Today our plan is to get one of the shots of them biking on the road and try to get some other Laos culture shots in the afternoon. We can’t shoot the normal stuff in the afternoon because there’s some holiday where everyone goes to look at boats or something. I kind of forget to be honest. This morning we’re right back in the truck bed, but I’m feeling a bit more tired because Ben, Abby, Lauren, and I went out to get dinner and stayed out late last night. Okay, late for getting up at 4:00 AM, not late in normal terms.
On our way to the shoot Ben gets inspired and we jump out and try to get some shots on the road leading up to town. I think something happened with the lens fogging and the camera not being on, so we probably won’t get to see those. Then, we got a woman walking her cows down the street away from town. I got a few pictures of this.
We went back to town to get our three stars to ride their bikes down the same street to get a shot of them going to school.
Looney and Paan on their bikes to the right and Suk standing looking at us on the left.
At some point we went up to the village to look over town (I forget which day now and we say this giant spider!
The first picture makes it look much more like a big monster. Actually when I was in the bathroom I saw another spider and came out to tell Pavath, another PoP staff member. He took in what I said and then said he also saw a big spider that jumped out of the water bin. That’s when I went in and saw this one in his bathroom, which was probably about three times the size of the one I saw. It’s probably close to the size of my fist. I already asked about what animals/insects to be afraid of and was reassured there are no poisonous spider in Laos. Yeah, but there are still some that can take off a finger apparently!
The whole day of shooting we were driving up and down the street and things got really frustrating and hot. It was another hard day, even though it was only a half day. We got some good shots though, so it felt very rewarding at the end when we sat at the chief’s house and ate a big pile of fruit. I regret not taking pictures of the fruit, I’ll make up for that soon. I’d say most of it was new to me except the apple and mangos.
These dogs had the same idea I did after this half day in the sun.
We leave this village to go back to town. Everyone looks pretty exhausted and takes the break opportunity to sleep or take care of some other stuff at home. I planned to be out all day so I decided to stay at the film crew’s guesthouse and hang out. The afternoon has been planned to just consist of driving to a village to get some Lao culture shots, so a lot of people said they wouldn’t be coming. Uhh, no way was I one of them. That sounds like a great opportunity and I excitedly said I would be staying with the team.
Lauren, Ben, Abby, and I stayed in one of their rooms and watched clips Ben put together and just talked about the shoot and life in general. We got to hear a lot about the history of Deltree and what’s it’s like to start a company in their business. After a few hours Aaron came back over and Lanoy pulled up to pick us all up. Without hesitation I jumped in the bed of the truck along with Ben, Abby, and Lauren. Aaron stayed in the back seat to hold the camera rig to make sure it’s safe.
We drove through town and got on a boat to take us across the river. This is a boat and a new direction I’ve never been. On the other side we drove through some bumpy windy roads and the crew told me the last time they were here they had a lot of fun. Apparently the road gets a lot worse and the surrounding more beautiful. We get to a crossing where we have to drive across a river which has a path only slightly lifted from the bottom. I’m not sure if they just ran out of materials or didn’t want to disrupt the current. Either way we’re in a truck, so we easily handle the challenge.
I have to add something here: Just this past week some of the PoP team drove through this area after some disaster size rains (will talk about this in more detail in a later post) and they said that school children had to walk across in groups to not get swept away and people put motorcycles on sticks and lifted them above the water because it was so high. It sounds like a bridge here would do these people a lot of good.
Not much further down the road we come to a fork and Lanoy knows exactly how to make decisions because she doesn’t even hesitate before taking the one that just goes straight.
Not much further and the road does start to get much worse. A few times Lanoy pulls over and talks to people walking along the side of the road. This area must be where she’s from or has visited a lot because she seems to know everyone.
Then, one couple and their baby she talks to hop in the truck with us. It’s obvious they don’t know English and we don’t know any of the languages they speak. All I know is how to ask them what their names are. After I hear three names I don’t know how to repeat, we all just sit there and look at each other. I don’t remember who started it, but they start laughing and that starts a chain reaction of everyone else laughing. Thinking about this situation then makes me laugh harder. I’d say for about 5 or 10 minutes we don’t have much silence between our laughing. None of us really knew what we were laughing at, but it was the only form of communication we all shared. Thinking back on this moment a lot since it happened has really made me appreciate what happened. I have to say this was the most beautiful and inspiring cultural moment I’ve ever experienced. Our two groups didn’t have any way of communicating, yet we still found a way to share our joy and appreciation for each other. They were glad to be picked up and we were glad to get that kind of direct experience with some of the locals. Everyone there was truly blessed by each other’s presence and the only way we knew how to express it was to laugh.
Eventually we broke out of that bubble and went back to our lives and communicating with our own groups the way we know how. Lanoy pulled over and picked up a second group of people to join us. She pulled over a third time and picked up two small kids to join. This is also just explains Lanoy perfectly. She gets things done, but never forgets other people along the way. In fact, I’d say she makes other people her main focus. Any time she would pick us up in the morning the bed of the truck would have a cooler loaded with drinks and she would do so much to make sure everyone had what they needed and felt comfortable. That also shown through he helping these people along the way through our journey to these villages.
Eventually we pulled up to a small village and stopped right in the middle. It seemed like everyone in the village came out of their house and circled us, just to stare. I hoped out, smiled, and took a good look at all the people. Hey they were doing it with us, so I felt like it was okay to do back. That’s when I saw some guy who was on this machine that looked like something I’ve never seen before. I got a picture:
He would pull that bar, parallel with the ground attached to the strings, back and forth and the long stick attached to the rock would move back and forth. Apparently he was grinding something in between the rocks at the end. A very interesting way to grind. All the villagers were around Ben, Abby, and Aaron as they were trying to get a video of this contraption, so we had to try and distract them. Lanoy started the truck and told the village elders to help us get the kids to chase us in the opposite direction as we drove away. Before we left, they got the shot and all join us in the truck. Now we have a big group of people standing around us waiting for the signal and we don’t really need it anymore.
I got a picture of a young girl, hopefully holding her mom’s baby for her as she rested. It’s an interesting baby contraption. I’m used to seeing babies strapped to a woman’s back with a piece of fabric in Ghana. Now these look more advanced and a bit more American with the baby at the front.
We drove off and sure enough all the people chased us, the children lasted much longer than the rest.
I kind of felt like we were in a movie as we drove away. Clearly it was panned and I knew that, but it still felt a bit surreal.
On our drive back we stopped a few times to get some shots on the mountain overlooking a village. Then, back on the road we picked up a few more people. We picked up an old woman. I jumped out to take her back pack thing off and help her up into the truck. When I took it off her shoulders I grunted, half in surprise and half in strain, when I realized the pack was way heavier than I thought. We pulled over along the way again and got another shot. I got a good shot of Lauren showing the old lady some photos we had taken.
Eventually we dropped the woman off and continued the rest of our way back home.
At home I hung around a bit and talked with Ben in his room as we unpacked some of his equipment. We had some really great conversations and that just lead to Abby coming over and us all going to dinner. At dinner we continued the conversations over an amazing meal at the same place we ate at when I first ran into them on the street. We all got tired and decided to take a Tuk Tuk home and get rest before the next full day of shooting.