I didn’t tell my cousin that I would be in town because I knew we would be extremely busy touring the NGOs and other offices. I didn’t think I would have enough time to be with her. But tonight I found my way to her storefront.
We’ve walked pass a couple of times, as we went to dine at the newer dig owned by Australians, and stopped by ‘Big Brother Mouse’ bookstore for gifts to bring to the preschool. Things had changed so much since my last visit in 2005 that when we walked by, I wasn’t sure if it was indeed her storefront. There were so many new, neat, and nice things around.
Well tonight we had a break and after sipping drinks by the Mekong, we headed to a French Restaurant via her ‘storefront’. Tonight I felt compelled to swing in.
A woman was sitting in front of her TV, surrounded by merchandise. She turned around when we walked in and I asked if she knew my cousin Da. After a while, her face turned into someone familiar. She was my cousin Da. She said my name first and we laughed. I told my friends I would meet up with them later.
Cousin Da and I sat in her store, surrounded by merchandise with a Thai TV show running. We chatted, the ease of our conversation broken up only when customers came in. Her customers were foreigners as well as locals. Everyone seemed at ease with her.
As she was attending to customers, I would look outside at the neighborhood. So much has changed in three years around her; the upscale restaurants, storefronts, guest houses. Her storefront though, did not change much. It was still bare and humble.
I found myself appreciating her simple store, especially after running around having meetings all week, and being overly stimulated in the ‘new’ Vientiane. My cousin Da’s and her store reminded me of the Laos I first visited in 1999. It was unassuming, and I felt at ease.