June 1st was International Children’s Day, so Lori thought it might be fun if Noe and I participated in some of the activities marking the day here in Vientiane.
…you can probably already see where this is going…
We’ve only lived here for nine months, but that’s long enough to have learned a thing or two about Laos. One, is Lao people take their holidays (and everyone else’s) VERY seriously. And by serious, I mean, lots of partying, lots of drinking, and lots of shopping. Two, they LOVE babies and kids. And by love, what I really mean is that they love any opportunity to feed their kids treats and then release them out into the world to terrorize everyone else. On Children’s Day, these two facts of life combined to make for an experience for which Noe and I will long be seeking therapy (but at least we’ll be in it together!).
There was a free event going on at the big swanky mall in the city center. I wasn’t thrilled about spending an extended period of time in a mall or checking out children’s activities. But Noe and I went anyways, and it ended up being far worse than I ever could have imagined.
Children, the out-of-control jacked-up-on-sugar-and-soda variety, far outnumbering adults, packed like sardines, running wild everywhere. Ear-bleedingly loud children’s pop music punctuated by ear-bleedingly loud announcements in Laos echoing throughout the cavernous building. Unattended toddlers, high off their butts on kiddy-crack, driving around in power wheels, running into everyone and everything with no disregard for human life. Bubble gum, candy and every other kind of sticky nastiness strewn across the floor.
Even Noe, who usually loves a good party, was terrified at what he saw. Less than five minutes there and we were ready to go…but our ride home wasn’t ready. So we ducked into the quietest and least exciting shop for kids that we could find (an optical shop) and waited out the horror, all the while Noe craning his neck in the carrier to look back at me as if to say, “Where the hell do you and mom get off taking me to a crazy crap hole melee like this? You both disgust me.”
Yet, the most appalling thing I saw at the mall on Children’s Day was this pristine ’59/’60 Chevy Corvette left to protrude into the main entrance of the mall. Now, whoever thought it was a good idea to leave a $100,000 museum piece (worth about 50 times the average salary in Laos) out for every grubby kiddo in Vientiane to rub their boogers on as they enter the mall on Children’s Day — without so much as a rope or other protection (the nearby shop staff didn’t seem to mind) — should have their head examined.
Fortunately, by Sunday, that horrible day of days was a distant memory — just in time to enjoy another date night with my favorite (and only) baby mama!
Until now, we were under the impression that there was just one single, solitary craft brewer in town (Rock Brew). But Lori, bless her heart, caught wind of a second and was hell-bent on trying it out. Obviously, I needed little convincing.
A dozen locally made craft brews on tap here in Vientiane? Sounded too good to be true. But we couldn’t NOT try it out. Because there’s always the “what if.” What if it actually turned out to be true. What if the beer was halfway palatable? It seemed unthinkable, but we needed to find out.
We arrived and saw six large conditioning tanks behind the bar and our skepticism began to wane. We were handed the menu, and sure enough, half a dozen house beers graced the double-sided menu — lagers and pilsners, yes, but also a red ale, a wheat, and even a black ale!
After careful consideration, we made our choices, but I still had a funny feeling. A young guy with minimal English came over to take our order. We pointed at the beers we wished to surprise our taste buds with, but he seemed confused…not a good sign. He ran away and quickly returned with a young lady who spoke marginally better English. She explained that those two choices were “finished.” Well darn. Okay, fine. We pointed to two others. “Finished.” Two others. “Finished.”
Oh, that sinking feeling, again.
Okay, let me ask it another way–do you have ANY of these beers? Apparently, they had the craft brew lager. Classic. Not terribly exciting, but also not BeerLao, Thai beer, or Heineken.
The beer came out and actually ended up being pretty tasty–more along the lines of a pilsner than a lager (perhaps their filtration system was a work in progress as well?).
Corebeer, as it’s called, has a lot of potential. But, as is often the case in these parts, it was sorely lacking in the stock department on this particular weekend. We’ll cross our fingers and try again. In the meantime, we’ll just have to settle for cloudy lager.
After a delicious meal at L’Adresse (French food seems to be a theme on these date nights of ours), we decided to make it three-for-three and try out one more place we’ve never been to but had been curious about: Salana Hotel’s top deck Living Room lounge. We had originally planned on grabbing a drink in their ground floor restaurant, until I looked up and noticed something peculiar several stories above our heads. We decided to check it out and found one of the coolest and unique offerings in this part of town.
Inside, the lounge is a comfy upscale bar with no shortage of couches and cushions — but the narrow wrap-around outdoor balcony beckoned us.
Speaking of new places, this place just opened up not too far from Lori’s work. Kaffa cafe has proven to be a good additional option for working and enjoying a caffeinated beverage. In addition to their unique and inviting atmosphere, what sets them apart is their authentic Vietnamese-style coffee (served the way they serve it in Hanoi), and tasty food offerings from the báhn cuông joint next door.
And, their toilet signage is pretty unique as well…
Ah, the rainy season.
I was waiting out here for delivery from the one “Mexican” restaurant in town (which also doubles as an Indian and chicken joint) when it began to storm…hard. Lori was also due back from taking Noe to a doctor’s visit. So…I poured some BeerLao in a frosty mug and watched the rain come down, waiting for the wifey and boy (and Mexican food) to arrive safely (which they did).
Noe had his third respiratory infection in just over three months, within a week of his last day at daycare (and big kiddie birthday party at a friend’s house). Perhaps, due to our preparedness (and paranoia?) we were able to catch it early and didn’t have to go over the border for care.
We decided to take Noe to a French physician at the French Clinic in town for a second opinion. While he wasn’t able to tell us much we didn’t already know, he took the time to go through Noe’s medical reports, lab work, and x-rays with a fine tooth comb and took it all seriously, which was awesome. We’re still awaiting some additional allergy lab results and will be taking Noe to see a pulmonologist in Bangkok when we are there for one of Lori’s work conferences at the end of June. In the meantime, we’ll continue to nebulize and keep Noe home with daddy and nanny.
In other news, Noe finally figured out how to open the door to his corral, which is something of a game changer.
I don’t like putting him in the corral with the door locked often, but it’s been a life saver if I have to run out and put laundry up to dry or prepare his food. The door has a little latch that’s pretty difficult to open for little hands.
On this particular day, I put him in his corral, locked the door and left to make his lunch in the kitchen. When I finished, I turned around, and to my utter astonishment, saw him sitting quietly in the doorway of the kitchen watching me. When he saw me, he let out his classic Noe giggle: HE-HE.
Absolutely puzzled, I took him back to the other room, put him in the corral and locked the door to see what would happen. Sure enough, he darted right to the door, put his little hand on the latch, yanked it up and pulled the door open. The thing is, I had even put a very heavy chair in front of the door in the unlikely case that something like this would happen — not thinking in a million years that he would be able to unlock the latch and simply pull the door INWARD and crawl UNDER the chair. But that’s exactly what he did.
And don’t ask me why he’s still in his sleep sack. I’m sure there’s a very good reason. Or maybe not. On second thought, I don’t have a good excuse for that.
Speaking of baby food, I’m sure you all have been just so curious as to where we get our baby food here in Vientiane.
Well…we make all of his food. All of it. Well, that’s not entirely true. We feed him yogurt made locally here in town, and have been giving him bits of what we eat too. But by and large, we buy fresh fruits and veggies — whatever we can get our hands on at our neighborhood “fresh market” (local fruit and vegetable market) that look healthy and tasty.
For the fruits, we dice up mango, papaya, starfruit, and watermelon to feed to him. As for the veggies, we prep and puree them with the Nutri Ninja (accompanied by the monster voltage transformer we freighted from the States), then freeze them into cubes that we can later defrost, mix with fortified baby cereal and feed to him by spoon or with “Little Squeeze” pouches.
Noe’s favorites are sweet potato, kale, purple yam, and a carrot and green bean combo that Lori does (because the green beans here are really bitter). Yet, his top favorite remains breastmilk, even if it is becoming more of a supplement than a main course.
We make up his food every 1-2 weeks. I generally take the peels and stems and throw them into my compost, but when my compost is full, I like to puree the leftovers and spread them on my plants for a sort of expedited compost. The tropical sun and humidity turn this stuff into plant food pretty quickly. I balance the PH with BBQ ash or coffee grounds depending on the PH reading taken with my handy dandy PH/moisture meter.
As for Lori and I, we get most of our dairy products (yogurt, milk, etc.) from Xao Ban here in town, which has the option of using reusable glass containers. They also brew Belgian-style beers, which are quite good!
For meats, we shop at Lao Fresh Meats — reasonably priced, quality meat, grown and processed locally. Some of our favorites are the burger patties, ground pork, cured sausages, Lao sausage, and lemon cured pepper bacon, which is fantastic.
I’m still looking for a solid local (Lao) supplier for chicken (which is what I cook with the most), but for now I get it from the Betagro of Thailand (which, after all, is only a few miles away) sold at Hom Mai, Rimping and probably other places too.
Tonight, I’m grilling up yogurt/beer/ginger/dill/lemon/s&p-marinated shish kabob with zucchini, roasted garlic (grilled in tin foil), homemade baba ganoush (hence the roasted egg plant), and homemade hummus (not pictured). Only thing I’m not making from scratch is the pita bread.
Lastly, I leave you with this heart-melting image of Noe helping mommy hold the umbrella. We thought this was a one-off, but have found that now, he INSISTS on holding the umbrella (with a death grip!) whenever we go out. Have to switch hands? No problem! Turns out he’s ambidextrous…at least as far as umbrellas are concerned. I’m not sure if it’s a comfort thing, if he wants to do what mommy and daddy or doing, or if he just wants to do everything himself. Regardless, no matter how much of a stinker-butt he’s being, the minute he grabs onto that umbrella, somehow all is forgiven.