It’s been in only the last few years that we have seen them come through. With there white skin, big smiles and heavy backpacks. They pass through Cheng Maek; after all it is just a border town. The Thai’s have always been here, they stop to buy the goods we offer for less, hand made baskets, delicious fruit like durian and pineapples and the best coffee on earth, I’m proud to say, but the Folong, they hardly step out of there air con vans. They go and spend there abundance of cash in places like Don Det, Pakse, and Vien Chan. My name is Mr. Khamphene; I am Lao and work in the office of ministry of plant quarantine for the border crossing of Chang Maek. In my office where I sleep on the floor every night, a Folong joined me the other day.
The foundation has been illuminated. In all cultures, in all humans, certain traits, expressions and norms exists that we can call human.
In one of its simplest forms, it is illustrated as the startle reflex. It appears after six months of age in all humans. Where after hearing a loud unexpected noise the body executes an uncontrolled response, by widening the eyes, sagging the arms and shoulders and buckling the knees, the body is positioned to absorb a blow. The connection doesn’t end there however; the emotional association to colors is another, the appreciation of beauty in all its form, the universal rules of structure by comparison and contrast, i.e, male vs. female, single vs. couple, young vs. old. By these means we are able to classify a person, draw conclusions based on the contrasting ideas.
Where in the states one graduates from high school, turns eighteen and becomes an adult. Buddhists families send the son at twenty to become a monk upon doing so he becomes a man and the family secures their place in heaven. Contrasting, child vs. adult and the cultural ritual which ties the two. Marriage rituals, funeral, eating, and folklore; these are universals and the image they form may be different but, there purpose is the same. The base line that all humans operate under, where the universal expression elucidates what it is to be human.
It was just the other night about nine thirty in the evening; I was finishing up the daily report when, Duon, a daughter of Miss Ma Many, came into my office.
“Um…there’s a Folong, at the restaurant, he’s saying weird things that we don’t understand, he says he’s not going to Pakse, to a guest house, but staying here. Could you come talk to him?”
“What do you mean, staying here, where?”
“I’m not sure, my mom tried to talk to him, to warn him that it’s not safe but he says…I don’t know. He’s just there.”
The night was warm and thick with moisture from the nearby Mekong. He sat relaxed in the red plastic chair of Mrs. Many’s restaurant surrounded by the women of the family. He had books, the girls where looking through his journal at all the English words and he through their simple textbook. He was smiling and cow li li, very white.
“Ah, Sabidee” he said
If I fear and react to an idea, an intangible entity. Something that does not exist, for all that does exist is this moment and our choices in it. If I react to it, it exists. It comes into being in my mind and my actions are a product of it. The evil that you talk about, I perpetuate because I have altered my course based on fear of something that does not exist. However, if I act out of good and harmony and do not fear then it does not exist in me. If someone or something seeks to do me harm that is there choice, unrelated to my reality. And the thing that stands to be defended, the material possession or the lease on life is never mine, it is just the moment with my responsibility to my choices, my actions, my thoughts.
Like the statue of Buddha in the monsoon winds, he was unmoved by our warnings, he just smiled and in the end asked that we not worry, that, that does no good either.
The chief of the village arrived. I explained the situation.
“Is it alright with you if he sleeps with you, in your office.” asked the chief
“Sure, but, I don’t think the Folong will.”
“Yeah, if that’s all right with you?” he said.
“Yes, of course, it’s alright with me, it’s alright with the chief and it’s alright with you!”
That night in the office safe from the mosquitoes, my biggest worry, Mr. Allen read and corrected a report I had typed in English. I was so thankful for his help, I had studied English during my training, it is a prerequisite and necessary for my work. Mr. Allen was also very thankful and happy to be in my office. In the morning he brought me prunes from the duty free shop and explained they were from his home, he was very surprised.
It’s funny how things can change so fast by just looking at it in a different way.
Leave a Reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.