Bake-n-Shake

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I sleep in and feel again that I have failed the goats. I send them abundant compassion from a distance.

Dish gods, I am present.

I ride a borrowed green bike in the direction of town to the local market, one that seems the most authentically native of all thus visited so far. The market is filled with practical items, cleaning supplies, plastic containers, bamboo rice steamers and other assorted local cookware, basic clothing such as t-shirts and socks, the tailor stands where women sew on machines traditional Lao silk skirts, fruits, vegetables, noodles of all different varieties, regular, sticky, and black rice sold in big heaps by the kilo, banana leaves for salad, dried spices and fresh herbs. I run into the loving Aussie sister who is perusing the outdoor aisles with her sister-in-law who is visiting Laos for the first time. We decide to purchase some gifts for the very pregnant chef at the farm to throw her an impromptu Western baby shower. I find the cutest little cotton booties and hat set for the unknown gendered child.

At another stand I purchase a bag of the ubiquitous sticky rice, warm and ready for snacking on the road as I continue cycling toward the town. Sticky rice for breakfast is the Lao version of a bagel, it sits in the equivalent fashion in ones belly. All day long.

Vang Vieng is tiny, about two blocks in total, with countless restaurants featuring Friends episodes and beer bucket deals and even some that offer “special” mushroom pizza and brownies. Mediocre hostels with young hung-over patrons munching on banana (and nutella) pancakes and fruit shakes, convenience stores with odd junk like plastic wallets and sun tan lotion, and travel agencies selling bus tickets to various destinations as well tube rentals to float down the river complete the offerings. There is one bakery with decent wifi and western cookies, a foreign sight in a country that doesn’t really consume butter. I sit and lounge for a bit before purchasing a bunch of the exotic treats for my fellow kitchen staff. I would have baked them some cookies from scratch but without an oven in kitchen it makes it quite challenging. The butter used to make the cookies at this one bakery was probably imported from Thailand. Three cookies cost the same price as a night in the dorm.

The chocolate snacks are much appreciated before I head to the nearby youth center for Saturday afternoon dancing. The kids teach us various routines, we seem to grab hold of some of the modern sequences but the traditional Lao dances are beyond are skill. I am paired with a 17 year old guy who blushes as we move in a line. The Lao movements are sincerely beautiful, the girls rolling their hands and shuffling the floor like ancient goddesses. It is all too fun.  We do the Macarena. Twice.

I am invited to the Aussie ladies home for dinner although I politely decline for there is intention to teach group yoga again. The yoga doesn’t occur but family farm dinner is delightful as usual, more fresh spring rolls with spicy pineapple sauce, green curry with fragrant yellow peppers, vegetable soup with ginger slices, curious mushrooms, and fat pieces of okra, sticky rice, sticky rice, sticky rice. There is even mango sticky rice for dessert. We all share, we enlighten, we pass the evening with grace. Some members have left the tribe for other destinations and new participants have arrived. The flavor is still international and full of love.

Thank you to all who have planted, picked, purchased, and prepared our food. Gratitude to the sun and of course to the water.

We are fortunate, always.

“A true yogi may remain dutifully in the world; there he is like butter on water, and not like the unchurned, easily diluted milk of undisciplined humanity. Fulfilling one’s earthly responsibilities need not separate man from God, provided he maintains mental uninvolvement with egotistical desires and plays his part in life as a willing instrument of the Divine.” –Paramahansa Yoganada

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