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Yesterday followed the same pattern as Friday.  The village we travelled to was about 5kms down the same road.  The difference was that the locals there spoke a different dialect – closer to Khmer – that no-one on the team could understand, so the Lao-speaking village head and another local translator helped out.  The villagers seemed visibly poorer – they were dirtier and their clothes were more basic.  While not unhealthy, they appeared unhealthier than those in Pouy.  It’s a hardscrabble existence on this rice-farming plain prone to flooding and a hot dry season.  My understanding is that there is only a single annual harvest of rice here.

PSI Delivery

A PSI Land Cruiser is used to shuttle villagers to the clinic

Ban Donephay

Team leader Tick registers people in Ban Donephay village

 

The day’s event was quite successful – at least 200 villagers showed up to be tested, with only 2 showing positive for malaria.  PSI staff were constantly busy with intake, testing, and field interviews in individual houses.  I was able to get quite good images of all aspects, I think.  Seeing into each house was sobering as conditions are very basic: sleeping on bare floors and cooking over charcoal fires.

Ban Donephay

A girl watches as villagers are tested around her

The village head decided to kill a pig for the team’s lunch, but the collection of quivering entrails and organs in stainless bowls didn’t appeal.  Sen, as he always does when presented with any meat, dug in with gusto.  Fortunately, the team brought along other food and I munched on sticky rice, hard-boiled egg, dried beef, and a noodle-fish mixture prepared in a leaf wrap.

Lunchtime was quiet, so the team relaxed.  I managed a short nap in the back of one of the Land Cruisers, with two drivers – Sen and Seng – snoring up front.

We stayed until mid-afternoon then all piled in one truck (the other was in Pakse for the day) for the hour’s drive back into town.  Back in town I washed, rested and downloaded my images, then had a delicious meal prepared at the guesthouse by the some of the team.  It was one of the top meals of this trip: tamahoon (green papaya salad), morning glory with chillies, fish stew with lime cilantro and chillies, scrambled eggs, steamed watercress and other herbs, and of course sticky rice.  I stuffed myself.

At around 8pm I went to Champa 100 Years with Tak, one of the communications guys, who is younger and speaks English well.  We chatted for about an hour about school and work and his recent heartbreak, when his girlfriend of five years left him for a Thai fellow (note: later in the evening his ex sent him several text messages saying that she’d had a fight with the new guy and wanted to patch things up.  Tak made a point of not responding although it was clear he was torn).  Dao, one of the drivers arrived and we moved to another table with the restaurant owner and two young women, one of whom made me laugh a great deal despite not understanding her Lao.  She kept making me recite all the Lao I knew and laughing and laughing at my immense vocabulary of 5-10 phrases.

At around 9:30 we rolled across town to Happy Day on the other bend of the Xe Kong River.  Sen and Seng were there, and we listened to the music for a while, drinking more Beer Lao and munching cucumbers, fresh tamarind (sour!) and watermelon seeds.  Not a great deal happened and we were back home by 11:00 and I had a solid sleep.

I decided, however, to have a rest day.  My stomach was a bit off (much better now) and I figured that I could not get a ton of photographic value returning to the same village again.  So, I spent the day at the guesthouse, reading half of my book – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – and relaxing.

At lunchtime a truck from the French Croix-Rouge pulled up three fellows – French, English and Lao – checked in.  I chatted with them, and then joined them as they went for lunch in a local Vietnamese place.  They are here to look into food security issues following the recent cyclone.  Apparently the rice harvest was damaged in the flooding and they are here to assess interventions for four days.  They will be journeying into some very remote parts of the district by boat or possibly even foot by the sound of it.  David, the Englishman, spent four years treeplanting in northern BC , has a family in Tamil Nadu, and works as a disaster-management consultant.  Benoit is from France and lives in Vientiane, working for the Croix Rouge, and I’m guessing that the Lao fellow is from the a government ministry.  It was very interesting to learn about this very direct kind of work being carried out on the ground.

For dinner I met up with the usual suspects – San, Seng, Tak and Dao – for a dinner at their friend Miss Mai’s shop at the bus station.  San cooked up a vat of boiled clams in chilli broth, and Mai grilled an entire catfish over a charcoal brazier.  We sat around a concrete table in front of the store watching the local buses come and go.

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Written by sockeyed

November 1, 2009 at 18:44

Posted in Photography, Travel

Tagged with , , , ,

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