Tuesday, November 03, 2009

NaNoWriMo progress

Did I mention yesterday that I wrote almost 10,000 words for NaNoWriMo in one day. It felt good to stretch out and write. The backdrop of the weather didn't provide any distractions - cold and windy with the threat of drizzle in the air. The gusts of wind rattled the window and I was glad to be inside, though without heat the insides of houses in Xieng Khouang are nearly as cold inside as outside. When the temperature dropped in the evening, I stoked my internal furnace with a glass of wine.

My story starts in a village in Kham district where Daeng, the hero, and Boua, the heroine grow up. Not a smooth childhood - Daeng's mother dies in childbirth and Boua tries to marry her off to the son of a neighbor. They are both tormented by an older boy named Vong. This typical village life is contrasted with global events - new technologies and China dominating the movement to return to the moon. While the village doesn't have electricity, people still buy cell phones, which they charge when they go to town. So I'm writing about some of the juxtapositions I see in my daily life in Lao.

I'm glad to get ahead with this project, far enough to see the possibilities in several sub-plots. Also, glad to get ahead as I have some work-related stuff coming up and I'm not sure how much time or mental energy I'll have after work.

Monday, November 02, 2009

That Luang Holiday

Being based on the lunar calendar, the main Buddhist holidays occur on the days of the full moon. Many Lao names also revolve around the moon. My own name, Chanpheng, means "full moon". The person who gave me the name said that 'The full moon is beautiful and likes to have fun.' It also has Buddhist meaning, because of the main religious days being on the full moon.

That Luang itself is a gold colored monument (also called a stupa because it often contains relics, particularly those of the Buddha). Many believe was that missionaries sent by the Emperor Asoka in India, brought a Buddha relic which was built into the stupa in the 3rd century. The temple was rebuilt as a Khmer temple in the 14th century. In 1560, King Setthathirat moved the capital from Luang Prabang to Vientiane and rebuilt That Luang, which was again destroyed in 1828, when the Thai raided Vientiane. The French using old plans, rebuilt the stupa in 1900 but it was finally rebuilt in 1930 and people say that the shape is more elegant and pleasing to the eye.

Boun That Luang is the holiday falling on the full moon of the eleventh lunar month. Yesterday, people making merit at the Sri Meuang Temple brought their wax flower offerings on a parade from Sri Meuang to That Luang. Today, thousands of people offered food to the monks, who came in from all over Vientiane and the provinces. Tonight, while the Thai celebrate Loy Krathong, there is the Vong Vieng, where people light candles and circle the stupa three times.

Well, this year I'm up in Xieng Khouang and didn't wake up early enough to offer food to the monks. I'll also miss out on the ceremonies at That Luang. On the other hand, it's been a quiet and creative day. The sky has been overcast and strong gusts of wind hit the house. I can feel the temperature dropping. Earlier I noticed that the flowers on the peach and plum trees are starting to bud. Cold season is coming.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

November 1st - getting back onto my blog

The past few months have been kinda wild and I haven't had much of a chance to write. I visited the US for what should have been for a month, but circumstances dictated otherwise.

My first week in Seattle was interesting. As I fought off jet-leg, I attended the annual Family Practice Update at the University of Washington. It's my favorite continuing medical education conference, with a wide variety of topics. It's always amazing how medical understanding and treatments progress, even in the two years between the conferences I attend.

The following two weeks are a blur. I must have picked up the dreaded H1N1 in the caverns of medical advancement - I was quite sick and even after the week of high fevers ended, I still felt weak. Unfortunately, I didn't think of bringing Tamiflu with me and I didn't feel sick enough to go the a doctor. Seattle was reporting so many cases that they advised people to stay home if they weren't on their last legs, or coughs.

Fortunately, I was able to beg my boss to stay another two weeks. "I can work on reports and proposals while I'm over here," I said optimistically. Well, they certainly took me up on that and I think I ended up dealing with about an hour of e-mails every morning plus the report writing work.

I did go down to San Francisco for about two weeks and enjoyed some time with my Hmong friends in the Central Valley. I attended the Hmong "Cultural Festival" in Oroville in mid-October. Everyone said that it was the earliest celebration of the Hmong New Year ever but they didn't want to give the impression that Hmong New Year was starting so early, hence the new name. I also went to a party in Fresno and met up with many Hmong friends there.

After returning to Seattle for a few days of shopping, packing and sending the stuff that couldn't fit into my bags for Laos, I took off.

I'm doing both NaNoWriMo and NaBloPoMo this year and have a feeling I'll be able to keep up with both. I've been back in Laos for a week and as my jet-lag fades, I feel more energetic. Also, I'm just regaining my commitment to write, which is sometimes battered with my responsibilities at work. We'll see how it goes!