06 April 2007

Deep fried pigs ear

It has been quite an eventful week. I started work last Monday. My name is hard to pronounce for Lao because they don’t have the ‘sh’ sound in their language. I asked them to come up with a nickname and they came up with ‘Noi’, which means small. They were laughing when they told me what it meant. Here the most common nickname by far is ‘thuy’ which means fatty. ‘Nyay’ meaning 'big' is a popular nickname. Noi is quite popular- I’ve already met another and A says he has 2 at his work in an office of 8. One week on I don’t think this name has stuck but I’m really not disappointed. On my second day I came to work wearing the Lao traditional dress, the sinh. The women in the office gave me attention, telling me it looked nice. They also fixed it because I didn’t have it in the correct position. It’s the only skirt I’ve ever known that you can ride a bike with. It’s a big sack you step into, and has a fold at the front. All the public servants have to wear this work to skirt, and all the women at my office do. Many more people think I’m Lao in this skirt and I just stand there when they speak to me in Lao. I don’t think I’ve ever looked so similar to the people in a country so much before, they usually know I’m a tourist when I go to Hong Kong even.

We finally signed a lease and moved into our house, yay! The landlady’s daughter signed the lease with us. She speaks fluent English as well as French and Lao so it was very easy. The inventory in our house was in French! It’s funny, it’s a bit hard to describe where our house is because I don’t think our street has a name. People navigate by landmarks here. I’ve shown tuk- tuk drivers maps and they don’t have any idea but when I name a landmark they’ll know what I’m talking about. When there’s a road on a map without a name, they’ll just describe it as ‘dirt road’ or ‘nice paved road’.

I’ve eaten some random meats lately. There are little shops that sell many skewers of barbequed meat. To our surprise, one skewer just had chunks of pig fat on it. I guess it tasted ok, some of the chunks were soft and tasty but some were just too chewy! We had some intestine things too that have the texture of cuttlefish. I ate them, but I don’t think I’d have them again. There was a table of around 12 blokes sitting next to us. They were really drunk, and being really rowdy. We figured they were engineers- the engo school was right across the road. One guy that looked pretty much passed out suddenly got up and got on his motorbike. I’m going to be very careful on the streets at night! Last night we ate some deep fried pigs ear. Mmm healthy. You wrap it in a lettuce or cabbage leaf with noodles, herbs and veggies.

Another motorbike story- one of the volunteers saw some woman run into the back of a parked truck and was lying on the ground. He himself asked the Lao people he knew to call an ambulance, but they pretty much ignored him. If we need emergency care, we have to go to Thailand to a town an hour away. Finally a tuk- tuk driver picked her up off the ground and got her to walk around and stuff. Not particularly useful if you have spinal injuries!

Work has been ok, though I have been to some horrendously poorly organised meetings external to our organisation. It is foreigners from international organisations that ran them so I feel I can criticise. I’m not sure why they’re like this. I’m more used to people being much more critical! I’m not used to going to meetings where several people praise the government about the same thing and talk mostly about the past and not much about the future.

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