I’d been keeping in touch with Nai while I was in Vientiane, and I found out on Thursday that one of his cousin’s had died in a work-related accident. I think I met the guy last week (Nai has so many cousins that it’s impossible to keep track of them all). He lived in the family compound just a few house away from Nai. If it’s the same fellow, he was probably in his late twenties, and he left behind a wife and baby.
A lot of the adult men around here work on the Mekong, where they are dredging gravel from the river bed to use in making concrete. Scores of dump trucks full of the rock travel daily along the dirt road that runs through Nai’s village. The road used to be paved, but it’s been torn up for a few years because of the trucks. It’s now cratered with small pot holes and ruts, and it’s terrible for traveling. The heavy vehicles stir up a lot of dust early in the day, but later, when they’re hauling rocks from the river, the water seeps out and eventually drenches the road. That keeps the dust down, but it gets rather muddy.
Apparently the accident victim was working around the dredging machines when something went wrong. Nai couldn’t give me too many details with his limited English vocabulary, so I don’t know what actually happened. I’m sure there will be no government or company support for his grieving wife, but the rest of the family will take care of her and the baby.
Unlike in the United States where people will bring food to a family who’s lost a loved one, in Laos the family is expected to provide food for all the people who come to pay their respects. The past few days Nai has been to his cousin’s house cooking food for hours for all the mourners. However, the people who visit the house will also leave some money for the widow and that usually covers the cost of the food.
There will still be a lot of people today who come to pay their respects, and the funeral will probably be Sunday or Monday. I’ve never been to a Buddhist funeral, so perhaps I’ll have the opportunity to view one, albeit under tragic circumstances.
I’m heading back out to my friend Nai’s farm, which is about 10 kilometers outside Vientiane. I’ve been in Laos for about a week now. I was at The Farm for a few days, and then I came into Vientiane to look for a job.
I became a “farmer” at Nai’s place. One day I helped to twist the stems and leaves off of red and green cherry tomatoes. Thousands and thousands of cherry tomatoes. I helped out for about three hours on a hot afternoon, sitting under the shade of a tree, twisting and pulling and culling. There were several family members and neighbors pitching in also. It was boring work, but satisfying. Nai’s sister took all the tomatoes to the morning market in Vientiane, where they were bought in quantity by restaurant owners. Nai told me that they use them in making papaya salad, a staple dish that’s generally served at every meal.
The next day was Green Onion Day. Again, uncountable numbers of green onions. Nai and other family members went into the fields early in the morning and harvested the crop, then hauled it to the house on two-wheeled pushcarts. I was alerted that they had arrived by the aromatic smell of green onions floating on the breeze throughout the family compound. It’s quite a wonderful odor. They spent the rest of the morning and most of the afternoon pulling the debris and outer skin from each onion. I was going to join in, but this chore required some expertise, so I sat this one out.
The last three days I’ve been in Vientiane, and I’m pretty sure that I got a job working at one of the local colleges. I’ll find out this coming Tuesday. The director is going to phone me and let me know what he might have open for me. I won’t say any more about the job until I officially get it.
So, I’ll be out of Internet and email contact until the middle of next week. I’m taking a bus to the Friendship Bridge around noon today, which is the border-crossing point over the Mekong River between Laos and Thailand. Then, I’m going to give Nai a call and have him pick me up on his motorbike. The Farm isn’t too far away from the bridge. I talked to Nai earlier this morning to let him know my plans. He was harvesting more green onions.