Thursday, October 28, 2010

October Break - The Redolent Road - October 29th, 2010

(It’s October break at the French School. We have taken the weekend and rented a car to drive up to Vang Vieng. Here are some impressions of the route)

The Redolent Road

The road, as Mister Bilbo said, goes on and on.

We drove, happy as doves, north into the never-ending lushness of Route Thirteen. As we drove north and away from the capital the air got, if not thinner, then at least cleaner. It became perfumed with the essence of a thousand fruits, as sweet as wine and as pure as honey.

Trees grew taller and people grew shorter. We were entering the hinterland of the H’Mong and other minorities.

In the matter of a few hours we were facing the dramatic inland cliffs of the Asian heartland; towering giants overgrown with vegetation as thick as a beard in a land where memory never sleeps.

The calm cool quiet of rural Laos was upon us as we were upon her. For thousands upon thousands of years this people has tamed its bamboo, built its huts, lit and extinguished its cooking fires. They live above ground, their houses on stilts the better to protect themselves from the beasts that crawl, that would disturb their sleep and eat into their provisions.

The people live in small villages like the one we walked along to get to a cave where the silence dwells.

There is a canal. There are ducks and livestock and in the distance the hills.

We walk through and I think of our lives. How different we all are on this slender planet! And how tempting it is for us Westerners to look upon their tired work-worn faces and think, “How lucky am I”. For are we lucky? Am I lucky?

I have the West and its wealth and air-conditioned greatness. I have cinemas and individuality and languages and independence. But am I lucky? Luckier than they?

Walking here with these people I get the impression that they, who have never seen the inside of an international airport, have conquered distance in a way I never could.

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