Life in Laos through the lens of a diplomatic wife raising twin toddlers.
There is a very nice playground at the Ambassador’s sports field that we often take the kids to. It was constructed a few years ago and it’s pretty awesome as far as playgrounds go – five slides, two baby swings, two regular swings, a tire swing, monkey bars, climbing wall, climbing spiral, etc. Not to mention that it’s next to a huge sports field that is nicely groomed and popular for soccer and ultimate frisbee among the expat community here in Vientiane.
Often times we are the only ones playing in the playground. Unless there is an organized social event, it’s usually empty. It’s not open to the public unless authorized by the US embassy or as a guest of embassy family members. This makes it kind of lonely.
On one particular day, the loneliness of the playground was pronounced by the bubbling sounds of giggles coming from the lot next door. A group of local kids were running around and playing just over the fence from us in a field where trucks were parked and the grass was overgrown. The open shed where they were playing hide-and-seek was full of boxes and corrugated tin roofing and lumber with protruding nails – the extreme opposite of the safe, clean, sandy, shiny playground we were in.
At first it pained me to not be able to invite them over to join us in our playground and I thought about how envious they must be to be playing in their environment when ours was in plain view and empty…but then it slowly struck me that we weren’t actually the ones in the enviable position here. No. THEY were. While we were playing quietly alone, they had each other and their laughter rang of intimate familiarity of close friends. When we entered the playground, our daughter instinctively followed the sounds of their play, looking back at me to confirm whether or not she could go where they were. She looked down and dragged her feet when I motioned her toward the slides instead of over to the fence that separated us from all the fun the other kids were having. It pained me to see her disappointment.
I’m probably over analyzing how my daughter might have felt and the situation because we still had a nice time with just the four of us. The hum of laughter next door added a nice atmosphere to our own fun. But it was one of those situations that makes you think about how different our lives are from others , and what is it exactly that would make each of our lives more fulfilling if given the choice or opportunity?
And I might have been projecting my own emotional state of adjusting to living in a foreign country, the need for friends and the process of making new ones. The good news is that I have met some really nice people here, both within the embassy community and outside with other foreigners and locals. I consider it a great start to our two years here to have made these connections already within our first two months.
As for the kids, their new circle of friends are beginning to take shape, too. It’s made all the difference in the world for them to have other kids with whom they’re familiar enough to play freely instead of clinging to me. And it’s made all the difference in the world for me to have their smiles and joy return in full swing when they’re playing with their new friends.
See for yourself…