I’ve made it home, via Chiang Mai and Luang Prabang. Goodness, Luang Prabang is magical. I’d not been to Laos before, and only went to Luang Prabang because it sounded peaceful… I thought it would be a good place to spend a quiet last week alone with Ruby before she went on to Vietnam and Cambodia and I went back to Sydney. You arrive on a two-aisle propeller plane. There are no newsagents in the city, and no magazines (although Le Monde & the Bangkok Times were delivered to the hotel). There are no billboards, and not really any signage. It took me a few days to work out why my eyes felt so rested. It was the second UNESCO-listed city I’d been to, the first was Riga in Latvia, and I like the stopped-in-time feeling that they both have.
One morning I got up early to see the monks proceeding through the streets to collect alms. The city was silent, because nobody talks & the monks have bare feet. But there was a rooster crowing. Alms-givers sit on stools with a bowl of rice, and give each monk a handful as he passes, which goes into a wooden container that hangs around his neck. I stayed a respectful distance from the ritual, but a couple of tourists with big cameras stepped out in front of the procession, flashing away… it was unseemly. The monks were walking surprisingly quickly, efficiently collecting their rice almost without pause. The architecture is a mix of temples and French colonial.
We visited an elephant rescue centre and went with them into the water!!! It was breathtaking to look right into an elephant’s eye and see that it had no feelings for humans whatsoever. Their mouths are surprisingly soft and pink, their trunks mobile and hugely sensitive.
My dog Sailor is FAT. She’s been beautifully looked after by a dear friend while I’ve been away, and she’s very happy… but she’s been stealing another dog’s food I think (sorry Waffle!). She is a huge guts and like all pugs has no idea when to stop eating. Anyway, she is on a diet now and two long walks a day… I’m feeling very mean and she’s conked out beside me, snoring with her eyes open, as I type this.
My friend Anna’s dear black labrador Harry had to be put down. Anna came over one night this week and we toasted that fine gentle beast & talked about what a privilege it had been to have him in our lives.
While I’m on the subject of animals, I highly recommend Jenny Diski’s What I Don’t Know About Animals. I liked her anti-anthropomorphic attitude although I was a little cross with her while reading the sections about why she’s not a vegetarian and why the world becoming vegetarian is not feasible… she trotted out lame old arguments like “What would happen to all the farmed animals? Would there be a kind of genocide, and how could we justify them becoming extinct?” Well Jenny, it wouldn’t work like that (I wanted to say)–we would gradually stop breeding them, and the last ones would probably be put in zoos (although why continue a breed of chickens, for example, that have been modified so their breasts are so heavy they can barely stand?). Farmed hens and pigs and cows would not be ‘set free’ to fail to fend for themselves in the wild.
More animals–the garden is hugely overgrown and filled with many lovely spiders. They have webs everywhere and, guess what, you know what I haven’t seen or heard since being home? A fly!!! Thank you, spiders. I bought eight neon tetras today to eat mosquito larvae. If only there was a small critter like these cleaner fish that I could put on Sailor so it could eat her fleas.
Highly Recommended: I’ve been reading this blog, http://me-and-motherhood.blogspot.com/ Square Pegs, Round Holes, a beautifully written ongoing account of mothering two high-needs children, one with autism.