12 Day of Laos
This post is very late. I got back from Laos on Halloween. I'm posting this in December. Life got in the way for an entire month. I know, awful excuse and I may be the only person reading these posts.
Day 1: American Culture vs. Lao Culture
On the last airplane to Laos, I puked. That ride had too much turbulence and I wasn't about to hold the puke for a 5 hour plane ride. About an hour into the trip, they started serving food and that tipped me over. I felt so bad for puking while people were eating, but sorry-not-sorry because I felt so much better and nothing like a good puking to bed you to sleep.
I arrive to a very balmy airport. I had to exit the airplane onto the tarmac. I was wearing a denim long sleeved shirt and jeans. The sweat instantly started to roll. I forgot I had to get a visa before going through immigration and I had never got one alone before. I've always had my mother with me. I was pretty nervous because I felt like I was going to do something wrong and since it's my first 30 minutes of being in Laos, my lao is pretty damn rusty. So I got my Visa, and it was actually painless. My Uncle, Ai Pa, was waiting for in the arrivals area of the airport.
We get into a bright blue truck and headed home to KM 52, the name of the town where my family lives. I arrive to my grandparents, and before stepping out the car I prepare myself for all the 'fat comments', because I've been getting fatter with every trip back to Laos. Surprisingly my grandma greeted me with tears, but it wasn't happy tears like "oh yay you're family and I'm happy" tears. They were tears that said something like "my husband is probably going to die soon and you being here is making it more real" tears. I'm also really bad with emotions, and all I offered her was a side hug. She sort of hugged me back too, but before I could even asked any questions she shoved me into the house to see my grandpa. My grandpa was sitting on the wooden couch and gives me his hand to shake it. He says "Sabaidee! I'm about to die soon. That's why you came to Laos because you're scared I'm going to die." WHAT! Who says that? My grandpa is definitely not afraid of dying.
Day 2: Lao New Wave Cinema
My friend from Minnesota told me I should meet up with filmmakers in Laos. I thought that was a great idea, so I got in contact with Khamski X. Induangchanthy. He goes by Kham. I met up with him for dinner in Vientiane along with his friends. It was actually an after-party dinner for Film Week at DongDok, nickname for the National Lao University. Kham is one of the co-founders of the Lao New Wave Cinema, a production company in Laos. I met the other co-founder as well. His name is Anysay. I actually ended up talking to him most of the time because he was siting next to me. I didn't just meet the co-founders of LNWC, I also got to meet two others who are in the film industry. Their names were Helene and John. Helene is French and has been living in Laos for 8 years now. She is in charge of the Vientiane international film festival. John is Indonesian and is living in Bangkok. He works for the Berlin Film Festival and he was in Laos scouting for films to recommend for the Berlin Film Festival.
It was a very nice dinner because I got to understand the film community in Laos. Up until then, I had no idea, and they're more established than I thought. It's very exciting. Kham and Anysay are making wonderful films and starting to create an industry in a country with little resources. It makes me wonder about my films or lack of films. These two are making feature films from nothing with little resources and money. Here I am in America with plenty of resources and little money and I yet have to make a feature film. What am I waiting for?
Day 3: Film Week
It was the last day of the Film Week at Dongdok, so I wanted to go check it out. Ai pa, drove me and attended with me. I got there at 8:40am. The event was suppose to start at 9am. I forgot about Lao time. The event didn't start until 10:30! I could have slept in. Next time I'll take that into account. How could I forget about Lao time.
Advice: When in Laos, if you're on time you're early. If you're late, you're on time and if you're actually late, it's totally fine.
The event started and it was screenings of young Lao filmmakers's short films. I wasn't expecting much, because I know how student films are like in Minnesota. It's nothing to expect really. But the Lao films, I was pleasantly surprise at the story and quality of some of the films. You can tell they're amateur filmmakers but they were great. Better than I expected from the youth of Laos. That tells me a lot about the young filmmakers in Minnesota. We need to step up our game. I saw the passion and ambition in the Lao films that is missing in some of the Minnesota films.
Day 4: Grandpa's Farm
The day before, I visited my Grandmother's farm. It does not compare to my Grandfather's farm because his farm had the same animals but 50 times in quantity and size. It's a 35 acre farm. He had the bigger animals. He had cows, horses, goats, and WATER BUFFALOS, etc. I love animals and I wanted to touch all of them but they were scared. Ai pa, wanted me experience petting them, so he brought a bag of salt, and that's when I realized hoofed animals love salt. The water buffalos were the only ones that weren't scared. They were licking the salt straight from my hand. It was a strange sensation that I really enjoyed. It sounds weird, but I felt so close to nature. It was great experience.
Here's the story that everyone likes.
You know how a dog or a cat likes to be rubbed on its head, by the ears? Well, the water buffalo is a little different. I was happily petting the water buffalo's back, but he told me that a water buffalo likes to be scratched under the tail right above the butthole, so I guess you can say I scratched a water buffalo's butthole. Check that off the bucket list.
Day 5: Nothing
I did nothing day 5. I hung out with my family and that's fine. This is my 5th trip to Laos, and I've seen all the tourist sites, and the point of the trip was to be with family anyway.
Day 6: Futbol Game
My cousins are a part of a youth soccer team in their town. Their team name is SSK. Short for Sisaket, which is their last name. They're competing in a tournament and they were in the semi finals. Ai Pa wanted me to come and take pictures of the game and I thought it be fun to support my cousins. That game was hard to watch. Since it's community ran, there isn't official rules, so the boys were really rough with each other. One of the boys started bleeding! LIKE WHAT! This is an under 18 league. They shouldn't be bleeding.
The game actually came to sudden death, and the SSK team won by penalty kicks. They were super happy, but in my opinion it's a lame way to win. My soccer playing boyfriend would disagree.
Read the next post for the next 6 adventurous days in Laos.