Simon ‘Wardy’ Ward is nomadonanomad. Not long to go now!
Back for more and my technology failings have just struck again. It’s been almost 3 weeks since I made my first blog post (been busy de-cluttering the house ready to leave Laos) and in that time I had managed to completely forget the process for getting to the bit where I can add content, and/or edit the website. Oh yes, I could read my original post ok, but could I remember how to add to it? Not a clue! So if you remember from my first post what happens when tech stuff causes me issues, it took a long walk, lots of deep breaths in addition to a large mug of tea (I am English after all) and a very embarrassing live chat with a member of the support team to get back to this point.
The folks on the customer support teams have, so far, been superb. I’m sure they deal with hyper complicated stuff from people who know what a browser is etc. (I think it’s an animal that eats leaves off bushes and shrubs) and then I come along squealing for help with the most pathetic questions imaginable. At least they might get to dine out on stories about me, although their friends and colleagues might just think they’re making it up for a laugh, been on the funny cigarettes, or they’re hallucinating.
Anyway, I made it eventually.
So I’ve been up to my eyes in sorting out stuff ready to leave. I really didn’t think I was a hoarder but the last 3 weeks have made it clear that I am. I’ve been finding things that I’d forgotten I possessed, and then I had to do the unimaginable, and go on facebook! (Spellchecker just tried to insist on a capital ‘f”. Not a chance Buster) The reason is that in Vientiane the only way to sell stuff is on the dreaded fb page ‘Vientiane Buy and Sell’, and I hate facebook with a passion! No wonder really as fb is going to be the most likely cause of my death. “What? How do you work that out Wardy?”
Easy. I ride a bicycle. I’m most likely to die by being hit by a car or truck yeah? And why is that going to happen? Because some pillock is going to be driving along and checking how many ‘likes’ they’ve got for the photo of their lunch that they posted to fb three minutes earlier! So, by proxy, I’m going to be murdered by Mark bloody Zuckerberg! The evil sod.
Anyway, I’m sure I mentioned in my last post that I will miss Laos once I have gone. Lots of good things about the place and not very much that’s bad. However one thing I most certainly will not miss is karaoke! Absolutely sick of it and have been for years. It’s endemic in South East Asia as a whole, and it gets on my nerves. The only time they stop the karaoke is to play, for the umpteenth time, Hotel sodding California! And you can’t get away from it as it’s everywhere.
I have a theory about karaoke and have been wanting to meet an Emeritus Professor of Mathematics for years and see whether my theory could be made into a mathematical equation. Let me explain. My theory is that the worse the person’s singing voice is the more determination they have not to relinquish the microphone. On the very very rare occasion that someone gets up and can hold a tune, they are not allowed to last long. Some numpty with a voice like a goose farting in the fog (thanks to Mr. Billy Connelly for that line) will soon be up there wailing and shrieking whilst simultaneously fighting, ninja like, to keep hold of their place in the limelight.
I came across something recently which could be related to the theory I’ve mentioned. It wasn’t about karaoke per se but regarding people who are inherently stupid yet profess to know everything, and it’s called the Dunning Kruger Effect. Amazing! These folks will prattle on about shit they know very little, or nothing about, but try and blag their way through it as if they are experts whilst having no idea of their ineptitude. On the other side of the coin there is the inability of some real experts to understand why others cannot perform tasks that they themselves can do easily. Not quite maths but it’s close enough for me. A standing ovation, but no singing please, for Messrs Dunning and Kruger.
I have a wicked sense of humour. So wicked in fact that I have had to resist the strong temptation to go out of an evening with my camera and record some of these folks ‘singing’, and also telling everyone that I’m a talent scout from Bangkok. I’m sure I could easily obtain some excruciating but hilarious footage very close to my house. I had to give up on the idea because I would have blown my ‘cover’ in no time by not being able to keep a straight face. (I am an uncontrollable ‘giggler’) Then things might turn ugly as a lot of folks have zero ability handle criticism of their singing voice even though they are the worst in the world. So I stay at home, put my fingers in my ears, and count the days until my departure.
Some friends of mine were in the Philippines on business a few years ago. They told me of a bar/restaurant that they visited one evening. Just after ordering food and receiving their first drinks, the ‘entertainment’ started. A three piece band with the worst vocalist imaginable. One of my friends described it thus. “His voice was so bad that if I shut my eyes the only thought to come into my head was horrifically cruel things being done to cats”. (As an animal lover, I’m glad I wasn’t there) At the end of the hour long ‘set’ the guy doing the warbling came over to their table, as they were the only Westerners there, to make smalltalk. Very quickly he asked, “well what do you think of my singing?” My friend, who is even older and even less tolerant than me, replied, along the lines of, “You know I can’t imagine a worse voice if I try. You shouldn’t inflict that on people, it’s just not right”. An honest assessment upon which the ‘vocalist’ burst into tears. Just goes to show that he’d never heard of the Dunning Kruger Effect.
One more thing I’m not keen on here in Vientiane is the traffic. Not so much the volume of it, more it’s unpredictability. (Please don’t think I’m negative about Laos. Most things here are great and the few things I’m mentioning I hope I make light of, and point out the funny side?)
I was told when I first came here by a long term ex-pat that most folks on the roads here were first generation drivers. He then added, “expect them to do the worst thing imaginable when driving their car or riding their scooter, and they sure as hell won’t disappoint you!” Many a true word spoken in jest.
A few years ago, when I still had ‘Lottie’ the car, some friends came for their first visit to Laos. One night I was driving them home at about 11.30pm and we came to an intersection. The light for us was at red but I cautiously, and whilst looking in every direction, noticed the road was clear and I went through the red light. (This, I must add is night time ‘procedure’ only) My friends went nuts! “What are you doing? That was a red light!”.
I explained that there are no traffic cameras here and the police all go home at 5.00pm and only occasionally come out to set up a road block, checking documents, at known places. I also explained that everyone else does it! So my friends settled and we carried on. The next intersection we came to the light was at green but I slowed right down and very cautiously edged my way through. My friends enquired as to why, when faced with a green light had I not just driven straight through. My reply was, “because some ‘eejit’ may come whizzing through from any of the other three directions. Believe me it happens!”
Also regarding traffic lights, I remember riding home one night on my motorbike and noticing that the traffic lights at the intersection near my house were not working. By default, when this happens, the amber/orange lights flash in all four directions. I thought about how long it would be before they were fixed. Hey presto! Next morning, and quite early as it happens, I was on the way out again and the lights were working. Wow, that was quick, and I forgot about it. The next time I was out in the evening they were out of action again, and flashing amber. It took a few occasions for me to realise that a decision had been made to switch the lights to amber every night at 11.00pm. Madness! I really thought there would be carnage at this particular intersection and I vowed to be extra vigilant. Not more than about 6 weeks later it dawned on me that there had been no accidents there, not one, and all because no-one was shooting red lights and traffic from all four directions was slowing right down and taking care. Just goes to show what I know! The trial was soon extended all over the city with great success.
I mentioned earlier that the police tend to go home at 5.00pm. This can make for a situation that I call the ‘Laotian Standoff’. This occurs when someone parks their car illegally and the traffic cops see it and clamp it. The phone number to call for payment of the fine and subsequent release is written on a post it note and stuck on the driver’s window. It goes on all day long but at about 3.00-3.30pm the driver, if they are not in a hurry, can sit tight in a cafe or restaurant and wait it out knowing that the cops will want their clamp back before going home. As ‘Lao time’, mentioned in my first blog, can work in both directions time wise, the driver may only have to wait an hour before the clamp is removed and the cops go home licking their ‘wounds!’ ‘Voila’, no fine.
So less than 5 weeks to go before departure and some time at home ahead of my adventure/disaster. I really will miss Laos, my home of the last 11 years. It’s very peaceful and laid back, the people are generally friendly and like it if you have fun and joke around. The climate is great once you’ve got used to the heat, (it took me a year) and it’s safe, which cannot be said for some places these days. I know there will be a huge sense of sadness when I see ‘Mia’, my motorbike, being ridden away by her new owner, and even some fond farewells to ‘Roxy’ my bicycle who, in a roundabout way, has been my inspiration for what lays ahead.
As always, thank you for reading this far and may your God go with you,
Simon ‘Wardy’ Ward