For this week’s WP photography theme “Connected” I’m taking you back to Laos. You might remember from my posts earlier in the year that I had some challenges while we were there, to do with boats and bridges and which, for the most part, I overcame; although, not always with as much grace and dignity as I’d like.
There was one bridge, only one, I didn’t conquer.
The locals may have zapped across on their scooters, John may have happily wandered over and back, stopping for photos midway(!), but I just couldn’t do it. Not that day. Nor any other. Yep, there’s no hiding the fact—I’m a wimp. But look at those planks: dodgy, very dodgy.
I offer no excuses, other than my nerves may have had something to do with a little too much information. The night before we’d gone for a wander around Muang Khua. We came across a fine view of the bridge. It was obvious: me walking across when I didn’t have to? It was never going to happen. Look how high it is!
You could argue that because of this thing I have with heights and moving water, I’ve chosen not to linger on the matter of bridges. You may be right. Or not.
The whole truth, and nothing but the truth, is that one of my great interests is the way in which we connect with each other. Most of us will go to considerable lengths and use whatever we can to make connections, to seek relationships, to stay in touch. (Sometimes, if there’s no other way, even I have been known to walk across a rickety footbridge.)
In Laos, the rivers are an essential part of staying connected. Boats are like buses. They transport children to and from school, move goods around the region, and provide a hop-on-hop-off service for those travelling between villages and larger towns.
As I’ve said before, I feel very privileged to have taken the journey up the Nam Ou River from Nong Khiaw to Muang Khua. Change is happening, and fast. That trip, the way we did it only a few months ago, is a thing of the past—the dam will have closed off the river by now.
The main roads in Northern Laos, especially those to China, are improving all the time. In small towns and villages scooters are very common. They’re ideal for negotiating the pot holes.
Generally in Laos, people live close to each other. No large sections or lifestyle blocks here. Or none that I saw. As John has reminded me, houses that appear cramped to us can provide improved shelter. They have more protection from the wind and rain, and the shared walls retain more warmth. It was common to see at least three generations living together.
Not only has modernisation brought the scooter, it’s also brought television. Satellite dishes were a frequent sight. Often they were put to more than one use. They were especilly good for drying chillies. The dishes didn’t guarentee easy access to the Internet, though. When we did manage to connect, it was slow.
Nevertheless, it was in Laos that we discovered Facebook phone. We watched a fisher smacking the water with a pole to bring the fish to the surface while we talked to our family in New Zealand via Facebook. The world seemed small, until the end of the conversation. Then it was John and me, in a restaurant with no other patrons, a long way from the people we love.
This fire-engine set us wondering how things were back in New Zealand. As soon as we were connected again, we sent the photo to my brother-in-law. He’s a fireman. Luckily for him and the community, his crew have a new fire truck.
Despite the language differences, the cultural, and the religious differences, there’s more that connects than separates us. Just as with home, where the Sunday church bells tell us to get a scurry on, (yes, we’re usually late), in Laos bells and drums sound each morning, calling the faithful to prayer.
Connections are all about people, about the need for relationship, not matter how fleeting. This young Mum, like Mums everywhere, was very proud of her baby and keen to show him off.
How do you stay in touch? The old fashioned way—visits, and phone calls—remember them? Or virtually?
WordPress Photo challenge: “Connected”