Dazed & Confused

Back in Laos, Noe and I are up at sunrise following a harrowing night chasing elusive z’s — merely the first of several, it turns out.

By Dave

Filed in: Expat Life, Laos

So how long does it take for a 14-month-old to adjust 10-hour time difference? Far longer than Lori and I ever imagined.

We anticipated challenges on the first night back. I was awake before dawn. Incidentally, so was Noe. Actually, I’m not positive he ever really slept. We know we sure didn’t. I knew I wasn’t getting back to sleep, so decided to take the kid out for a stroll to let mom get some uninterrupted sleep. As I’m buckling him into his stroller, Noe finally decides he wants to sleep. The sun is coming up but not yet brutal. It’s the best opportunity all day for him to get light exposure to help him with the transition, so I try and keep him up for another hour or so before a morning nap. Turns out, this battle will be the first of many into the weekend and through the next week. But for now, it’s a beautiful morning and it’s good to be back in Laos.

There have been a few changes in the month that we’ve been away. Not surprising, given that things seem to be changing on weekly basis in town. Old buildings disappear overnight, only to be resurrected as yet another trendy cafe or coffee shop. What was a trusty family-run tailor shop or corner grocery today transforms into a bubble tea joint or bra shop tomorrow. Entire apartment buildings or city blocks, here today, vacant lot tomorrow — making way for yet another foreign investor who hasn’t done their market research in the hopes of striking it rich when Vientiane finally takes off. It’s a strange time to be in Vientiane.

Touk Tick, long a local eatery, transformed in a month to a trendy cafe.

This place (Smooth) seemed to pop up out of thin air along a street I walk several times a week. I don’t even remember what was here before. I think it was a residence, and I’m pretty sure this is an addition to a house that was standing here, but now we’re sitting in their front yard drinking BeerLao.

Sleep or no sleep, baby food somehow still gets made.

Between two-hour naps, Noe’s not quite himself, getting into things he rarely did before. He’d gladly sleep longer during the day, but that’s not going to help his nights. We thought it would take him 2-3 nights to get back on something resembling a schedule. A solid week later, we were still having to wake him from afternoon naps and hearing him awake throughout the night what seemed like a dozen times.

After two days back in Laos, we decided it was time for a date night. The two of us had been with Noe almost 24/7 for the past week, including a long journey back from the U.S. It was time for a little break. We left him with his (and our) favorite nanny/sitter and headed out for a night on the town.

Our first stop was Tea Talk Chinese Tea Room. Just the previous day I had been lamenting how in a year we hadn’t been able to find one proper Chinese tea room. As luck would have it, Lori had driven by this place recently and we decided to check it out. It was exactly what I had pined after, complete with a friendly young woman from Yunnan province (our favorite of our China travels and where we came very close to moving to prior to Lori getting the offer for her current position) presiding over the tea ceremony.

Afterwards, we went about balancing the effects of the Chinese tea with beer at one of Vientiane’s only craft breweries: Corebeer. And, just like last time, out of the eight beers listed, they only had one available: the lager, which is actually quite good and tastes more like a good pilsner…but still, we look forward to one day trying their other offerings…if they even exist.

This got us to about 7pm, and we were already hurting. Following date night tradition, we tried a new (to us) French restaurant (Le Terrasse), and while the food was quite good, I could barely keep my eyes open. We’d planned on staying out till 9pm, but turns out that was wishful thinking.


After another rough touch-and-go night, we dragged ourselves to another place we’d been wanting to try but hadn’t — Noy’s Fruit Heaven. Indeed, that is a lot of fruit.

After breakfast, we thought it would do us good to take a walk around downtown. In our zombie state we stumbled slowly around, seeking out caffeine whenever possible. I’ve never seen Lori drink so much coffee. She had one doctored Americano all to herself, which is a 100% increase from her usual daily caffeine consumption.

Here today, gone tomorrow — another case in point. We were walking around Ban Haysoke and were blown away by this vacant lot. Fresh demolition and cleared lots are nothing out of the ordinary in Vientiane these days, but this one was particularly jarring. “Lori,” I said, “isn’t that where the…isn’t that…?” And sure enough, just weeks earlier…

The old cinema, something of a landmark from the 70s, that had stood derelict with its swingin’ facade as one of the few reminders of a time in the not too distant past when the name Vientiane evoked something very different than today.

Yet, another creative way to keep the babe awake during the day…put him in water. He would have gladly gone right down for a nap, but we couldn’t have that — we were desperately trying to keep the daytime napping to four hours max (combined). Few things get Noe excited like a “pool,” so the duck bought us some time.

I’m not sure why we thought it would be a good idea to try and eat out during this period, but by day four, we thought it might be time. In our infinite wisdom as parents (read: zombie state), we also thought it might be good to try out a brand new restaurant during their soft opening. Bad life choices all around. Noe wasn’t ready, we weren’t ready, the new staff at this brand new place definitely weren’t ready for any of it. The only thing we had going for us was that we were the only patrons there. To our credit, we did manage to make it with a possessed toddler until the food came out, at which point I promptly asked the server for a take-away box and the bill.

On top of it all — the transition back to Laos, the time zone transition, the transition for Lori back to work — we didn’t yet know what we were going to do with Noe. Prior to leaving, we were hoping to extend his part-time nanny through September, but his previous nanny ended up finding a full-time job with another family, and our other prospect was only available after two. We eventually settled on sending him back to his daycare part-time. Yet, just days before he was due to start, they made some pretty substantial changes that we weren’t at all pleased with. So, we began the process of shopping around for alternatives.

In the meantime, it was back to me and the Mister, like old times — with a little help from his favorite Cambodian babysitter, and mommy coming home at lunchtime.

In addition to all the other changes, Noe had been eating three solid meals a day in the U.S., and we would need to continue to do that in Laos, which meant more food prep, more creative cooking, earlier mornings, more messes to clean, and more ants. Additionally, he had been drinking exclusively from mommy or sippy cups for the past month. It hadn’t crossed my mind that the days of daddy and Noe bottle time may be limited.

The Monday after we returned, I prepared and fed Noe his first bottle in a month. After five minutes of playing with it, it was apparent this ship had sailed. Seconds after taking this photo, with a lump in my throat and a bit of something in my eye, I slowly pulled the bottle away, poured the contents into a sippy cup, and tossed the bottle into the sink — knowing full and well that, after cradling Noe in my arms and repeating this twice-daily ritual for ten months, it was the last time I’d ever feed my son a bottle.

With that, I put Noe down for his morning nap, found a bed in the other room and promptly passed out.

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