Life in Laos through the lens of a diplomatic wife raising twin toddlers.

Friends Make All the Difference

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.

M walking over to the sounds of laughter rather than climb up to the slides.

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.

The source of laughter on the other side of the fence.

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…

M (on the left) so happy to be playing with her new friend.

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6 comments on “Friends Make All the Difference

  1. Lisaman
    September 21, 2012

    So nice to have kids outdoors. these days too many indoors with playstation remotes in hand!!

  2. Ana Gaby
    September 20, 2012

    Friends do make all the difference! I have been yearning for my good friends in Bangkok. We have friends here but the traffic just makes meeting them a tad complicated. The good thing about apartment living is that some of our closest friends are a few floors down! Looks like M is loving Laos!!!

    • Wanderlustress
      September 21, 2012

      That’s great that you have good friends as neighbors, too. Especially given the kids’ schedules, you can meet up more spontaneously. Have a great weekend Ana!

  3. Dani
    September 19, 2012

    Oh the empty playgrounds! I still cannot for the life of me figure out why there are never any little kids on the playground when I’m out there with Will everyday. The heat? The mosquitoes? I’m not sure. I so hear you on the friends thing. My MIL has been here and keeping us busy the last few weeks (in a wonderful way) and so I haven’t really noticed my lack of social life but now it’s starting to hit home. Not entirely sure how people make friends here but we’re working on it! Glad to hear you’ve got some good people there with you guys.

    • Wanderlustress
      September 20, 2012

      I know in Mexico it was the heat and here, well, there just aren’t many public playgrounds here. In both countries though, I think people go out more at night. They tend to keep their kids up late and aren’t as rigid about sleep schedules as we are. Makes me feel really uptight when we insist on leaving a function early but our sleep schedule is what has kept us sane for the past 2.5 years and I’m not about to change it.

      Making friends is always a nerve wracking process for me, so much uncertainty, too much to share in so little time, trying and failing and hoping. But it pays off when even just one great connection is made, and if not, then I take solace in the support of the family and friends we already have, albeit long-distance. Hope you have a great week Dani!

  4. Such a lovely post, it´s amazing how sometimes there is more fun in the simple things in life. All the slides, monkey bars and swings don´t mean anything if you can find fun in your natural surroundings! Happiness is something that money can´t buy, it´s found in the environment around you and it´s something that´s so easy to forget! Sounds like it was a lovely trip to the playground! G 🙂

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This entry was posted on September 19, 2012 by in Laos and tagged , , , .

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