There’s a slightly detectable swing in my step. It’s Day 3 of my stay in Vientiane and I’m feeling so much better than the last few days.
I haven’t discovered the cure for cancer.
I haven’t rid the world of evil, strife and heart-ache.
I haven’t realized the deeper truths of the universe.
Nope I haven’t done any such things. I haven’t really done much of anything. I’ve merely accomplished those things on my list for today – but for me and for today, it is enough. It is even more than enough. And that in itself is a grand accomplishment. And I did them all without suffering from heat prostration. I don’t even need to retreat to my room for a rejuvenating rest. Nope, I’m still out and about and it’s late afternoon. Woo-hoo! Okay, maybe I don’t have that rare tropical disease I imagined was sapping my energy slowly, subtlely, but surely until I would be unable to move a muscle. Maybe I am okay and I will be okay. Just maybe.
Pick up Thai Visa – √
Call Charlie Schwab about my lost ATM card – √
Find someone to repair my broken shoe – √
Buy bus ticket for tomorrow’s departure to Thailand – √
Ride a bicycle to the Consulate thereby bypassing the rip-off tuk-tuk cartel – √
Find a comfortable, air-conditioned café where I’ll spend a few hours in the afternoon writing – √
See? Now you understand, surely, why I’m floating on a cloud. I’m here right now at the True Coffee Café and reveling in my sense of ease and how I’ve excelled at making everything happen that needed to today. And I did so with a smile on my face and with pleasure, with real pleasure! It’s a good day indeed!
Oh and the bicycle! It was great! And at only $1.25, I felt thrilled to spend so little money and not wear myself out in the process! I really was able to create a little breeze and got to the Consulate in less than 15 minutes! Bicycles really are faster than walking <said as if discovering and realizing this for the very first time!> and surprisingly they’re not nearly as sweat-producing as walking in excruciating heat. Who knew? (I was convinced that people in Luang Prabang were crazy to be riding bicycles around town, but after today, I stand corrected.)
It helped that I had a destination and a reward waiting for me when I arrived.
It helped that I was riding on completely flat roads.
It helped that I had the sense, although I was tempted otherwise, not to keep on riding after the Consulate. No, I will sit here in the cool and take another bike ride around sunset time. Then I’ll go back ‘home’, pack up my bags and get ready for a very early morning bus departure (6 am!) to Nong Khai, Thailand.
I feel a little sad to be leaving Lao. While I’m glad I’ve spent my time just as I have here in the north, I’ve also bypassed several places I had wanted to visit. But with my oomph for forward travel waning with each passing day, it’s been more important to honor that than to tick off more places on my itinerary. And so I’ve missed lots of places – ohwell. It’s not likely I’ll ever return to Lao, but always I’ll be thankful for my days here, for the easy, relaxed pace of life, for the quiet and for the friendly and warm people. I recall my times in the south where people were much poorer, living much simpler lives than here in the capital and in Luang Prabang; and I remember how I delighted in bicycling and motor biking around the gorgeous countryside to the welcome smiles of everyone I passed. I will miss those smiles, the “Saibadee’s”, the delicious food – veggies and sticky rice especially, and the simple, soft ways these people move through the world. Yes, even as I am sad to leave Lao, I also realize that it’s time.
I’m in my final month now and while I hadn’t anticipated spending most of it in Thailand, that looks like what’s happening now. And that feels ‘just right’ to me. I’ve laid my head down in 38 different beds in the last four months and I’m not too eager to add too many more to that list. Yes, of course I’ve kept track – it’s what I do. You’d be amazed to know what other interesting-only-to-me facts I’ve collected about my trip! Well, maybe amazed isn’t quite the word!
When I stay focused on being in the present moment, in the now, all is well (what a surprise!). When I begin to project even slightly into the future, some anxiety begins to creep in. What’s coming? What needs to or ‘should’ happen? What are my next steps after my gallivanting is over? All more than reasonable questions. But not now. They’re all for another time; so I’ll resist getting caught up in them while I also recognize that they’re showing up more and more as the calendar tells me I’m getting closer to completion of this part of the journey.
My diet has moved to almost an entirely vegetarian one for the past months; and the more time that passes that I don’t eat animals, the more and more I want to keep it that way. A funny thing occurred to me the other day as I was walking through the morning food market in Luang Prabang. As usual, there were vegetables and fruits of every sort displayed – bananas, dragon fruit, pineapple, all kinds of greens, broccoli, kohlrabi, carrots – you get the idea.
And then there were the dead or soon-to-be-dead animals – the cows, pigs, chickens, crickets, beetles and frogs, amongst others. I noticed the frogs who were tied up and wriggling in their hopeless escape attempts. It seemed to me that they really were trying to escape – they didn’t want to be eaten, I decided. And while I know this is going to sound crazy, silly, funny (go ahead, laugh); I realized I had never, this day in the market or any other, noticed vegetables trying to get away. And somehow that realization, like ones earlier in my life about not wanting to eat someone who has a mother or someone with a face; struck me with convincing power that I’d rather release these animals from the clutches of my mouth than eat them. I resisted the urge to untie the frog’s legs – ohhhh, I really, really wanted to, but decided they weren’t my frog legs to release. Poor frogs. I do feel an increased ease and sense of connection when I see animals now – like hey, I’m on your side, I think you ought to live and hey, I don’t eat you anymore, isn’t that cool? Yeah I know, I sound kinda crazy – so it is.
It sure feels better than the staunch dogma with which I used to embrace vegetarian-ism. I’m not even interested in that word to describe myself now. I feel allergic to almost all –isms these days and what a relief that is! Another one of the many pleasures of the aging process – less staunchness and rigidity, more flexibility and ease. Interesting that walking through the world with staunch stands on this and strong opinions about that. Sure is exhausting.
Finally, with the help of Luke one morning when he took off on his bicycle, I have hair gel once again! I haven’t had any for most of the trip and what I wouldn’t have done for a dollop of the stuff! I was surprised I wasn’t able to find it anywhere; but leave it to a gay man to come through for me. He got a big old tub of the stuff, bigger than I would prefer to be schlepping around with me (a word I had to translate for them!), but I’m not complaining. Now if only my hair would grow out a bit, I could style it in just the right ways!
Yep, I cut my hair again. Not nearly as short as the first debacle, but shorter than I’d like. It’ll grow, it’ll grow – until then, it’s looking a bit too pixie-ish. At least I was able to find some hair color to bring me back to brunette-hood. The tri-color look really wasn’t working for me – what with light brown, red and gray all mixed up – geez, sounds painfully reminiscent of my wardrobe! Between my hair and my clothes, I’ve almost given up on figuring out how to present myself to the world. But only almost.
Just about ready to post this baby, but a quick note before I do – just returned from a hour and a half bike ride along the Mekong and through the city center, past Wat after Wat after Wat. Lots of people about for the evening passagieta – strolling, biking and hanging out, the universal human pleasures. I rode through the streets and onto dirt alleyways where children were playing and offered their Saibadee’s with big smiles. I’m so relieved to be feeling a bit more energized – it seems I will live after all. At least for a little while. At least for tonight. Or at least I hope so!
I’m headed back out now for my last dinner and walk around town. Wow – look at me, the picture of health and energy!
See you on the other side! (of the Mekong, that is!)