It is Christmas here in Luang Prabang, Laos. Last night I went to a party that was made by Laotians for the foreigners here. It is interesting to see their goodwill-gesture of a Chrismas tree was a bunch of green leaves all bunched up and tied in place by ballons and haphazard multi-colored lighting. It was more like a dangling Christmas ball. But, the message was clearly conveyed. There were Laotian food, Beerlao, and the passing around of LaoLao (45% alcohol that tastes like rubbing alcohol). It is surreal to walk around Luang Prabang, a city where the people generally do not celebrate Christmas, and barely see any sign of this holiday. In many other parts of the world, it is virtually impossible to not run into Christmas. Yet here, it is just another day. People still go to work. Women who carry these massive baskets 3-4 times their sizes will still walk the streets trying to unload them. Food vendors will still come out during the warm and damp day to sell anything from fried bananas, to soup, to sodas, to... Life goes on here because in this world, today is just another day.
It is amazing when I think about this Christmas and compare it to last christmas. Last christmas, I was floundering, not committed to my new life (fears, reservations, etc). Last year, around this time, after spending some time with my mother, I would play a useless virtual game (world of warcraft..otherwise known as war of worldcrack). This christmas, despite being half a world away, I was able to talk to my mother for nearly 1 hour, which makes not being around her less painful. We spoke about my experiences, how this trip give me so much understanding of how my father was when he was young. We spoke about Vardvuon and how I am retracing my father's footsteps. Years ago, my father was a rising star in Saigon when he traveled south to this town called Cantho. There, he met this young, smart, and very interesting girl called Kim Hoang. Living here for the last 2 weeks, getting to know Vardvuon, for the first time, in my life, I start to truly understand what my father must have thought and what he felt that he had to do when we first met my mother. Vardvuon and my mother in some ways are similar to each other. And in some ways I am similar to my father. Because of all of that and the experiences of these past 2 weeks, I am starting to fully understand my father and that understanding is destroying many misconceptions that I had about him. It is amazing that 4 years after he died, I am just starting to understand about some aspects of my father's life (he was not into talking about feelings). Like all humans, he has many faults, but I am beginning to truly admire his good qualities and appreciate all that he must have done, all that he had to endure, and the noble spirit and nature that existed in him. My mother and I talked about that as we talked about Vardvuon.
Although my facebook friends know about Vardvoun, she is a stranger in this blog. She is Laotian, she teaches me Laotian and through her smiles and laughter, she is immensely patient with me. I will not go deeply into who she is. Instead, I will give you the adjectives that those that know her use to describe her: kind, nice, beautiful, and good. The other adjectives that I will use are: funny, physically fragile yet mentally strong, patient, humble, resilient, and unyielding (in a good way). In this city (and I guess in a way, this world) where money talks and many people listen, she is a rare gem.
Soon I will be going to get food and drinks so I can share with Vardvuon (and we will also share the food with her friends). I recount the changes that have happened this past year, the friendships I have made, and how I have changed. It makes me happy. In one year, this body has been to 4 continents, and visited 5 countries. Most importantly, I now know people like Jackie S., Lacey, Madi F., Leah, Pipih, Betty, Mercy, Jen KP., Vardvoun, and countless others. Although they are spread throughout this world, I am glad to know each one of them. In my previous life, knowing one was a blessing. I am just amazed of how this life have brought all of these wonderful people into my life. I feel blessed.
The world is good and will be in a good shape as long as it has all of these people always fighting for it.