lady about town

Things have been going pretty well lately here in V-town.  I had quite an interesting weekend.  It began with me cleaning my house and doing laundry because the sun was actually shining for a few hours, meaning my clothes might dry in less than a week.  Then, I stepped out to the Talat Sao Shopping Mall to try and buy a new pair of shoes.

Yes, there is a “mall” here.  But there are no Baby Gaps or Bath and Body Works.  It’s basically exactly the same as the market, just inside and air conditioned.  And there is a food court, where you can get tripe served anyway you like.

My only pair of shoes besides a pair of flip-flops broke on Wednesday, but the market closes at 5 pm so I couldn’t make it there to get a new pair until Saturday.  I tried going to some “boutique” shops around my house but they only kind I could find were all a size too small for me and involved 3-inch heels.  So I planned my weekend around finding a new pair of shoes, which I knew would invove a trip to Talat Sao.

It seemed like everyone in the entire Vientiane Province had shown up at the mall on Saturday.  The place was jam-packed with tourists and locls, and little kids running up and down the escalators (probably the only ones in the country).  I saw one lady who works at the library named Bountie, and then 2 minutes later, another lady from the library.  After making excuses to get out of watching them shop for sarongs, a few minutes later I ran into Mee, a young lady I know from the University.  She is a teacher in the Faculty of Letters in the Department of Lao Language and Litterature, and also in the Faculty of Education in the English for Special Purposes Department.  She is also doing a Master’s in Education right now, and her English is flawless, and she is like 23 years old or something unbelievable.  She invited me to come eat Pho with her and her friend, and then they wanted to go sing Karaoke.  I hadn’t know there was a karaoke place in the shopping centre until then.

They led me to a corner of the mall and after much rapid discussion in Lao with a lady, finally into a little private room, containing a small bench, a computer, two microphones, really big speakers, and a book full of Lao and Thai songs.

singing karaoke at the mall
singing karaoke at the mall

I searched in vain for any song I knew, but alas, there were none even printed in roman script, so I just watched.  After a half hour of karaoke entertainment (pain), the girls went off to do something else, but not before inviting me to join them for Korean food later that evening.

I finally found a pair of shoes, and then stopped at the market to get some food before heading home to collect my laundry as a thunderstorm gathered.

Once the rain abated about 6:00 I left to go meet Mee and her friends at the Korean restaurant.  First I got lost, second my bike light fell off of my bag and the batteries rolled somewhere in the middle of the street.  It was dark and I couldn’t find them, and then some guy on a motorcycle stopped and helped me look.  I put the batteries back in and the light worked fine, but the guy wanted to chat for a while.  I didn’t want to be rude since he had helped me, but I was late already, so I made some excuses and then pedaled off to the “7 Plus Korean Food Health Centre”.

I’m not sure if the food we ate was really “Korean”.  There was no Kim-Chi, and no Soju!  But there was some kind of hot-pot thing that was pretty delicious.

The best part of the evening was getting to hang out with some interesting, smart Lao people who were around my age and I could actually communicate with.  At one point in the evening two of the people present started teasing another guy about how he used to be a “ladyboy” but then changed his mind and started dating girls instead.  I thought this was really interesting because a.) at first I believed them, and b.) they were all pretty open minded about homosexuality and trans-sexuality.

Anyway, after eating a lot of Lao-Korean fusion cuisine, my Lao friends all went home, and I went to meet my friend Laurie-Anne at the English Bar, where we drank a beer and she talked about her trip to Pakse and the 4,000 islands, which sounded amazing.  Meg also wrote an amazing blog post about her trip there, and I have decided this area is next on my travel itinerary, as soon as the Director of the library stops being so paranoid and permits me to travel.

We also made arrangements to meet on Tuesday at my house for a music-exchange soirée.

I spent most of Sunday cooking up Lentil Tacos, including making flour tortillas from scratch and using my thermos as a rolling pin.  Yes I spent like 6 hours cooking them, but in the end it was delicious and well worth the effort.

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i visit the market.

As much as I enjoy the food in the restaurants around town, I also love to cook.  So I finally got a stove and some cookware yesterday, and went out searching for raw materials today.

 

My first stop was the Laos Organic Market.

The Laos Organic Market
The Laos Organic Market

The Laos Organic makret is some project that is funded by germany or something that encourages the farmers to grow food organically and bring them to the market every weekend.  There was a wide variety of items for sale, from organic papayas and mangoes to organic sticky rice and organic “rat’s ear” mushrooms.

My neighbor and I picked up some stuff, including some “Red Tea” from North-Eastern Laos that I am really excited about. 

Then, we headed to get some Pho in the Vietnamese neighborhood, with a niced iced coffee. 

During our morning jaunt, Ariya (my neighbor) also informed me that the popular “JoMa Cafe & Bakery” that has several branches around town (with delicious but very expensive pastries) it owned by some religious zealots from Canada, and “JoMa” is short for “Jopseph and Mary”.  Now that I know this I will of course be referring to it as “Chez Jose and the Virge”.

 

Ariya dropped me back off at home before he headed back to his office to start working on this idea I am partially responsible for – reusable “Green Lao Now” shopping bags to sell at the organic market, and other places, like the fancy ex-pat grocery store.  He’s a graphic designer.  It was 9:30 on a saturday morning and I had already accomplished so much, including coming up with a money making scheme to save the environment!!  I decided to hit the Talat somethingorother for more produce,  where I got the impression that unlike the Talat Sao, they’re not used to seeing white folks around there.  However, compared to Dangtokpa in Cotonou, even the local, non-foreigner conditioned market was extremely calm, laid back, and hardly overwhelming.  Nobody even yelled at me!  I did see a wide variety of produce, a large percentage of which I had NO IDEA what it was or what it was for.

Talat ??

I will admit that I had some trouble finding some items I was hoping to get, namely fresh coconut milk, due to the language barrier.  Hopefully I can convince some Lao-speaking person to come with me next time.  In the end, I brought home a huge bag of groceries including:

galangal

kaffir lime leaves

mint

bamboo shoots

sticky rice

regular rice

rice noodles

rice paper wrappers

bean sprouts

lettuce

tofu

soy milk

citronella

garlic

hot shit!
hot shit!

chili peppers

hot sauce

fish sauce

tamarind paste

watermelon

limes

 

 

…and a whole bunch of other stuff I am forgetting, for less than $5.

Now I just need to get some other basic ingredients (salt, oil, etc.) and I’ll be ready to roll.

I took a picture of my house, also:

chez coco
chez coco

 No, that’s not my bike in front.  It’s “decoration” according to the landlord’s sister, and too rusty to be functional.  But I like it!