22 May 2007

The weekend

A few friends and I were catching a tuk tuk home from a club last night. We saw our friend who had called the tuk tuk for us slowly walking his motorbike down the road. We called out and asked him what was wrong. The road is awful at the moment- there is work being done on it so it has been dug up. He had been riding down the road the wrong way, probably on the side of the road you weren’t supposed to be on. The cops took the keys out of his motorbike, and he didn’t want to pay the ‘fine’. I don’t think he had much money on him anyway. Usually you can put your motorbike on the bigger tuk tuks but only the small ones were around. Only he could think of taking it to the guesthouse we had stayed in for 2 weeks when we arrived in Vientiane. He woke the staff up and asked to store his bike here. The kind staff there let him borrow his motorbike so he could go home, as long as he returned it by 7am when his shift finished. Yay for Mali Namphu in Vientiane- it is the best guesthouse ever!

A few of us had been to the opening of a new gay club/ bar in town. I think it’s the second one in Vientiane. It’s not big but already seems to have a lot of character. The boys behind the bar were wearing matching cut- off jeans and white shirts with their collars up. They were playing quite a bit of English music for a change. It was good to go along for a few hours.

Earlier in the night we had caught a tuk tuk to dinner with friends. Something didn’t seem quite right with our tuk tuk driver, he kept repeating himself and laughing. After a few minutes, we concluded he was quite drunk. He was driving so slowly, it took us about half an hour to travel 4kms. I was scared and didn’t feel comfortable, I thought he would run a red light or swerve or something, but my friends in the tuk tuk didn’t seem to mind so much so we went all the way to our intended destination. It was a bit strange that he appeared to be talking to something sitting right next to him. I was very glad when the ride was over!

I went to a herbal sauna for the first time here in the afternoon yesterday. It is quite relaxing because it is on the grounds of a temple and it is in rainforest surroundings. It is a small hut with wooden stilts. It had 4 benches inside and not many more than 15 people can fit inside. You splash yourself with water, then enter the sauna wrapped in a sarong. It was scented with lemongrass and eucalyptus that day. They give you tea afterwards. I noticed a women carefully applying yoghurt under her eyes and to her arms before going into the sauna. People here believe that putting it on your skin will whiten your skin. Actually my housemate went to Thailand yesterday and received a request to buy yoghurt for her skin. There are many skin whitening products available on the market here. There is not much sunscreen on the market, and it if is, it costs 4x as much as it does at home!

I’d had a nice lunch that day. A and I went to a French style restaurant for $6.50 US for a three course meal called La Silapa. The atmosphere and service is very good. The food is quite nice, nothing I couldn’t have made at home myself, but it had food that is not readily available here. I chose a cous- cous salad for entrĂ©e. I had a spaghetti bolognaise for my main meal. I would not normally order this kind of thing at a restaurant, but I think I eat spaghetti bolognaise at least once every 2-3 weeks at home and did miss it so I took the opportunity to eat it! I couldn’t get through the whole plate and was scared I was forgetting how to eat pasta! The spiced banana gelato for dessert was great, and so was their coffee. There was a picture of John Howard on the wall- I’m guessing he went there one time.

I have had quite a good week, there have been a few things going on at work. It was a little frustrating also. I was torn between the Lao way of doing things and the foreigner way of doing things. The foreigner way means you have to meet their requirements ie meet the deadlines if you want the money. The Lao way means you need approval from several levels of authority to have anything done, doing everything at the last minute but still having it done in the end. Luckily we somehow met in the middle and got things done.

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