I’ve had people ask me why I like Laos so much. The landscape, the music, the culture in general, the beautiful out-of-the-way temples and the people–especially the people–appeal to me in so many ways. This entry from the Grantham Journal (England) pretty much hits the nail on the head. I can hardly wait to get back there later this summer. [EDIT Jan. 23, 2010–The article is no longer available, guess I should have saved a copy.]

But, I’m in more than a gloomy state of mind today. I just talked to my friend Nai in Laos (using Skype–it’s actually cheap to do), and he is in a pretty poor state of health right now. He has been, in fact, for the last few months, it seems. He complains that his “heart” hurts, but I assume he means his chest. I don’t think he’s having heart problems, but he has been having coughing spells on and off for quite awhile. In addition, he’s seems to have migraine and back problems. It’s hard to tell, what with his broken English (“my memory hurt a lot, I cannot see sometimes” = migraine headache?), from this far away. It’s extremely frustrating because I’m so far away and can’t help him. I send him and his family money for medicine and food and whatnot, but the medical care in Laos is terrible. He goes across the border into Nong Khai, Thailand, to see a doctor, but I think the system there is suspect, also. I told him that when I return in July I’d take him to see a good doctor in Bangkok. I just hope he’s ok until then. He’s taking pain relievers, maybe too many, to help, but to hear the suffering and pain in his voice and the occasional tears over the phone because of his pain and frustration is agonizing and almost unbearable.

I’m looking forward to my trip to the cave tomorrow, but my enthusiasm is considerably dampened by my friend’s woes. Though he is Buddhist, any prayers for him will be considerably appreciated by both him and me. More later.

[Edit] Addition: Sorry to continue the “doom and gloom” nature of this post, but I forgot to mention that one of the players has been out sick for a number of days. One of the coaches finally told me that he has Dengue Fever, a disease transmitted by mosquitos, similar to the way malaria is spread. The disease can be very serious if left untreated. I’m making sure to avoid any after dark outdoor activities.