The Mekong is flooding! The Mekong is flooding!
Everyday the water has risen a bit higher and now it is dangerously close to flooding the entire city. I live about 200m from the Mekong so, of course, I am concerned. I went to go look at the river last night, and ran into a group of teenagers who were making sandbags and putting them along the river. One young lady (who is actually a pretty interesting character…) approached me and invited me to help them out. I felt like I should do something, so I accepted.
I helped the kids shovel sand into bags and then tie them closed, and helped haul them to a wheelbarrow. I had the easy jobs, mostly just tying the bags shut, or holding them open while other people shovelled. This went on for about an hour last night, during which time some guy on a megaphone kept yelling “Kop Chai Miss USA! Kop Chai Miss USA!”, which eventually turned into “Thank you, Miss World! “. The megaphone guy then insisted I take a juicebox and a little package of cookies for my work. I tried to say “No thank you”, but they would not take no for an answer and told me that all volunteers receive some snacks. The megaphone guy also told me he would be staying at the river all night, on watch, and would sound an alarm if the waters rose too high.
Even though I didn’t really do much, I got a round of applause from everyone present when it started to rain and I decided to leave around 11 pm.
The girl who invited me to help asked me if I wanted to see her house, which was right on the bank of the river. She is the one in the picture standing on the sandbags. I’m not exactly sure what her deal is. She lives in a huge house by herself, and told me that she has a 42 year old canadian boyfriend in Vancouver. She also told me that she really wants breast implants and her boyfriend might pay for them for her. Maybe she’s been reading the Bangkok Post? I think she was somewhat drunk during the entire time. I asked her if she had a job and she said she had been a maid for a handicapped man before, but his girlfriend got jealous and made her quit in April, and she hasn’t been working since then. She seemed really eager to be my friend, but I’m not really sure where this relationship is heading.
The library was also required to form a Mekong Flood Emergency Response Team (I have just decided to call it that, I don’t know what the actual name is for their effort), and 6 of the staff members were required to go to a certain part of the river last night at 11 pm to help sandbag, since they are technically government employees. I haven’t seen any of the 6 around yet this morning, but I know that it started pouring rain right around 11, so it could not have been an enjoyable experience for any of them. I hope they took the day off.
These events have resulted in some strange, almost mefloquine-like dreams. Last night I imagined that the dam at Ban Koen (about 50 km upriver from Vientiane) had broken, and a giant tsunami wave was washing down the Mekong, sweeping all the houses away. In my dream, in the pouring rain, somewhere Hannah E. Carmichael was playing “Mad World” on the piano, and I was shoveling sand into a military truck.
But the people at the library have assured me that while dams have broken in other countries, this could never happen in Laos and I have nothing to worry about.