Jun 14, 2009

Jun 8, 2009

A night at the circus

The evening opened with a limp explosion of cheerleaders shaking their silver pom poms and a pantomime of the Revolution involving unicycles and a disco ball. A lone trapeze artist swung above pretty Lao ladies dancing a traditional dance. A contortionist distorted herself on a platform above pretty Lao ladies dancing a traditional dance. And Lao ladies alone, without any circus-y distractions, danced a traditional dance. Two bands of martial artists sparred; two girls gyrated inside rings of spinning silver. A fat woman and a lady boy argued, seemingly for hours, at the “beauty shop.” The band played out of tune; the audience laughed. And at the end, seven performers dangled off a bicycle pedaled by the hot clown. It was a night at the Lao circus.

Hotpants & sugarcane

Two weeks ago, the hot season started abruptly. Its arrival was announced not just by heat and dust and crabbiness in certain expat households, but by the roadside proliferation of sugarcane juice and hotpants for sale.

Hotpants are self-explanatory, or should be. As for the sugarcane, stalks are hauled in from the countryside and delivered to neighborhood micro-businesses and the kind of open-air mom-and-pops that sell sticky rice cakes, candy, and cigarettes. The stalks get stripped of their hard outer layer and pushed repeatedly through slow-moving metal rollers; the greenish juice collects in a pitcher and is served over ice in a plastic bag. Some days I really wish I could be the kind of girl that zips around on a motorbike hung with plastic bags of sugarcane juice and fried noodles and grilled chicken, but it’s just not me. One bag was enough to satisfy my curiosity.

While the soaring temperatures would also seem to promise an end to domestic harmony, such as it is, the heat might actually resolve a long-running dispute concerning our wall decorations. Our Bluetak is melting, and taking our two sets of educational propaganda—twenty-four panels in all—with it.

Isaac quite likes the series that insinuates if you don’t brush your teeth, they will creep out of your mouth, frolic in the sink, and then start their own revolutionary tooth republic. But he is vehemently opposed to the artwork in the piece warning children not to throw their empty cans and plastic bags into the water, lest a cute little fish get stuck and need to be rescued by even cuter little crabs. He’s been campaigning, unsuccessfully, to get someone else to share his antipathy, but he may prevail yet: I’m afraid our fish have only a few weeks left before I tire of readjusting the grid.

The first six


It’s been almost six months since we arrived, six months that have settled so much into routine that nothing seems extraordinary any more, not the novice monks chatting on cell phones nor the vendors pushing wooden carts laden with coconuts nor the prepubescent motorbike drivers, though a particularly small boy will catch my eye.

So what does stand out? I got mildly electrocuted by a banana muffin toasting in our Pro-Life oven, purchased with much fanfare from a ladyboy in Thailand, who insisted on taking our photos with our new product, then getting her staff to unpack it, break it, and pack it up again. That’s not why it shocked me—any appliance does, since the electricity isn’t grounded—but it does explain the rubbish timer. I rode in a tuk tuk that towed another tuk tuk (the one belonging to my original driver) for ten kilometers down National Highway 13, Laos’ “busiest” road, the two vehicles nominally attached to one another with a bit of blue plastic string that broke more than once. I stole a kitten from the grounds of the Asian Development Bank, and then promptly gave him away as a birthday gift.

And that’s about it. I teach banking, economics, and soil professionals during the week and beer salesmen on Saturdays, right after I visit the organic veggie market; Sunday mornings are dedicated to the herbal steam room at the gym. Every so often consumer needs drive us to visit a Thai mall, and the Thai mall drives us promptly back into Vientiane’ sleepy embrace.

Sep 4, 2008

Market Day

With Isaac recovered from his (possibly airplane-food induced) bout of food poisoning, we decided to explore some of the markets around Mong Kok in Kowloon. First we hit up the Goldfish Market, where we cooed over the baby turtles ("Isaac, I want a baby turtle!") and the pretty fish ("Oooh! So pretty.") .

Goldfish market, Mong Kok

Then we traipsed past the rows of phony Le Sportsac bags and mounds of real polyester panties at the tail end of the "Ladies' Market," pausing only to provoke the proprietor of a fruit stall for dillydallying in front of plums we didn't intend to buy. Next was the Flower Market, where I took lots of photos and Isaac befriended a cat. And finally, we visited the sad little songbirds in their market, but they were so sad we didn't stay long.

Flower market, Mong Kok