Friday, February 25, 2005


The Uganda/Kenya border is surely the craziest one yet. We had to walk across a dark field to Uganda. "No way Jose-Mantoka, I aint doin' it," I say. So they drove me.

Internet here is BAD, but guess what.....i got a cell phone!! my very own! and it's free incoming calls!! So use it!


I await your voices.

Shabbat Shalom,


Thursday, February 24, 2005

"Shoulda been a Hippo"

Greetings from Nairobbery! I'm just gonna jump right into this:

I got into Nairobi last Friday, laughing and crying. I was crying cuz I was so happy and laughing because I was so petrified of being in Africa with, ummm, nowhere to go. And now, you ask? Now I'm laughing cuz I'm so happy and, well, i've finally stopped crying--except today when I saw the lions doing it (sex, not crying) for the third time, I cried a bit.

Before I get to the safari, let me bring you up to date. Shabbat in Kenya was quite nice. Firday night we hid in our guest house for fear that someone might discover us and try and take all our belongings, but Shabbat today we ventured out to shul where we met really nice people and spent much of the early afternoon studying talmud and eating cake with the Israeli ambassador to East Africa. (The Talmud class was all in Hebrew and I totally followed and participated (and loved it!)! Yay me!)

Speaking of Israelis, it's crazy how influential israeli travelers are on tour guides. Remember in Thailand the guesthouse workers spoke hebrew? And how our trek guide taught us an Israeli card game? Well here, our safari guide (a man whom i now love, named "Animal") was singing us Hebrew songs and calling the animals by their Hebrew names.

Ok, the first wonderful thing about Africa, or Kenya at least, is that people speak English here VERY well. This means that we could have REAL conversations with our guides and actually learn stuff. "Animal" used to be in seminary to become a catholic priest (most people here are christian) but then decided he'd rather study zoology and biology and go on safari. He's half Masai and half Kikuru. We had lots to talk about.

Riiiiight, so I went on safari for 4 days...have I mentioned that? I'm dirtier now than I've ever been in my entire life, but wanted to rush and email you all cuz i was soooo excited and missed you all sooooo much. (Also, I wanted to make sure I didn't miss Purim and I had to see if Bethami had a baby yet. Negative on both.)

I thought I was being very poetrical when I wrote in my journal "...and while a picture is worth a thousand words, I generally prefer the words" (or something like that), but the truth is, there is no way for me to verbally explain to you the amazingness (see that's not good enough) of a Kenyan safari (actually we dipped down into the Serengeti, which is in Tanzania, too).

Imagine this: wide open spaces for as far as the eyes can take you (for me it's not that far, but maybe for you it is), mountains in the background, golden plains (dry season) spotted with green trees and bushes. And animals. The most amazing animals EVER. We were lucky and saw them all. (or at least a couple from every species....we didn't see ALL the animals in Masai Mara, silly). Lions, elephants, zebras, wildabeasts, heartybeasts, gazelles (many types), cheetahs, a leopard, a hyena, flamingoes (THOUSANDS of them, in Nakuru, not masai mara), rhino, warthogs, water bucks, baboons, other monkeys, buffalo, giraffes, birds galore, crocodiles, and last, but not least, the majestic hippos. I basically met the cast of The Lion King--which, btw, is surprisingly accurate.

The highlight was this morning when we saw, not once, not twice, but three times, the lions copulating--two different sets. I took a video, so you will get to see when I get to a faster connection (in a few months). It was the most exciting and terrifying this ever. The first time, they were right outside (2 ft away) my wide OPEN window--who puts automatic windows in a safari van?! Does that seem wise to you?). I was freakin out. I kept telling "Animal" to turn the car on so I could roll up my window. He kept telling me to shut up and was pushing me--yes, PUSHING ME--back toward the window so I could DIE--i mean, so I wouldn't miss it! Penetration is only about 2 seconds long and then the guy roars and then the girl gets up and tries to maul him. Then they go back to sleep. This was 2 FEET FROM MY WIDE OPEN WINDOW! You would've been scared too. And then we saw it again. And then again. Wow. Wow. Lions are stunning. And they are amazingly fearless. They weren't even scared of me!

And we went to a Masai village! Now, I've been to many many villages in my day, but never one as interesting and bizarre (that's PC right?) as the Masai. I've even seen tribes who do weird things with their ears, but none as weird as the Masai ears. They are a polygamous warrior people. They live in villages with huts made of cow dung and wood, the baby cows and goats live in the huts with them, men have many wives, and they stretch out holes in their ear lobes to extraordinary lengths. Some of the women do the ear thing, but it is the men in the tribe who do most of the stretching. The bigger the holes, the more beautiful, and it is the role of the Masai warrior to be as beautiful as possible. And so he grows his hair, colors it with ocre, puts beads in the loose skin of his ears (look for a picture online), and wears these sarongs. They wear makeup and they dance. And while the women do a bit of that, it is clearly the man who wears the fancy pants in the relationship. Oh, and the women must shave their heads. And there is female circumcision, so that was a bit uncomfortable to smile and nod at.

Oh, and I got my second marriage proposal:

Olyanarok: "How many goats?"

Me: "huh?"

Oly: How many goats, for you?

Me: oh you don't have enough.

Oly: I give you many goats.

Me: I'll have to ask my dad.

He only has 2 wives already. And all I have to do is drink blood. Daddy?

And so, to conclude, let me say, Africa is way cooler than Asia. .

Going to Uganda tomorrow night....

Until next time...


Thursday, February 17, 2005

Ankor what?

I'll start at the very beginning...

I get on my bus to Pakse (southern Laos) and there was something wrong with my ticket, so for 5 hours I sat in a little, red, plastic, Kindergarter-like chair in the isle. Fun fun fun. It was an overnight bus. I met some people on the bus and went with them the next morning to Tat Lo on the Boleven Plateau. I spent the day on the back of a motorbike cruising around the villages, many of which are surrounded by coffee orchards, the money making crop of the region. I stayed in a nice bungalow by a waterfall. The next morning we (my new friend, Ressa, and I) took a city bus back to Pakse and then a 3 hour jumbo (a large, covered pick-up with benches) and a 10 minute boat to Don Khon, one of the islands in Si Phon Don ("4000 Islands"). We stayed in Don Khon for the weekend, in a sparse, but lovely 2-bedroom bungalow that overlooked the Mekong. It came fully equipped with porch and hammocks, so I was set for shabbat. Oh, and I saw some extinct (or nearly so) dolphins! And I started playing chess. And we went fishing. It was so classic Laos--I went and asked a guy at a resturaunt for some bait and he was like, "one sec." And he ran off. A minute later I saw him emerge from across the way with a shovel and 10 minutes later we had our toilet bucket filled with worms. We gave him a dollar. The island of Don Khon (that's actually repetitive cuz "don" means "island") is exactly how you would dream an island in Southern Laos should be--since I'm sure everyone must dream of s. Laos. People wake up with the sun and go to sleep with the sun--there is very little electricity and the elec. that there is shuts off very very early. There are gigantic palm trees that sway in the sunny hot air, arching gently over the gorgeous Mekong river. There are rice paddies along certain parts of the land, and village homes with cheerful kids (I never saw a kid fight or cry or whine). Everyone seems so happy. And there are not very many tourists. But the boats are the best part. Men, women, and children of all ages ride long, thin boats on the river. They stand and row with one leg bent at the knee and perched on an incline in the boat. There is something so serene and the people look so content, that the whole scene seems staged.

Then Ressa and I went to Cambodia. (Ressa, btw, is a guy my age, from Montana. He grew up on a massive ranch. He spent the last 2 years teaching ENlgish in CHina and is traveling before he joins the Peace Corp in Azerbyjon [I have no idea how to spell that country that I had never heard of.])We woke up early that morning, packed our bags, ate breakfast, paid for our rooms, strapped our bags on our backs and hopped on the back of some motorbikes. We rode on rocky paths through rice fields and forests, down to the beach. got on a slowboat to the Laos exit border. Then another boat to the Cambodia border. Passports stamped at both borders--very unorganizedly, with bargaining and bribing and paying made up fees. Then a speedboat (a bit scary, a bit exhilarating) to Stung Treng. And now we're in a cab, for 8 hours, to Phnom Penh. And there are no real paved-roads for most of the way. Just dirt roads and not very interesting scenerry. Just a lot of dirt and sand and dry-looking trees.

I had just finished reading a book about the Khmer Rouge, so I actually had some interest in the history of this country. (I just bought a biography on Pol Pot and today I went to a war museum here in Siem Reap....see how reading a good book can change you?) Cambodia, like many of the places where I have been, is a strange blend of the old and the new. Phnom Penh has a fancy waterpark, yet many parts have dirt roads in serious need of pavement and repair. There are some large houses and there are also more people--mostly children--begging in Cambodia than in Laos or Thailand. Because of the land mines and the civil war which was so recent, many people are missing limbs. This place is not brimming over with happy looknig people.

We went to the killing fields and to s-21, both places of mass, mass, homicidal insanity. My tour guide at the museum today kept reiterating the fact that Cambodia (as a political entity) is just plain dumb. I think "stupid" is the exact word he used. He lowered his voice as he stood there and sighed, telling us that the king of Cambodia today is the same king who reigned during the Khmer Rouge, and that in essence, nothing has changed. This is a man (our tour guide) who fought in the late '70s as a child soldier. He lost both his parents and most of the rest of his family in the war. He has been shot numerous times and has shrapnel lodged in his arm. He is blind in one eye and nearly blind in the other. And he has a prosthetic leg, due to a landmine accident. He says that people say he is like a cat, with 9 lives.

At least half a million people were killed in the Killing Fields. And the skulls of many of those people sit in a glass tower at the entrance of the field. It was a profound experience that made me reflect more about the history of the Jews than....well, than I probably ever had before.

Then a long bus to Siem Reap where Ressa and I met up with Molly (who had a fantastic time diving in Ko Tao, Thailand). The thing to do in Siem Reap is Ankor Wat, the largest temple in the world and one of the 7 manmade wonders of the world. Pretty cool.

Something happened to me over this past week, amidst the buses and boats and motorbikes and tuktuks (local "cabs"...carriages attached to motorbikes...totally totally unsafe), amidst having to depend on my powerbars a bit more for lack of edible food, amidst being in scorching sun and having to scrape inch deep dirt off my face every night....I suddenly realized that I had finally relaxed and that I was enjoying traveling. This "experience", as Molly would call it, truly is thrilling. And today we go to Bangkok and tomorrow night we go to Africa. I laugh as I write that, thinking, "Who are you and how did you get to be so lucky that you get to travel all over the world like this???" I'm actually jealous of myself.

Love, Sarah

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

"It's a God thang."

Shhhhhh....don't say anything and don't look now (cuz I think he knows we're talking about him), but there is a monk sitting in this internet cafe. Dressed in only his robe with his head shaved, he has his finger up to his mouth; he is thinking. Maybe he is meditating.

Oh boy! Do I have a story for you!? (yes, I do.)

Well, for starters, i'm still in Vientiane (one "n" at the end, oops) while I should be in Pakse already. But...yesterday I started feeling a bit ill. Stomachache and all over blah-ness. I spent the day moaning around town and finding a/c places to sit (I had already signed out of my guesthouse). I was at the post office sending a massive package (of gifts for you!!) home when I met a man. An angel, really. A messenger from God.

"What is your name?" he asked. "Sarah," I say. "Oh. Well you must have a religious background." "Yes I do. I"m Jewish." And then Mark Berry, a fine upstanding Christian family man, sat down and talked to me for a while. He gave me his card and said to call him if I needed anything. He had talked a lot about Jesus and bout Isaiah 53, but was not trying to convert me. So....on a whim, I decided to call him and tell him I wasn't feeling well and that talking to him made me miss homes and families and even if it's just for a little while, can I come over and sit on your couch?

"Where are you?" he asked. "The Scandinavian Bakery," I say. (Btw, I weighed myself yesterday and I've gained 4 pounds!! How can that be??) "I'll be there in a few minutes," he says.

So Mark and his 14 year old son, Daniel, (one of 7) pick me up and take me to a clinic. The doctor gave me some medicine (btw, I'm much much better now), then Mark took me to pick up my stuff, I changed my bus for the next day, and then he took me home.

They live in a rather large house. He teaches English and does some church things and his wife homeschools the kids. They've been living in Laos for about 10 years.

I had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich (God really was with me---i have not stopped talking about how much I miss peanut butter), read, watched a disney Christmas special, and then sang some psalms and read from the bible. (They do that every night. In the Old T. they were up to the last chapter of Joshua, and since I was there, they didn't read from their bible and instead read from Isaiah 53, their fave. some Jewish girl I know must brush up on her later prophets.....) So we played guitar and sang and spoke about the Lord and talked about how blessed we were that He brought us together (me and them). "It's a God thing," Mark says (and it is!). And they blessed me through God and Jesus at every meal and before bed. (Every meal = dinner and then lunch the next day--i stayed there all day today!) And I recited a perek of tehillim in Hebrew.

And I was sooooo happy. I really had not been feeling well and I would've been miserable on that bus (eh hem, no bathroom on it), and instead I got to stay the night with a wonderful family in a wonderful house (though it was hot), with good peanut butter, and milk! I love milk! And I'm the biggest nerd ever and they had a book of poetry and I copied some down into my journal and decided that i will memorize them. Sometimes I'm in the middle of a neverending field or looking up at magnificent mountains or riding along a beautiful river, and I always wish I knew some poetry (to supplement the psalms I know, of course). This book was for kids and didn't have any of my favorites, but I copied a whitman, a dickinson, and a tolkien. then I realized that I could've printed out some better ones from online. Oh, and the Queen Mab speech from R&J (that's for you, daddy).

And Vientiane is not a very exciting city and it's too hot to walk around today, so that's why you get another email. I hope you're not getting sick of me. and also, there are more pictures up! In fact, I'm going to sit here for a while and try to clear my camera of pictures.

Speaking of daddy, he has asked me a number of questions that I keep avoiding b/c I do not know the answers (b/c, let's just say, the areas are not my major interests). But I will try and answer them and will do so here in case anyone else is interested.

Tourism is a major industry in this area (Thailand, Laos) and I think it is the main industry, but it is not the only one. Most people (outside the major cities) are farmers. I have seen all sorts of agricultural methods employed -- slash and burn, multi-tiered slope farming, crop rotation (I remember those from school!). Major crops are rice (rice paddies are STUNNING--like a neon green color, grown in water), coffee, rubber (I read that, but I get the funniest images in my head. I totally don't know what rubber is.), opium (that was their major export until the French outlawed it--I'm talking Laos now), and other crops. There are cows, chickens, pigs, and water buffalo roaming the streets.

There are vestiges of French culture around, mainly in architecture and in food. Look through my pictures and you'll see some colonial houses in Luang Prabang. There are tons of cafes and baguettes and pastries (hence the 4 pounds). This is all Laos I'm talking about now. There are no French things in Thailand, obviously. Also, in thailand they drive on the left (they were an english colony) and Lao ppl drive on the right (cuz of the french).

I do not know much about the relation of the sexes in Laos other than the way people dress. Men wear regular western attire, while women wear traditional long straight skirts, usually black with woven fabric on the bottom. some women wear pants, and while sleeveless shirts seem ok, skimpy tank tops are a no-no. I think anything that is not allowed in a Buddhist temple is not accepted in the streets either.

In the Lahu village, the relationship between the sexes was much more apparent (mostly b/c i lived there for a while). The men were often not at home and so I did not see them much (except for the few who stuck around to sell us things). When i did encounter men, they were generally quiet and kinda meek looking. The women seemed to wear the pants in the marriage. (Though, on a literal level, the women only wore skirts, or very very baggy pants.) The women were always sitting out on their porches, sewing and yelling. (I'm exaggerating. They were not always yelling, but if someone was yelling, it was a woman.) In another email i wrote of the Lahu marriage, about drinking tea in front of the shaman--not a very romantic ceremony, and likewise, the Lahu marriage does not seem, at least to an outside like me, very romantic. they get married very young, like 14-19ish and begin having children immediately. Children begin at a very young age o work around the house and around the village. Though, in retrospect, it was girls I saw working in the shop and doing the laundry, never the boys.

Back to Laos: In the cities there are temples and some monks, but no real religious "feeling." Outside the city, though, you are distinctly aware (or at least I am) that you are in a religious setting. Maybe cuz there are more monks or maybe cuz there are more temples in relation to other buildings, or maybe there is just something in the air.

I do not know whether the extent of their religious beliefs. I do not think they believe in providence or that God heeds their prayers. I do not think anyone believes in God, as in the one true God. The animists believe in spirits and many people have "spirit houses" in their front lawns (look like bird houses) that they give sacrifices to. They appeal to the spirits and expect answers. I suppose that qualifies as providence? And as for the Buddhists, as far as I know, which is not very far, there is no providence, only fate. Things happen because they are supposed to happen and we must accept them, be mindful of them, and overcome them. So the simpleton speaks. According to many monks who I've spoken to, prayer is the same thing as meditation, and meditation is unrelated to God or gods or godliness.

Regarding politics...I cannot even muster up the creativity to come up with anything.

The people are poor. How poor? very poor. There are few cars and most houses are wood and bamboo. (this is laos.) But people seem to have enough to eat. I have surprisingly few beggers. In fact, in both countries I've probably seen....less than 20. That's pretty amazing. And people seem content. the lao people are some of the nicest and happiest people i've seen. and people i met lao people, i thought the same thing about the thais.

Well, this may be the last email for a few days. I depart for nowheres land tonight and will prob get to Cambodia Sunday night. I'll be there for a few days before I return to Bangkok. And then, on Feb. 17....I'm going to Africa!! (haha, I don't know why that seems so funny all of a sudden.)



Monday, February 07, 2005

Sarah's pictures!

This is just a quickie to say that I have finally uploaded pictures. It took forever, so i'll have to do it in installments. A brief update of my life: Vang Vieng was nice. I lay in a hammock by the river. Went for a run through the most magnificient scenery ever. The weather was cloudy the whole time, and it turns out that cloudy weather creates the most dramatic mountain scenes. Vang Vieng is small. there is a river with mountains on both sides of it. and with the cloudy weather, the mountains look huge and black and seem to stretch up high into the clouds. My run through a tiny path to a cave was scary, almost--every time i looked up (which wasn't very often cuz i was afraid of stepping in cow poop) the mountains and dark clouds were looming not just above me, but all around me.

V.V. is mainly for backpackers--as of about 4 years ago; before that, there was nothing there. Now it is filled with guesthouses and resturaunts, all showing episodes of Friends and random movies at all times of day and night. And basically everyone sits around, either in the resturaunts or by the river, and gets really stoned and really drunk on happy pizza and happy milkshakes and tons and tons of Beerlao. The one activity in town is to go drunk tubing down the river. There are stops along the way for beerlao and cocktails. (I neither like water activities nor beer, and it was shabbos, so i sat that one out.)

So as I was saying, i was sitting by the river in my hammock all day, reading and napping, when...all of a sudden...BOOM!!!!...right in the middle of the "dry season" a HUGE rainstorm and hailstorm poured down on us. Now, we were staying in a little bungalow style guest house by the river and rain started pouring into our room and hailstones started destroying everything in sight. We tried (successfully) to salvage our stuff while we looked out our door and saw roofs (rooves?) in the river and trees fallen and just a mess everywhere. And then it calmed down. And then...BOOM!!!! happened again.

Have I mentioned that Lao people are the nicest people on earth? They just smiled and said they would take care of everything, and they did. THey bought new mattresses and sheets and blankets and gave us candles and next thing you knew, we were all cozy and ready for bed. and then...BOOM!!! Another downpour, but this time, it was going down and not slanted, so it stayed out of our room and we remained dry all night.

One day is all you need in Vang Vieng. So this morning we kayaked to Vientianne. That's the capital of Laos. (It's okay...I didn't know that either.) I rowed with the guide--he must've seen the worry in my eyes--and we only capsized once!

Vientianne doesn't seem like a very exciting city, so I think tomorrow night I will take an overnight bus to the 4000 Islands in Southern Laos. I will spend a couple days there and then I will take another overnight bus to Siem Riep in Cambodia.

I am very tired. I'm afraid that has affected my wit and intelligence and maybe this email is not topnotch. Better luck next time. Please enjoy the pictures! (note the personal message in the box below).


Saturday, February 05, 2005

same, same, but different

(That subject line is a personal joke between me and Thailand, well, me and everyone here and Thailand. But I'll let you in on it too--when the Thais are trying to sell you something--the same exact something that everyone on the block is selling--to try and convince you that their's is, in fact, not the same thing at a more expensive price, but is better, they assure you that it is "same same, but different." Ahhh. How easily their gimicks work! I have done wonders for their market.)

Anyways....Hi! How are you? Good! Me too. (I mean, I'm fine. But I'm also exceptionally good.) (Wow, I've already written a lot, and yet, have written nothing at all.)

Anyways (take 2)...I just got off a 5 hour bus that took me south of Luang Prabang to Vang Vieng. I can't tell you much about it yet except that there is an internet cafe next door to my guesthouse. So I will tell you about Luang P.

L.P. is Laos' second largest city. (The capital city, Vientienne, is largest.) They call it a city, but it is really a village. It is great. In fact, L.P. is the first place I've been to all trip that I would return to. Here's what I did: I gained back all the weight that I lost. I went cafe and bakery hopping the whole time. I walked a lot and rode a bike a lot, but I don't think the output equalled the intake. Lao coffee tastes a bit like mud--does French coffee taste like mud?--but they have ovaltine which goes well with cake too, and they have fruit shakes. I also found granola.

I did other things too. I took a boat to a paper village and a whiskey village. My boat driver -- Boontavi -- was drinking beer during the drive. I found that odd. Boontavi used to be a monk, for about 10 years. All the guys in Laos used to be Monks. Luang Prabang is filled with monks, in fact, b/c if you are a boy and you are between the ages of 12 and 22, you are most likely a novice studying in one of the many many monestaries. I made lots of new friends--I am as beautiful as a temple, they tell me! Ah, monk pick-up lines. I pretended I was a writer for a newspaper--who MIGHT be writing an article--and took copious notes while they were talking. I have their whole schedule and some nice thoughts recorded. (I MAY one day write for a newspaper...) I was surrounded by little monks. Some tourists passed by and took pictures.

One morning, I woke up early and went outside and bought some sticky rice and food wrapped in banana leaves. I went and sat outside a monestary gate waiting for the little monks to come out for breakfast. at 6:45 on the dot, they emerged in a straight solemn line, with tins around their necks, open and waiting for food. I gave them food and felt good. (Seeing "food" and "good" next to each other like remind me how lucky I am that I already speak English.)

And I went to the "ballet", but left early cuz it was so boring. But in the end, it was so good that I left early cuz guess who had just gotten to town and was outside in the market? You'll never guess, so i'll tell you...Molly! Yay!

And now it's Friday so soon is shabbos and we'll probably just read and lounge around. We are fully equipped with candles, wine, baguettes, and books. We will also plan what we want to do next. We are trying to fit Cambodia in, but I have been spoiled by a plane ride and cannot imagine being on a bus for as long as Molly is willing to sit on a bus. She says it's part of the "experience." Experience, my butt, i tell her. I'm paying $2/night for lodging. I think I'm getting my experience.

Well, as usual, I'm having fun, but still get waves of homesickness and miss all of you terribly. Laos is nice, but would be much nicer with you. :)

Love, Sar

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

The Lone Ranger...part II

Miss me? I missed you!

I've been walking around the town of Luang Prabang for the last 6 hours, turning right when I felt like turning right and left when I was in a left sort of mood. I wandered into a movie viewing place where I watched a weird movie with some weird people (you rent a movie and a room), all the while confused and thinking, "What am I doing in this totally random country of Laos?" I can't tell what part of the world I'm in right could be Thailand, Miami, or the south of France. Luang Prabang lies in northern Laos (I wasn't joking--I hopped on a plane this morning and took an international flight to Thailand's eastern neighboring country) and used to be a French colony. The architecture is a combo of Buddhist temples and colonial French buildings. The streets are lined with palm trees and bakeries. It is clean, hot, and the people are so friendly. "May I use your toilet?" I asked. "Oh, yes please!" they respond.

Tomorrow I'm going to rent a bike and ride around the city, along the Mekong River, and maybe take a boat across the river to a cave filled with Buddhist thingies. Molly should be here in just a couple days, so I am still going strong as...the Lone Ranger...and this is part II.

So how have you all been?

I think another reason why I feel so out of sorts today is because all of a sudden I have gone from a very strict schedule to a totally haphazard and unstructured life--my real life. (Haha, walking around Laos is my real life? Who AM I?) I do not know what to do with myself when the chickens and pigs do not wake me up with their screaming at 4 a.m. and I don't go to sleep with the sun at 8. No more morning hike up to our meditation spot at 5:45 a.m. No more tai chi. No more Thai massage for 6 hours a day (I passed! Yay!). No more Lahu spirit dances. No more witch doctors chanting. No more bamboo huts and Lahu kids singing about carrots. No more non-Western toilets--they are actually more hygienic than our toilets and squatting is much better for your bowels than sitting is, it turns out. No more marriage proposals from Tip (that's TIP, guys, not TRIP--am i allowed to write this?). (The Lahu get married by drinking tea together in front of the shaman. I actually just realized the Lahu dance the other night, Tip offered me a cup of tea and I accepted. Fortunately, though, the shaman was not present. Good thing...otherwise I'd have to get divorced (consists of dumping out tea in front of the shaman).)

I do not know how to sum up my last few weeks, so I will end my email here, officially, but read on if you would like to read some real live excerpts from my real live journal. (Whoa--I don't believe I'm doing this...) It just makes the most sense for me to do it this way. And besides, I wrote like a compulsive maniac over the last few weeks---there must be some material appropriate for and worth sharing...


I'm crammed on the open bed of a red pick up truck with 6 other people and everyone's lugguge. I am at the back, so if I look forward, all I see is the road, zooming along behind us. This surely will be good for my tan, though prob not so good for my contacts. I'm sitting in between Moana the violin maker and Shlumpf the German warrior. A Thai old woman dressed in some sort of traditional garb is to my left. I hope I won't have to pee; I just had a delicious banana-orange shake before I left. Today I love Thailand.

Moana's mother cried when she said goodbye to her. Both mother and daughter have nose rings. It made me miss my mother, even though she refuses to get her nose pierced.

Ahead of us are hills. We are soon entering the jungle...

Maybe in Thailand they are SUPPOSED to drive On the lines rather than BETWEEN them?

...At the "coffee house" (someone's house--he makes coffee) a little Lahu girl was holding a dead squirrel. Jo, a British/Chinese girl in the course, a former brass rubber on her way to Australia to find new work, also held it. I sat there with my jaw open and my hand over my eyes, in utter shock.

The Lahu people used to be nomads. THey would find a clearing in the jungle (or rahter, they would make a clearing in the jungle), live there for a while, use all the resources, and then move on, allowing the jungle to replenish itself. They are orininally from Tibet. They speak lahu, not Thai. The Thai goverment wanted them to settle after they moved around for a bit in Thailand, and so helped them by creating farming projects and giving them some money and resources. Now some of the people work for the royal project and some have become self-sufficient farmers. THe women all stay home and sew. THe children do the laundry.


To decided that to keep the spirit of the day, I would skip taichi, so i decided to go for a morning walk and got totally lost, missed my turn and ended up in the wrong Lahu village. "Where is massage?" I asked while gerturing a massage. All I got were blank stares and I wanted to cry. I knew I was at the wrong Lahu village b/c the dogs all started growling at me and the pigs were a white/grey, and the earth under my feet was more reddish than tan. And there were fewer houses and fewer chickens. WHen I finially got back--after a strange man walked me down a narrow deserted path and then put me on the back of an even stranger man's motorbike--I knew I was home cuz the crazy, noisy farm animals (who live below and around the houses, not on farms) were so welcoming. I've come to love the pigs here, especially. They have such a distinct personality. THey are quite feisty, and very funny.

Two sad things--I lost my expensive patagonia socks along the way, and on my way back up the hill after the motorbike dropped me off, I saw a dead puppy dog on the side of the road. I had a brief, not very verbal, but very expressive conversation--more an acknowledgement of the sadness--with an old Lahu man who was also walking up the hill.


So, today was my birthday and actually, one of my nicest. WHen I went to breakfast, MOana had left me flowers, a bracelet, and cake. Everyone sang Happy BD to me a couple times throughout the day, and after luncch was more cake. Amy gave me pretty earings, too. A good day.


...It was the dogs. Sounded like there was a dog massacre last night. THe most horrible screeches and screams of such extreme pain, anger and torment. I had to pee in the middle of the night (as usual) and was so petrified that I'd get eaten by the ravenous dogs, that I would not leave the platform [note to readers: the toilets are a bit of a walk away], I was even scared to open the gate. So I climbed up on the bannister, made sure no one was looking, squatted off and peed. Not a bad idea! I'll probably do it again. Why walk all the way to the bathroom?

THe rest of the morning was filled with the regular chaos of screaming farm animals--why do roosters cockadoodledoo? Just exercising their vocals, or do they have something to say? Do their cockadoodledoos vary or do they really say the same annoying thing over and over and over again?

[another note to readers: these are the deep thoughts that keep me up at night. I think the same thing about cows and dogs and all other animals. Do you think they think the same thing about us?]

Well, if you are still reading this, congratulations. You will win a prize when I get back. Just mention the word "carrots" and that'll be my cue. I would type more, but, guys, I'm in Laos--I've got more interesting things to do. Though I do love chatting with you in my monologues. Speaking of chatting, I plan on maybe signing on IM tomorrow morning, maybe around 9. THat's 9p.m. for you. So everyone come online! It'll be fun! (Sareal99)

It's late and I have to find my way back to my guesthouse.



P.S. THank you all for your birthday wishes! And today is my dad's birthday! Go Aquarians! (Wow, that's definitely the influence of my last few weeks spent with astrologers, alchemists, mayans, and energyists.)


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