Friday, Aug 15 – Riding along Fa Ngum Road, next to the Mekong River, the streets are filled with people coming to watch the sunset on the Mekong. Except tonight, the streets are particularly crowded. Laotians – young and old are bent over, filling up used plastic rice bags with sand. The Mekong River has swelled to its highest in 40-years. News reports show that over 500 families have been displaced and the Mekong Promenade, near the Vientiane city centre, might be next. Many shops and restaurants are closed throughout the city, as the owners flood-proofing their homes and neighborhoods.
As we drove along the river, no less than 48-hours in Laos, I witnessed what has been described as the essence of Lao people. As Vivi and I turned a corner on the river road, we felt some kind of vibration. The noise became increasingly louder as we drove, and the crowd became larger and flowed into the streets. The vibration noise came from 3 huge speakers stacked on top of each other, towering over the store next to it. The people of Lao had turned the worst flooding in 40-years into one big street party!
There’s a Lao term, “saabai,” which translates to “at peace.” Often we will greet each other with the question, “are you saabai?”. It’s as common a greeting as, “How are you?” Saabai is also the way of being, of living, of reacting to life’s many situations.
And tonight, driving along the Mekong River in Laos, during the worst flooding in 40-years, the people of Lao were saabai, saabai.
Thanks to all who sent notes – worried about our safety during the flood. We are all safe and doing well.