In Lao language, a village road is hom.That's a bit like a rural route I suppose in North America. Muncipalities are divided into districts and districts are broken down into villages. Villages in Lao language are ban. I live in Ban Phonphanao on Hom 15. I digress only because hom looks a bit like home and that's what this post is about.
A few weeks ago, I taught my students some phrases using the word home. Phrases like:
· Home is where the heart is.
· There’s no place like home.
· A home away from home.
More recently, in an article entitled Hope and Home, Rabih Alammedine describes the sequinned kitchen of a Syrian refugee in Lebanon who tells the writer, “It’s good to have something beautiful to come home to”. And there’s the word home again. I look around my home away from home. Is there beauty even if I don’t have sequins?
· The morning breeze through the open windows because it’s often the only time of the day when I can feel comfortable without running a fan or the air conditioner. From where I sit at the breakfast table, I can look out through the screen door and across the porch to the gate and watch the clusters of frangipani flowers nodding in the gentle gusts of air.
· The blue-hued mandala pattern on my Rajasthan bedspread which I brought with me to Laos from Canada. Pure luck that it fits my bed here perfectly. Since re-arranging the furniture, the bed is the first thing you see when you enter my home.
· In the kitchen, there’s a blue fridge and it turns out I’m very fortunate to have one of these much-sought-after items of culinary kitsch.
· The collection of Lao memorabilia on the shelves: wedding invitations which are too beautiful to throw away; candles and ribbon from a birthday cake my students gave me; two seeds from a jackfruit, almost Ikea-like in their simplicity, remind me of how delicious the fruit is.
· A comfy chair where I can read or watch a Netflix download on my phone.
Creating home is also about feeling like you’re part of the neighbourhood.
· I’m getting adept at dodging the vehicles and motorbikes as I cross the road outside my house. I watched how the dogs do it and noted that they cross in a diagonal direction.
· Speaking of dogs, the village dogs have lost interest in me. A sure sign I'm fitting in.
· The lady who grills and sells bamboo-wrapped breakfast takeaways along the side of my road always greets me with a nop as I head past her on my way to work. The other day she saw me go by, we nopped and 5 minutes later she watched me scurry back home from across the street. Two minutes or so later, we nopped one more time, I shrugged as if to say “what can you do?” and then we both giggled. I wasn’t going to attempt “I forgot to turn off the air conditioner.” in Lao language.
· The vegetable lady at the nearby market smiles as she hands me a basket so I can select the quantities of vegetables I want. I’m still learning their names.
· Yesterday, returning from grocery shopping, I became aware of somebody who must have been trying to get my attention because there was nobody else out walking on that stretch of road.I turned and there was my friend, Yooni, pretty in pink and waving at me madly from the back of a motorbike. “Sabaidee” I called as the motorbike roared away.
Yes, I’m getting to feel quite at home. There’s another phrase for my students.