It was a pitch black night as I lay huddled in my tiny 2 man tent. The heat was stifling and light cast onto the tent showed silhouettes of dozens of different insects attracted to the light and crawling all over the outside of the tent. I could hear the noise of crickets and frogs outside and hear the little scrit scrit noise of insects as they climbed around the outside skin of the tent. I had two choices. I either left the shelter of the tent to turn the light off and hope the insects left with the light, or I could huddle in a ball and wait for daylight and the insects to leave. I huddled.
As I was traveling slowly up the Mekong to my final destination in Lao, Huay Xai on the Thailand border I realized I had no digs booked. Luckily I still had some credit left on my phone so scanned the internet for somewhere to stay when I came across this gem of a guest house The Daauw Home. I had planned to arrive early at the border and spend a few days either hiking or hiring a moped or maybe even a combination of the 2. I arrived at the Daauw Home and basically never left. There is still a small part of me there even now.
When I arrived all the bungalows were booked so I had to sleep in a two man tent on the veranda of a building they sometimes use as a schoolhouse. Not my most comfortable nights sleep. The next day a bungalow became vacant so I moved in there for the remainder of my stay and became a volunteer. The charity is called the Kajsiab Initiative and provides a place for the local villagers to sell their hand crafted goods in the Woman Empowerment shop. They also take on interns from the local villages and give them training in the hospitality industry and help with their English. In return they get a fair wage and a feeling of accomplishment working with similar people in a group that is just like one big family. By the time I left I felt as though I was leaving family behind they are that welcoming. The home also provides free lodging and shelter for families of patients at the nearby hospital.
My first task I was given was to get the children together and get them all to draw the local tuk tuks and take pictures as one of the sponsors is a tuk tuk firm. Right, how was I going to do this. The kids were constantly running all over the place and the age ranges were from little toddlers up to young teens. Discipline was going to be a problem as there was no way surely they were all going to stop what they were doing and listen to this Hobo Falang. I had gathered paper and pens together and found some pictures of the tuk tuks on my laptop, so it was just a case now of actually getting the kids together.
I need not of worried as it turned out. As soon as a couple started drawing the rest came out from all corners of the home and the next thing I knew everyone of them was patiently copying the picture from my laptop. Some drew more then one picture and some really used their imagination and started adding trees and roads. None of them were a bother and all of them were just such good amazing little kids. When they had finished I took photos of all of them holding their pictures then that was the job done. Phew.
Next job I thought I would chop some wood. Shouldn’t be a problem. Back in merry old England I would spend hours chopping wood for my fire. Easy right. Wrong. I have not done any of that sort of graft since losing my job over a year ago and all the hard calluses from working in a phyisical job for 25 years had gone. My hands that I used to be able to use as sandpaper had turned kitten soft. Withing 20 minutes I had painful blisters on both hands. Ouch.
I had received an email from Lara who runs the Daauw home to help Zjong who is in charge while she is away with her English. Especially with regards taking bookings and confirmations online. Zjong is an amazing lady who despite a troubled first marriage has become strong and has now remarried to a good man and has a new baby. The best way I decided to do this was to write a list of all the common sort of messages dealing with bookings and confirmations and canceling, then explain each one to her then when she is sure she understands get her to write next to each one in describing her own language.
This was going really well when her little boy came toddling up and without a pause or anything out came a tit and the boy was being fed. I sat there for a few seconds with my mouth still open stuck in mid sentence. Then my brain kicked in I shut my mouth and thought now would be a good time to take a break. A beer seemed like a good break at the moment. Looking back it seems strange now how speechless I was for that moment. I had seen it before just not so close and with no warning. I soon became used to it as Zjong was not the only woman there with a baby to feed and I was fast becoming just another part of the family.
Next I booked to go and see the village where many of the people staying at Daauw Home come from. It rained none stop for the hike there but luckily two pretty french women come along too and that always helped. They even volunteers themselves and taught the kids some origami. The village was just how I imagined it to be. Thatched roofs and dirt floor. These people barely had a pot to piss in and they were always so kind and friendly. We ate a freshly prepared meal in the house of one of our guides sister. The food was delicious. The rain had stopped when we finished eating so the hike back was a lot dryer and we could enjoy the views more.
Then all to soon it was time to leave. I said my goodbyes, had a few hugs then some of the guys took me to the border in a tuk tuk.
I made a video with the photos I took and I hope the guys at the Daauw Home get to see it and like it as I know the song has a special meaning for them.
Thanks for reading.