Monday, October 31, 2011

Voyage to Thakek - The People

We took advantage of a holiday in the French school to take a few days off with the kids and travel south on Route Nationale 13.


We were a convoy of two cars, since our friend and neighbour, Valérie, has two kids the same age as Zéphyr and Maya-Swann.


Of all the advantages of living in Laos, the greatest must be our contact with the people.  This is the most handsome privilege of being here. They are without a doubt the easiest, most laid-back nation on earth. They have taken bo ping yang and sculpted a life out of it.


There is the broadness of their smiles, the playful twinkling in their eyes and their ever-readiness to take Baby Sayo in their arms so we can eat or otherwise rest.


But more, much more than this, is a certain philosophy that permeates down to the core of their very existence. I would like to take for example a family we met at the blue lagoon.


It took us many more hours to hike there than it should have because out there in the rice fields between the dramatic hills and the meandering paths nothing is signposted.  This is also part of the charm of the country. Despite the long walk and dark looming rain clouds, the way was beautiful and our children were collectively very well behaved and courageous.


So we got to the blue lagoon, a small body of perfect turquoise water nestled in the hills and the children went swimming. A family came to fish. The man had one bum leg. One foot was in a brown shoe and the other tiny one was in a white sandal. Walking was clearly a challenge for him and so was earning a living because he, his wife and handsome sons were wearing rags.


And yet there was none of the miserable self-pitying I have come to expect from people in the West. There was no moping, no poor-me, no “I’m so depressed”. Maybe it is the Buddhist philosophy that desire leads to frustration and therefor unhappiness or maybe some people are simply genetically or historically or culturally disposed to happiness.


They may not be winning Nobel Prizes in physics or amassing huge fortunes or riding in chrome elevators to their sterile condominiums. They may not be listening to Muzak or counting their calories or worrying about nothing. Their simplicity and joy of being, their mood-less-ness and resilience give me reason to pause and wonder: who are we and what is the point?   












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