Laos, strangely wonderful
On my trip to Laos in 1970 I asked— in Thai— a worker at my hotel for directions to a good local restaurant. My ability to (barely) speak his language got me an invitation to dinner at his home. I was honored.
The next morning, he and I walked through rice paddies, banana trees, and scores of donkeys and water buffaloes to a neat wooden house on stilts in a small village outside of town. He introduced me to his family— 20 or so people from three generations. It was a grand occasion. Strangely, one of the children was white and spoke English. I didn’t inquire about him, and no one offered an explanation.
I was not surprised I was the subject of attention. The women giggled as the men chatted away to me assuming I understood what they were saying. I just nodded and smiled. The children stared intently at me for several minutes, touched my skin and hair, then ran away giggling. That had been a standard reaction during my Peace Corps days, so I just played along by making faces. I was a hit until their elders chased them away.
I loved Thai food while in the Peace Corps, and I love Thai food today, BUT what I ate that day I hope to never eat again: raw pork strips, red ant salad, beef testicles, duck blood soup, and fermented frogs. I drank Thai Mekhong Beer to wash it down before enjoying a dessert of spring onions in coconut milk and sticky rice balls with mango.
At the end of the dinner, I thanked my hosts, walked back to my hotel room, and, as quietly as possible, threw up in the squat john (toilet).
Continued next week