Life in Laos through the lens of a diplomatic wife raising twin toddlers.
I bet you’re wondering why I’ve posted so many pictures of a bug? But it’s a beautiful bug, I say. And its damn hot and humid outside and my kids didn’t want anything to do with their tennis lesson this morning except run around the court and fall down in areas where the rain and incessant humidity have grown pools of slippery algae requiring me to sooth already hot and tired toddlers who only want to escape the fenced-in courts for the freedom of the playground. Surrendering to futility, my husband and I relented and off to the playground we went. So what does that have to do with a bug?
Laos is a third-world country. My first impressions after arriving was “Wow, it’s dirty here.” (much like most third-world countries are) The few major roads found in the city are paved but all the side streets are still just dirt roads which send dust everywhere making it impossible for the city to stay clean, even after heavy rains (because all that does is spread mud everywhere to dry afterwards and make more dust).
There’s also the garbage, similar to many other cities around the globe that doesn’t use the money in it’s coffers on such frivolous things as picking up garbage often enough or it’s citizens do not spend hard-earned income on enclosed bins so that the garbage just gets blown around everywhere.
And these mere two words will suffice because they don’t need any more explanation: dog poop.
So what does all of this long-windedness have to do with a bug?
Because you’re lucky I’m not going around taking pictures of the mud-holes and garbage and dog poop, that’s why.
Because everyday the dirt and grit begin to disappear as I become accustomed to these new surroundings and before I gloss over and get jaded about what life is really like here in Vientiane for foreigners who arrive here for the first time, I want to get very real on what it’s really like – at least at first.
Sure, the charm is here of old-world Indochine days of French colonialism. Sure, there are enough temples to help you reach nirvana if that is what you so desire. Wake at the crack of dawn and you can give alms to saffron-robed monks. Or you can go silk shopping or sit at a chic Italian cafe with friends. But unless you are a tourist packing all of this into a long weekend or a week here in (the paved parts of) Vientiane, life is not all of these things all of the time for those who live here.
And so I’m stuck at a hot and humid playground with two little ones who don’t seem to mind getting even more hot and sweaty and sandy in their play. Sure. I could embrace the glee of childhood. It’s a beautiful thing. BUT. I very well know that I need to conserve both my energy and heat tolerance for the post-glee-in-hot-weather-crankiness to come.
Therefore, I choose to find within in the midst of my immediate surroundings that which can give me a moment of personal joy – one that has nothing to do with appreciating my children (which I naturally do immensely) or embracing my realities (of intense heat and humidity and dirt) or accepting my role as caregiver (because it’s not really a choice).
Rather, I look for the small wonders of beauty and intrigue that I can photograph or learn about or tell a story. I love all three, which makes this life-style almost perfect for me (“almost” being the rough bits).
This bug, you see, is stunning. I found it dead in the sand. I showed it to my daughter.
It’s beauty, though, is not it’s only small wonder that I captured today. My daughter’s open hand to receive it to run off to show her (surprisingly squeamish) father and her (disinterested) brother, was another small wonder that I enjoyed. Her innocence and curiosity and willingness was so immediate, something I hope to nurture in all that we will explore together during her lifetime.
No. We did not keep it. My daughter insisted that we return it to the sand where I first showed it to her, not on top of a rock or a leaf or in our pockets – she kept thwarting my efforts to give it a “throne” of sorts and repeated that it “belongs in the sand mommy.” The third small wonder to treasure: her respect for the natural state of being and her insistence that it shall remain intact, if she can help it.
This bug is a tribute to the small wonders found in my days here that help to diminish the dissatisfying things to which I am not yet accustomed.
What are the small wonders in your day that help get you through?