Saturday, November 03, 2007

The Next End

My time in Laos comes to an end. I wonder about what I have learned. I like to think that I understand this place, this culture, this language a little bit more than when I started. I like to think that I am a little bit closer to Samosa – my Shangrila awaits me. The more real it becomes, the more I realize I know only slightly more than nothing

This morning, an important day for me, I went to the Wat to make offerings. Of course, making offerings at the Wat is always preceded with a 5 am roust from bed, a trip the market for some pre-dawn shopping and confusing phone calls… Yu sai?... Where are you?. At the Wat, the old ladies chatted while they helped us prepare the bowls of sausage and chicken and cakes and soybean snot. The monks waited patiently, silently. Somewhere in there, I was given directions, but I am oblivious to this and fumble through the giving of alms. One monk got too little rice, one monk got too many cakes. They giggled at my ineptitude but were grateful for the special meal we had brought for them. We poured water at a stupa (gravesite) and wished for blessings. I pieced together from prior trips to this Wat, that the stupa was not random as I once thought. It is the stupa that of my friend’s parents. Driving away, I added a couple more wishes and blessings to those who have passed before me.

I think about something my friend said just recently about today. She wished for someone to help her prepare the food for today. She told me she pitied the chickens. I wasn’t sure if it was a language issue, or if that is what she really meant.

“Pity? Why?”, I asked.

Her response was so kind, “It is such a happy day for me, but the chickens have to die. I wish someone else would do that for me.”

I don’t understand anything and I understand everything. The journey continues and there are dead chickens and seemingly random stupas that have great meaning and bumbled offerings of tasty sweet sausage and late nights and early mornings and Laotian contracts signed not under duress but complete oblivion. Slightly more than nothing.