Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The barking dog

I've never been much of a dog person. When I moved into my rental here in Luang Prabang I was unimpresed that I'd have to share my front yard with two mangy mongrels. My landlady, who lives in the same compound, assured me that her dogs were necessary for security - and for the past six months I've pretty much despised them for the way they've barked at anything that moves, often in the middle of the night for long periods of time.

Some evenings, when they've charged at me in full voice as I enter the gates, I've barked back - particularly at the smaller one - a grey and white spotted thin-faced mutt who seemed the dumber of the two. A few weeks ago I noticed he'd become a little frail. He was barking less. My landlady told me he was refusing to eat. In the days that followed he has grown thinner and weaker.

Last week I came home to find him lying on my front porch. Despite having no strength, he lifted his boney body off the ground, head down, and carried himself down the steps - knowing that I'd never liked him sitting there and that, in the past, I'd shooed him away. I felt terrible and tried to stop him from leaving. I told him that I was changing the rules. That he was now welcome to sit on my balcony. I went and got a bath mat and laid it on the porch, along with a bowl of water. Each night since, he's been sleeping on my verandah. Last night we sat together in the darkness and I hummed his emaciated body a song as I watched his rib cage rise and fall in the half-moon light.

I was afraid to open my front door this morning because I know that soon he'll be dead and that I was the girl who, only a month ago - when he was barking his brains out at 2am - had wished that fate upon him.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Shadow graffiti on temple walls

"Do you ever feel lonely?" the novice monk asked me as the sun sank around us, "because I live with many monks here at the temple but I feel lonely. I miss my parents. They live so far away. I think, if you live alone, you also must be missing your family. I think you feel lonely, same as me. Sometimes I want to leave the temple and go back to my village but my family is too poor to take care of me."

Vithone is 18 years old. His parents are rice farmers in a small rural village six hours from Luang Prabang. They have five other children. They brought him to the city when he was 12 years old so that he could get an education and left him there. Three years later his father visited him. He hasn't seen his mother for six years. His days begin at 3.30am when he wakes and heads to the temple hall to pray. He then walks the streets in his orange robes, collecting alms in his bowl.

"Mostly I get food but sometimes people give me money. I save it because I want to go to university and my parents can not afford to send me. I don't know if I will ever have enough money to be able to further my studies. Maybe one day someone will be very generous to me - then I will be able to go to university."

Before we met, I had been painting shadow-graffiti on the wall of his temple whilst listening to Bon Iver.