La-La-La-Laos

CeCe pointed out the other day that my last two posts may not have provided the most flattering portrait of Laos, our new favorite country.   Please don’t let me deceive you.  We love it here.  The people are nice, the food is good, the weather is superb, there are monkeys in the forest, and did I mention the people are nice?  We just spent seven days in the Savannakhet area after planning to spend two or three.  Now we’re in Pakse, a bit further south, but still on the Mekong.  Tomorrow morning we’re off on a three day trek to Phou Xieng Thong, one of Laos’s many Natural Protected Areas.  But before we go, I’ll update you on how we’ve spent our time the last few days.

After returning to Savannakhet following our fantastic Thanksgiving trek, we slowed down a bit.  We spent Saturday biking around the city.  CeCe bought some nice sarongs, I got noticed by the “lady-boy”, we met loads of English-speakers, and visited a handful of the city’s wats (Buddhist temples).  There’s nothing quite like being approached by a Buddhist monk who wants to practice English.  Unfortunately, none were proficient enough for me to whip out my Fr. Kenneth stories to good results.

Sunday we intended to explore the outskirts of the city on a rented 110-cc motorbike, but the combination of our inexperience with manual transmission bikes and general fatigue thwarted us after five minutes and two near collisions.  Instead we took the advice of our dear friends and loyal blog readers, Bill and Merry Penfield, and made the day one of rest.

We needed it because on Monday, we found ourselves face to face with four classes of intrepid English learners.  Our dear friend, soul mate, and tour guide Thipphako asked us to help us teach her four English classes that day, two in the local high school and two sessions in the evening.  We were flattered and accepted.  Her school groups were a challenge: 40-plus students in each room.  It was hard to make eye-contact with all of them let alone make sure they were engaged.  CeCe had a group of advanced learners who asked her many intriguing questions on diverse topics including Christianity, the American civil rights movement and the protests in Thailand.  I was asked four times whether we have children yet.  (No word on how my mother managed to plant those questions in the audience.)  We did our best and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.  Afterward Thipphako and her sister Gail treated us to a wonderful dinner, improvised Lao hamburgers.

On Tuesday, Thipphako and Gail volunteer to rev up their bikes and give us a tour of the countryside.  First stop was a visit to a local monastery whose abbot, a friend of their family’s, loaded us up with sticky rice and junk food to feed to a small army of feral, sacred monkeys.  And that’s just what we did.  We had so much food that, after a while, we had to go looking for the few, bashful monkeys who hadn’t gotten their fill.   Some ate straight out of CeCe’s hand, rabies be damned!  (CeCe didn’t get vaccinated before the trip, so if all the monkeys suddenly fall ill, we know who to blame.)  Back on the bike, we visited another temple and a lake with large soft-shelled turtles before our sore butts called it a day.

And yesterday, we hit the road, vowing to return to Savannakhet.

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