May 27. COPE-ing with UXOs

Our arrival in Vientiane should be different than Vientiane, I think, and stick obstinately to my idee fixe when we arrive at the bus station. NO tuktuk, we are FINE, we know our way around. We walk a couple of miles and indeed, reach central Vientiane and lose about an hour. We make ourselves comfortable in one of the affordable hotels alongside the Mekong river, freshen up, and I head out to the Vietnamese embassy for a visa. I hitch a ride with a very coooollll German guz in a Landrover, gee ce type a traversé le monde entier! He has been everywhere and Laos was a stopover for him to arrange visas for Russia, Mongolia, and Kasachstan. He has been on his way for two years doing what? Filming a documentary that he is trying to seell to German media houses. The truck plus equipment cost a fortune. Anyway, he kindly gives me a ride to the embassy since he knows where “they all are”. The American embassy I had just seen must have been a fata morgana, I learn from him. I take things for granted when they come from experienced people. So we chat and chat and finally get to the Cambodia embassy. The Vietnamese embassy was nowhere near there, and in fact I had been right in the beginning. Here I am, a guy who has navigated the whole wide freakin’ world can’t find his way around in the quiet, orderly town of Vientiane… I stick out my thumb and hitch a ride to the real Vietnamese embassy, where I can buy the relevant sticker in my passport for 50 dollars.

I also visit “COPE”, an NGO supporting people with disabilities, in particular victims of unexploded ordnance (UXO) that outrages me and every other human mind who knows about this. Their exhibition is really well done and very informative. I decide to support it and will return on Monday with Yeon.

At night, we go to a presentation about the role of women in Laos. It is what I have expected, and I enjoy it. What else? I brushed my teeth, washed my hands, and we stay at a little hostel facing the Mekong. Whatever! Vientiane is really calm and laid-back.

We have a brunch with a German lady, Dagmar, who tells us her compelling story: she is editing and publishing an autobiographical book about a Lao monk. It’s what keeps her here, and what keeps us listening. It is really nice and I hope she will publish the book.

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