I have so much to tell and about ten different posts taking shape in my head (or started in a Word doc somewhere)! Tales of hilarity, hard work, rats, dowries, twins, and danger! Here’s what I can’t wait to share with you in the next week or two:
The Bottomless Jar of Adventure
Only Vs. Enough
Short Stories (from conversations with co-workers)
The Dangers of Luang Prabang
Women Travelers and the Men Who (Don’t) Support Them
To House or Not to House
Picture dump 🙂
For today, onward with the next installment of Thanksgiving Thursdays!
– pay day
– new friend
– yogurt and the night food market
– picking up a little on Lao
– no touching moped rides
– exchange stands that take check cards
A couple days ago I asked my co-worker (the really smiley one I showed the index to) how much money Lao people make. He said that if you live in the city and you were educated abroad and you have a really really really good job you might be able to make 3 million kip a month but that was very rare. If you’re from the village though and you had a good harvest year, you might be able to make 3 million kip in a year that would have to be used for the whole family to live off of.
Well, today was payday and I got paid in kip and in cash. I only got paid for two weeks of work since I started on the 15th. The office accountant handed me a stack of bills amounting to 3.5 million kip (I’m a millionaire!) and my boss told me to count it. It embarrassingly took three tries because, um…I’m not so good at counting and there were actually bills hidden in the stack. Anyway, I was happy it was my first payday. But, I also felt really self-conscious because I remembered my coworker’s words to me about how much Lao make in a year. It was sobering to think how easily that $450 had been given to me. I’m thankful, it just feels weird. In the States, I’ve tended to look at people with über nice houses, cars, and expensive habits and kind of scorned that lifestyle. But move me around the world and that’s me and it feels uncomfortable.
I went out for dinner yesterday with a woman I met last week. I had texted her asking if she wanted to meet up for dinner and so we did. It was so much fun! She’s Japanese and volunteering here. We’re gonna meet up more often. I also have a few other dinner/lunch plans that I initiated the rest of the week.
Yogurt and the Night Food Market
I found yogurt! And it’s cheap! I’ve been eating it for breakfast the past few mornings. The store even gives you a spoon! Also, very close to my house (I don’t know how I missed it before) is a night food market with yummy cheap food. I’ve been getting potstickers and chicken skewers there. Probably not a permanent solution but I’ll be moving in two weeks to my own place so I’ll be able to cook.
Picking up on Lao ( a little)
So, I’ll just be honest. Earlier this week I met a foreign girl who didn’t strike me as being particularly smart but she was speaking Lao and people could understand her. It bugged me the whole night, never mind that she has been here for a year already. I spent a night or two feeling bad about myself (I know, its only been three weeks) and decided I was going to try harder to learn even though I’m not in class now. I made a list of things that would be useful to know in an office setting (i.e. “Are you busy?”, “Can I ask you a question?”, “Someone is coming”, “Where is so-and-so”, etc.) and have been working my way through the list with the staff. I also asked them to start using those expressions with me in Lao. I’ve been able to speak a little Lao to them and answer questions like “Are you free?”, “Have you eaten yet?”, and “Are you tired?”
I don’t know, intuition kicked in, too, and not too late, helping me make more new sentences based on old information I know. I picked up on the general order of words in a sentence and that’s been helpful.
[Warning: Language spazz ahead. Skip down if you’re not into languages.] A few nice surprises have been (1) The word meaning “not” or “no” is also the question marker at the end of sentences (like 吗 in Chinese or か in Japanese). That means that “She’s not coming,” and “Is she coming?” have all the same words just in a different order. (2) Some Lao words sound like Chinese words. The word in Lao that means ‘better’ means ‘sweet potato’ (地瓜) in Chinese. The great thing about ‘better’ is that it is literally ‘good + comparative’ so now I know how to make the “-er” comparative version of new adjectives I learn. The word for thunder in Lao means ‘to become famous or popular’ in Chinese. I was told the literal meaning in Lao though, is ‘the sky sings.’ The way it thunders here though, “Second Coming” might be more appropriate.
No touching moped-ing
I rode a moped twice today not touching the person in front with either my legs or my hands!
Exchange Stands that Take Check Cards
I lost my normal sized check card the day before I moved here and was left with my teeny, keychain sized card so I haven’t been able to use an ATM. I’ve been worried if I ordered a new card I’d have no way to get money out in the interim while I waited for the new card to arrive here. I went to the bank to withdraw US dollars to have exchanged into kip and they looked at my teeny card and were like, “Sorry.” But I discovered today that I can go straight from card to kip on the side of the street at some of the exchange stands if I bring my passport. The rate isn’t as good as exchanging money in the gold shop, but they take the little card that won’t fit into ATMs.
Because I’m unfamiliar with Lao textiles and minority groups, the core of the museum, I get to do a lot of research to get up to speed during work time. The museum has a nice sized library given the availability of information on the topic and I love reading about it. Yay learning!