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anna fitzgibbon

jill of all trades 

Penny Wise & Kip Foolish


It was a day. Well, it was more like two days. And they were nothing short of bizarre. In the years following, I would wonder if I had just had a dream seven years prior and managed to convince myself that I had this great story to tell. Travel companions have reassured me that it did in fact happen.

I once climbed out of a canoe and walked up a dirt path to cross the border into Laos. Interestingly enough, this is the legal way to enter. I paid about $15, a shockingly high rate of entry compared to my Swiss and Dutch counterparts, but that is to be expected; we had only distanced ourselves from the Bush presidency by a year.

It was within hours of arriving that the other travelers and I committed to a two-day slow boat to Luang Prabang. The reason? This was the adventurous way to get there, so say no more—we were all in. We hauled our overstuffed backpacks down a muddy hill and climbed onto an entirely wooden boat with rows of warped benches somehow designed for two passengers. And slow the boat was—chugging along at a painful pace that at the time was another wonderful weirdness to add to the collection.

After the first day, we had become friends with every passenger and at the end of that day, we stopped in a town for the night that was literally one dusty road with a few concrete structures (I want to say no more than five total huts for no more than 50 total yards). We picked the first place in search of room and board, and managed to negotiate our way down to two dollars for the night (or 16,000 Laotian Kip). We glanced only long enough to see a hole in the floor and a hose coming out of the wall (the shower and toilet presumably) before locking our belongings in the room with a padlock and booking it to the strip's only place to eat. The goal was to stay up as late as possible, so as to spend fewer hours in the room with the hole. We finally made our way back, only to be woken hours later by the sound of construction.

Now this construction sounded close- too close. I ran out of the room to find the man in charge, whom I spotted as I grunted and pointed above us (my Laotian was limited to numbers 1-10 and the words for "toilet" and "thank you," none of which applied). The man looked at me, not even slightly alarmed, and stated, "We demolish." The lessons? Number one, Laotians have an extensive English vocabulary. Number two, always remember to splurge for the three-dollar room.


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