13/12/2008 – Wood Collecting and Cocktail Party
I signed myself up to go Wood Collecting with Pong and the family. It ended up being a popular sign-up so the other 8 volunteers and I were taken by mini-bus and the other two tuk tuks followed us into the hills to the jungle.
It had struck me earlier in the morning that I might have got myself into more than I had bargained for when Pong took one look at my outfit, wrinkled his nose and asked if I was wearing that today. I told him that these thin black trousers were the only long pants I had and he looked bewildered that I did not have jeans. So I covered up the best I could, pulled on my little white plimsolls and headed into the jungle.
Once we parked up we climbed through the wooded area down the hill towards the river. The forest floor was rather thick with undergrowth and I was not too excited to see so many insects, including some rather large spiders. What on earth was I doing there? To add to my doubts, the Lao guys were carrying some rather large saws and machetes. I hadn’t realised that we were actually chopping down trees and carrying them all the way back up the hill. In my mind I had imagined a romantic day, strolling through the woods, casually picking up twigs to put in our little knapsacks…..not the case at all.
They got the fire going down by the river and we all climbed back up the bank into the forest to search for dead trees to chop down. I would like to say that I got right in there, but being a puny little thing, I wasn’t exactly much help, so my job mainly consisted of watching the men sweat it out and then I carried some large branches up the hill to the tuk tuks.
After a couple of hours I had had enough of trying to ignore the spiders scurrying away from every step I took, and I was pretty sure the mozzies were working their way through my clothes. So we went back down the bank were lunch was being cooked on the fire. We had fish and water buffalo with sticky rice and chilli paste, some fresh river spinach-type-stuff and very scary looking green Lao Lao rice whiskey. It was all very rustic and yummy. After the satisfying dinner we clambered back up to the trucks and drove back to the hostel with the fire wood.
Back at the hostel I fell asleep on the balcony but awoke in time to do the booze run with Pong and set up for the party. I made everyone Tequila Sunrise and we ate barbequed chicken kebabs and spring rolls. It was lots of fun to hang out with my fellow hostellers but a couple of naughty ones encouraged me a little too much with the tequila so instead of disco and bowling I fell asleep in the tv room with the cat, Tiny.