There are no set opening and closing times in Lao. Businesses are only open when the owners feel like being there. As a result, you get four pharmacies right next to each other. At least one will probably be opened.
Animals walk the streets like people. They have complete freedom, living off scraps and other animals. Mostly dogs and cats, but roosters and chickens as well. These animals have adapted to the urban environment, I have yet to see an animal run out into the street, like any “pet” would.
Being brown among other brown people has great potential. I can walk into big tourist sites without having to pay, people assume I’m a local. When I tell someone I’m Filipino, I get the best deals, since they assume I’m poor. When I tell a local I’m American, they all think I’m a liar. Even my passport doesn’t convince them.
Almost all the foreigners I’ve met in Lao, like me, only intended to stay a couple of days, but now can’t imagine leaving. Some of them quit their jobs to stay. Some call their work and tell some bullshit story about how the Lao government won’t let them leave. Many people who come here on their way to Thailand, China or Vietnam, end up staying at least a month.
My bullshit story: “Sorry, can’t go back to grad-school, helping set up orphanage in Lao.” Altruism is never questioned in academic circles.
Malaria is a common fear here. I finally got some anti-malaria pills, though now I feel empty inside. The thought of being in mortal danger all the time was cool as hell. Also, the only thing that actually keeps the mosquitoes away is drinking. I keep forgetting that alcohol is considered a toxin.
On a side note, the malaria drug I use, Chloroquine Phosphate, has adverse effects on 100% of tested African Americans, and almost no adverse effects on any other race. Thanks to “colorblind” policies in some European countries, this fact is never stated even in pharmacies, since race is seen as “merely a social phenomenon.” What a nice way to say “HEY BLACK PEOPLE, HAVE SOME MALARIA!” Thank you, academia.
I’m not taking any pictures while I’m here. I really hate taking pictures while traveling. That’s what this blog is for.
There are bars full of young men and older women, the young men being bought to take them out for a romantic night. The “patroness” style of prostitution is well alive and accepted here. Of course, it is everywhere, but here it has some integrity.
I should stop using words like prostitution to describe these things. It seems totally inaccurate. Also, I’ve given the misconception that foreign men are part of the reason prostitution is so prevalent. Nearly all of prostitution in Asia is sustained by the locals, and are in the local communities, not tourist districts.
From a Filipino I met on the bus, after I told him that my grandfather refused to pass on the Filipino heritage to the rest of my family: “I bet all the American-Flips get mad about that. Don’t blame your grandfather, he may be one of the smartest people. I would do the same. Anyone with a good heart would have done the same.”
From an American foreigner: “In China, me and my friend were walking the street and saw a Chinaman crouching down, and my friend said to me, in these exact words—no joke—’I know what you’re thinking, Chinaman are probably the race most close to animals.’ Can you believe that? In broad daylight, on the street, to say something that racist, that terrible.”
Me: “How long had he been in China?”
Guy: “About nine years. He can speak Chinese fluently, and he worked in some aid projects too.”
Me, after a moment: “Maybe he was right. Maybe that was what you were thinking.”
A young Polish, after spending a week straight in intense meditation: “I feel great.”
Turkish guy: “What did you get out of it?”
Polish kid: “Nothing, really. I feel a lot happier.”
Silence from the bar-mates.
Ben the American: “Everywhere I go, people scream at me: ‘Hey ladyboy! What’s you’re name?’ All because I walk around in a dress.”
Me: “Why do you wear a dress?”
Ben: “It fits into my backpack easier.”
Guy from Liverpool: “Buddhism is great here. It’s not really a religion, is it? More like a philosophy, or a way of life.”
Me: “How is it not like a religion? It has an afterlife, it has dieties, it has graven images and sacred texts, it has rituals, beliefs and faith. It’s adopted by the state, so that people are forced to serve as mandatory Buddhist monks when they’re growing up. It’s worse than religion, it’s Medieval.”
Guy: “Then why is it everyone I meet in the West says it’s not a religion?”
Me: “Because Buddhists can do drugs and have promiscuous sex.”
Guy: “Exactly! So it’s not really a religion then, is it?”