Life in Laos through the lens of a diplomatic wife raising twin toddlers.
Just as the long shadows of the day’s end ushered in a welcoming coolness to the desert, our days in Kass were beginning to wind down, too, bringing a welcomed end to our life in Darfur. A lot of things took their toll on us, not least of which was getting “accidentally” shot at by a government sentry while driving home one night from a get together with some friends. If it had merely been warning shots like the local government officials reassured us during the following weeks of discussions and “investigations”, it was still enough that it rattled us severely. And that it happened only three weeks after our arrival could have only made the following months that much less bearable than it normally would have been without any such incidence. It would have been enough to hear the random gunshots almost every night, supposedly from wedding celebrations, but I doubted there were as many weddings as there were nightly shots fired. It would have been enough to be nearly sideswiped by speeding pickup trucks of armed men with mounted machine guns and strings of bandoleers gleaming in the sun as we swerved in the sand to avoid a collision. It would have been enough to hear reports of renewed violence close enough to Kass that streams of new IDP’s began to arrive on foot, setting in motion all of the ngo’s coordinated relief efforts to provide basic supplies once again. For my husband, it was enough to have the sound of pigeon scratch on the tin roof above our bedroom waking us up, day in and day out. And have I mentioned the camel spiders in our house? Have you googled them yet?
So as the afternoon heat abated, we would try to unwind the best way we could, mostly by sitting in the courtyard of our compound talking, playing cribbage, reading or watching the DVD’s – that was as entertaining as it got. Sometimes we would turn up the volume on our radios just to hear what the other ngo’s were discussing or planning, snooping in case they were planning a dinner party without inviting us. One day, seeing how bored we were getting, our staff suggested we go for a short drive outside of town for a small picnic in the village of Gusa. I really didn’t know what to expect. I was nervous but agreed to go anyway because sometimes no matter how much angst I have, being cooped up makes it worse. So we found ourselves in a dusty little village sitting in the sand among cattle and camel droppings. Sounds better than staying in? Not really, right?
Well the unexpected scenes that unfolded delighted us more than I could have hoped for, and the roar of laughter and giggles were enough to assuage all the angst that I had brought with me.
The kids of the village had begun to gather at the shiny chrome bumper of our truck. They were amazed by the reflection and could not get enough of looking at themselves. After the first few kids discovered it, several ran back to their huts to alert other kids to join. Soon we had a whole crowd was crouched down in the sand rolling and convulsing with laughter.
If this much joy and wonder doesn’t take away your worries, I really don’t know what else would. It was tonic for our weary souls.
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