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.
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.