Daily Life, 1-8 November

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We’ve been enjoying seeing all of the photos of fall colors from friends and family back in the U.S., and feeling far removed from it. In Vientiane, it continues to be the usual hot and muggy, and to be honest, we love it. It suits us and seems to suit Noe, too. The mosquitos have been far less of a problem than in Belize, so far. We’ll see what the coming months bring.

We lucked out arriving toward the end of the rainy season, going into the cooler, dry season here — which of course means it’ll still be bloody hot during the day, but the mornings, evenings and shade will feel a bit more refreshing. Despite the historical end of the rainy season, we’ve still managed to get some pretty hefty rain storms here. Lori and I actually really enjoy the storms, so long as they don’t last for weeks on end and our clothes still manage to dry on the line after a day or two.

In other news, we’re quickly approaching the two-month mark here in Vientiane and still eating out every night for dinner, which isn’t necessarily a bad (or even expensive) thing in Laos. However, I am itching to cook again and start spending more evenings at home.

Lori’s work permit and visa were supposed to be processed in 3-4 weeks (her other recently-arrived foreign coworkers received theirs in less than three), but for whatever reason hers is taking quite a bit longer than that. It’s not a huge deal, but does mean that our freight is still sitting in Portland ready to ship (can’t ship until Lori’s legit).

Lori’s organization covered a specified amount of freight to follow us here, which meant we were able to pack quite a few household items we already owned, rather than re-purchasing them abroad. This included a lot of our kitchen utensils and wares. Much of the freight was also devoted to Noe, as family and friends were quite generous and gave us all sorts of useful things like cloth diapers, teething supplies and hand-me-down clothes to use over the next two years.

The freight is an awesome perk, to say the least, and we are very grateful for it. But the delay has started to make things a bit more challenging with Noe. Do we start to purchase necessities we already have on the way, or continue to get by for an indefinite time? Time will tell. It does certainly make things interesting, and the day-to-day challenges and unpredictable nature of life in these parts is a big part of what we enjoy about this lifestyle. But it will be nice to have our cloth diapers soon.

And with that, on to more of our sampling of Vientiane’s local and international cuisine. This here is Tuesday:

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Senglao Cafe is a fun and funky retro-cinema-in-the-jungle-themed cafe. It’s certainly not cheap, but the food is delicious and the menu is chock full of dishes you’d be hard-pressed to find anywhere else in Vientiane.

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Lately, we’ve noticed that the Mister is developing quite the fixation on beer, or more specifically, beer in a glass. Like ceiling fans a few months back, he loves nothing more than staring at the brews of all colors and textures. Immediately after the beer is poured, his eyes will dart from whatever they were looking at and instantaneously lock on to the glass.

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This does not happen with any other beverage, be it water, Coke, Fanta, or wine. Just beer. Guess I shouldn’t be surprised. His Great-Great Grandfather delivered beer from a horse-drawn cart in Austria. His Uncle Dan, has been working for years in the craft brew business, while his Poppy, Uncle Matt, and Cousin Chad home-brew. Too bad his old man doesn’t like beer at all. Nope, not one bit…

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Noe discovered the joys of thumb-in-mouth shortly after birth, but the falling-asleep-with-thumb-in-mouth is a new one.

We had been chatting the other day that it’s been a while since the Mister has blown our minds with any new baby tricks. Then, last Sunday, we finally had some downtime at home and Lori decided she’d do a bit of gentle prodding to see if she could get Noe to roll consistently from back to front. By the end of the day, not only was he rolling back to front, he was rolling front to back and off his play pad. Then, Lori left for work the next day, leaving me with a baby who, just 24 hours prior, could be trusted to stay put and play quietly with his toys, but now, couldn’t be left for five seconds without ending up three feet away from his play area with his mouth around a power cord and hand halfway in the socket. Not really that bad, but you get the picture. Thanks, Lori.

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It had been several weeks since we bummed around Chanthabouly (downtown district), so we headed there Friday. Lori brought a car home from work, but was still rearing to make the 2.5 mile trek on foot with a baby. Just one of the many things I love about that woman.

We visited a place we’d been wanting to try for a while — Jazzy Brix. Again, another really awesome bar/restaurant space here in Vientiane, the likes of which would be packed on a Friday evening in cities across the U.S. Here in Vientiane? a healthy smattering of people to keep the place up and running, but no waiting for a choice seat, no shouting over the din of patrons. And best of all for Noe, we’re outside of the U.S. — Minors Allowed Everywhere.

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We chuckle about that latter point a lot. B.N. (Before Noe), we rarely gave any thought as to whether kids were allowed or not allowed at a particular drinking establishment.

The vast majority of countries I spent my adult life in outside of the U.S. doesn’t make the distinction. Yes, there are certainly places you wouldn’t think of bringing a child, like, say if the establishment is long on neon and short on windows, or has the letters “VIP” in the name. Every place else, you look at the clientele and waitstaff and use your judgement.

So, when we returned to the U.S. after 18 months away and were tasked with finding a happy hour venue that would allow us to imbibe with our 3-year-old nephew (and his parents) in tow, our minds were absolutely blown by how many of our beloved drinking establishments were suddenly off limits to us! And these were food-serving, casual places, not rough-and-tumble biker bars.

Often, if a restaurant in the U.S. doesn’t have a clear demarcation between the bar and the dining room, then the whole place is off limits to the under 18 crowd — it’s often pretty hilarious what counts for one of these dividers. Thank goodness for the ticket-counter-style rail between us and the bar, or else little Jimmy for sure would have gotten wasted tonight or seen or heard something inappropriate.

Which, of course, begs the question how many of these places choose to not make a distinction simply because they don’t want to have to deal with kids, cause after all, Americans hate kids in public spaces. They really do. You bring a kid anywhere except a designated kid place and people look at you like you just strangled a kitten. In most places of the world that we’ve visited, there is little distinction between family places and grown-up places, particularly during daylight hours. In most countries we’ve traveled through, and particularly here in Southeast Asia, interacting with a child is literally the highlight of most people’s day, young or old, man or woman. In the U.S., that’s not generally the case, and there’s something very wrong with that. But I digress.

That’s a burger and Negroni in the above picture, in case you were wondering.

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We enjoyed our time downtown so much, we decided to go back two days later — this time with a vehicle, though (and no, that isn’t Lori’s work vehicle in the photo). We hadn’t been by the old neighborhood yet (where we stayed in 2012), so thought it might be fun to start from there.

Pictured above is Siri 1 Guesthouse, where Lori and I stayed for three nights our first time in Laos. Still up and running and looking as lush as ever. Not surprisingly, the building they were working on next door is still under construction four years later.

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And, Eagle-eyes Lori spotted this place across Rue Saigon, aptly named the Beer House — perhaps my new favorite drinking establishment in all of Chanthabouly.

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A dictionary-sized menu offering [almost] every Belgian beer imaginable (except the really rare stuff) in yet another really lovely setting that you would be hard pressed to find in the States (and again, you’d be hard pressed to find a seat and relax, if in fact such a place existed).

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Noe’s a sucker for sofas. We don’t have one in our house, but thankfully Laos is full of ’em!

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Monday morning, we ran out of contact solution. No worries, I’ll just take a stroll down to the corner Walgreens. Ha!

We knew moving to Laos that contact solution was going to be one of those more difficult-to-access items. So, we planned to bring a full bottle with us, and two twin packs in our freight to get us by until we were settled. Well, I somehow left the bottle in the States before we left, and our freight is a month behind schedule. Doh!

We were able to get a bottle downtown at a pharmacy when we first arrived, but haven’t actually been able to find the place again. There is another pharmacy I had been wanting to try, but it closes pretty early and we’re generally downtown in the evening. So, I did what any devoted husband and father would do in this situation. I strapped my child on, trekked two miles into town in the rain, and…

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…hit up a coffee shop.

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But not just any coffee shop, mind you. This is The Coffee Bar!!! Where coffee isn’t just a beverage, it’s a science experiment!

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The Coffee Bar offers a variety of methods of getting the deed done, but their signature method involves loading the coffee in a contraption that looks like a rum bottle tipped upside down and slowly heating the water with a halogen bulb, producing just the right amount of heat and pressure to make some really exceptional stuff.

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Light-bodied, low-acidity, flavorful, aromatic, and high in caffeine. I’ve died and gone to heaven.

And apparently in heaven, my wife drives a delivery truck.

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She’s still learning all of the different license plates to the work vehicles and thought she was signing up for the Ford Ranger she’s been driving. Imagine her surprise when she went out to parking lot. Though, I have to say, I think the look suits her.

Oh, and I did manage to find contact solution, right down the street from The Coffee Bar. Wouldn’t want to leave you hanging…

Forget absentee ballots, vote by email overseas!
A Gloomy Day, Indeed
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