles is just so uncomfortable. But Lao and Cambodia placed little higher. With every massage, we would just talk about Tran, Tran, Tran at our Bum Bum. The second night back, I go to her for a hair wash. As I lay on the hair washing table, her sister gives me a pedicure. The head massaging time is doubled because of the toe work. That place is heaven. Tran of Vietnam wins the Southeast Asia competition.
TRAVEL COMPANION COMPETITION
Katherine wins that one (Karrie, it's just a competition for SE Asia). She is way off the charts of the scoring guide. She makes me laugh the entire trip, most significantly during our three days of vomitting. If I were to make a new scoring guide to rate travel companions, that would be one of the scoring criteria, for sure. Tim, you have raised a solid, good, laid back and fun person. Nice job.
Next: back to neighborhooding.