After the mango showers...
The mango showers are the pre-monsoon rains that fall at some point between March and April in south India and throughout Southeast Asia also.
After months of no rain I heard heavy rain falling in the early morning of Wednesday, March 4th and it drizzled on and off for the next few days.
After that, in my neighbourhood, mangoes were suddenly dangling from every nearby tree.
A month has passed since my last blog post and a lot has happened. Most importantly, I am no longer in Laos but a month ago I never would have imagined I would be writing this next post in self-isolation from my kitchen table in Victoria.
Of course you know about Covid19 and we knew about it also in Laos. I guess we weren’t really thinking about how it might affect us. There were, to the best of our knowledge, no reported cases of the virus in Laos and life continued as it always had. We read about the lock-down in Italy and we knew about the high incidence of cases in Iran but everything seemed very far away. We organized sports and social events at IFA with the students.
The second weekend of the month, Cuso held a retreat weekend in Vang Vieng for its volunteers, national interns and Country Program Office staff. Vang Vieng was fairly devoid of tourists compared to what I’d seen when I travelled up there last November. I think that’s when I finally understood the effects of the pandemic …people had stopped coming to Laos.
Back in Vientiane there was a lot of partying going on to say good-bye to my colleague, Ian, who was leaving at the end of the week. Nobody seemed concerned about social distancing (a new term for teachers and students alike) as we proposed toasts, sang karaoke and crowded together around tables to eat barbecue. On the Saturday, about 15 of us climbed into a van, drove out to visit a local ethnic museum then stopped for a group lunch on the way home. And even though Ian was having second thoughts about his plans to travel around Southeast Asia before returning to Canada, I was convinced staying in the heat of Laos was a safer choice for my health than flying home to spring in Victoria.
Sunday I moved into my new accommodation, the little apartment where I was set to spend the final three months of my time in Vientiane and where I could watch bananas ripening from my bed. I unpacked my bags, arranged a few items and then set off for a nearby grocery store. The dok khun or Indian laburnum trees were starting to flower that day or else I hadn’t really paid attention until then.
These bright yellow blossoms symbolize the Lao New Year in mid-April and I thought about my own plans to be in Singapore over the upcoming holiday break. By the time I returned to my apartment, stowed my shopping and made a cup of tea, I had a text from Nisha telling me of a mandatory quarantine for all arrivals in Singapore and a copy of a letter to all remaining Cuso volunteers telling them that arrangements were being made to get them back to Canada ASAP.
Cancelling Singapore was easy. My main concern was that I really wasn’t a Cuso volunteer any longer, a fact of which I was acutely aware when I could not see my name on the letter. As for why I was supposed to return to Canada, there was no information at all on the main Canadian news sources.
To be continued…