We began settling into the rhythm of life along the Mekong by the end of the first week at our house sit in Vientiane, the capital city of Laos. How could we not? There were several little makeshift restaurants right along the river, serving local food and really cold beers. We had the full use of a lovely modern house close to the fresh market, two bicycles, a dog to take out along the river road each dusk, and a very vocal cat to cuddle with, starting at 4:30 am most days. Very peaceful and friendly land.
Early on the 8th day, it was time to make offerings at the small Buddhist shrine in the back yard, with the help of the resident gate keeper, the young man who came and rang the bell at 6:15, waking us up. He just wouldn’t be turned away, ringing and ringing until we were wide awake. I had to get up and answer, so I calmed down. The home owners had mentioned that he was a new guy and they thought he was a little strange. But I was rewarded that morning – with him he had some candles, flowers, and incense – fire, food, and water. OK, I had picked up some flowered palm cones and garlands at the market the day before too, great minds think alike, so all together the altar looked magnificent when we had finished. The sun came up through the dust and river haze to light the chrysanthemums on the altar. Beautiful.
So after he showed me how to place the offerings, the gate keeper encouraged me to kneel with him as he prayed aloud. So cool. It was one of those moments we are occasionally lucky enough to experience as travelers, and I wouldn’t soon forget it. I felt a certain tranquility just then.
On leaving, my new friend the gatekeeper beckoned me to follow him down the driveway to his own makeshift altar at the edge of the parking lot. We repeated the ritual offering. After placing the last of the flowers around the burning candles, I kneeled once again and waied, but not him. He stayed standing, iPhone in hand. He’s going to take a picture of me at his altar, maybe? No. He’s typing and searching. I think, “Maybe he’s bringing up a translation of the prayer, that I might repeat it and be doubly blessed”. Wrong again. When I stand to see what he’s doing, he eagerly presents the phone to me, now showing a tiny porn video of a woman and her guy in full flagrante, shall we say. Wat, I mean what? I look up at the gatekeeper, who winks with a silly grin. Uh, time to go. He is a bit weird after all. Glancing back at the video, the couple is now going all out towards the finish, and I decide it’s definitely time to go. This guy has no borders and he doesn’t understand a word of English. He nods and giggles again, then pats me on my crotch. It is past time to head back to Theresa, and I wave him off, hands over my shaking head as I retreat. As I said, quite a touching experience! ?? Just thought I’d share. Ah, the mysterious East!