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Giant Pink Elephant

Giant Pink Elephant

Setting off to an unplanned journey, I bumped into a giant pink elephant. Many devoters came to this huge elephant, believing that it could make your wishes come true, in a short time. I had no particular wish when I confronted this pink creature, so I wished that, ‘May the wishes of the person next … Continue reading

  • Ignoramus is not a vocabulary that we use in daily lives, it could be an offensive term that describes a person who is completely ignorant or stupid. This word was lingering around me during a boat journey that I look in Northern Laos recently. The trip includes a small remote village called Muang Ngoi, that has no road access. To reach there, from Luang Prabang, one has to take around 3 to 4 hours of bus trip, then another hour of boat trip. The boat was scheduled to leave at 11 in the morning. It is usual to have some delays but at 11:30, we started to feel a bit unease, especially under the scorching heat. Another 15 minutes later, there was still no sign of departure, and we found that the drivers of two boats supposed to depart that day were quarrelling, both trying to get more passengers and hence more fees. Then a woman asked some of us (mostly foreigners) to move to another boat, without giving any explanation or direction about which boat is departing or when the boat is departing, or if the boat is departing at all! With over one and half hours of delay, both drivers became exhausted with the disputes, and the boats finally departed. During the boat journey, I couldn't help thinking how foolish the situation was. Because of the small profit disagreement, the two drivers kept over 30 passengers waited for a long time. While the journey along the river was breathtakingly beautiful, I also saw the river being increasingly polluted. Plastic bottles from beverages were here and there floating along the river, and worse still, black ashes resulted from forest burning were literally covering the river and the air was smoky. People in nearby villages still practise 'slash and burn' agriculture, and it was the season for them to burn the forest and prepare for the next rice planting season. Of course people are not aware of the detrimental effects of their practises, to both their living environment and their own health. They have been practising this for generations. There was a woman from the Kahmu minority group with two small children traveling in the same boat. The woman appeared weak and the children were obviously suffered from malnutrition. The mother told us that she has another daughter who is very sick. There is something wrong inside the kid's stomach that makes her very painful, but the mother has no idea what is the problem. She repeatedly told us that her main problem is: she has no money to cure her child. Her helplessness does move me, and I regretfully note that she is not the only one who suffers in their society. What is worse than having no money is has no idea what's going on, has no awareness, and being ignoramus. And because of that, their lives were exploited by others. There is something special about our destination, Muang Ngoi. In addition to its serene landscape, this sleepy Lao village has a painful historical past. It was one of the most heavily bombed villages during the Vietnam war or cold war era, and people survived by hiding in a nearby cave. I wonder if these innocent people know anything about the civil war in their country or the cold war in the world, and I also wonder if the world knows that these innocent people were and still are the actual victims of the war. Today, the river is drier than usual and water level becomes unpredictable because of the hydropower projects in the upstream of the river. Locals' livelihood is affected as they get less fish than before and many were relocated involuntarily because of these projects. Again, the villagers of course are not able to understand the significance of these hydropower projects, and equally we are equally ignorant about the significance of the projects to people who are mistreated. At the end, I wasn't sure who is the real ignoramus.

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