Monday, November 30, 2009

Sorrowful Savannakhet songthaew journey

The mobile clothes’ shop came to a halt. It was a songthaew lined with clothes’ rails that was moving from village to village to sell to the locals. Our songthaew pulled in just after it to pick up a woman with a baby. The young mother’s smile revealed betel-nut stained teeth; the nine month old child was dressed in a royal-blue eskimo hood. The mother had just been to visit a shaman, some 50 km from her home. She explained that she had visited the shaman because the baby kept crying at night. The shaman requested 50,000 kip up front (a small fortune for a local) and then a donation of a shawl and sinh (woman’s skirt); after that she would just have to pay the bus fare for the visits. The shaman had offered to take care of the child until it was older but the mother could not agree to this but did agree to make regular visits to the shaman. The mother was worried, she said. This was her eighth child; the other seven had died. Many of them had died at several months old; but two of them, young teenagers, had died in a hospital in Thailand of insect-related disease.
The mother explained that she used to have farmland but her husband had to sell it so they had no rice for eating that season. They were just growing vegetables and bamboo shoots. I gave her my bag of sun-dried buffalo meat as she stepped down from the songthaew.

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