Friday, January 21, 2005

Mekhong River walk

Even though Lao is a tropical country, the winters are comparatively cold. In the mornings, I like to walk along the artery of the Mekhong River to get my blood flowing. I've gotten to know many people along the linear neighborhood that stretches 3 miles from Vat Meuang Wa to the Pakphasak intersection. The mornings have a small town atmosphere, everyone walking, puttering in their gardens and exchanging gossip. Or maybe more like a living room, with most folks wearing their night clothes, with towels wrapped around their shoulders for warmth.

As I walked, I could hear the wailing of funeral music from Sri Chiang Mai, the town on the Thai side. I believe this kind of music is designed to scare away ghosts as well as to send the spirit of the diseased to the next world. It always seems like it's coming from another universe, especially when it travels across the water.

I met the father of a friend. His wife recently died, and it seems like the whole neighborhood is caring for him. Below, he and a group of 2 other cronies would walk together in the morning. When I met them, they would be doing exercises involving swinging the arms and making deep noises in the chest. Today, he was surrounded by a group of older women, all laughing and trying to walk fast in their flipflops as they swung their arms around. My friend's father was wrapped in a jacket and a lined cap, held down by a scarf tied under his chin. It looked more like the clothes were holding him up, not that he was wearing the clothes.

He wei'd me and asked about his daughter who is up in Xieng Khouang now. He then asked me to take care of her, and let him know if she does anything wrong. I'm sure he was also affected by the music drifiting across the river.

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