Friday, 24 May 2013

Don Det: The Lost Chronicles

I have had a very lazy week. It's been raining every day it seems, and as a landscaper it means instead of feeling gloomy, I get to stay home in pyjamas and do what I please.

For those of you who are asking, it means looking at different visa types for asian countries (Japan!), pictures of cat on the internet (catbeards!), write this very line you are reading at the moment (4th wall!), work on other little projects (Mountain City!), read comics (Chroniques de Jerusalem, Calvin & Hobbes, Naruto!), and play video games (Civ 5, Fallout NV, Minecraft) or just sit around and de-construct my own mentality.

A healthy mix of productivity and entertainment.

When I first started writing Bière de Route I wanted to post a new text every week. Then during travels - as it was also my own personal journal - I started posting almost every day. I wanted to keep this up when I renewed my activity last week, but I don't have that much to say, and not that much of an exciting life at home, so I will go back to once or twice a week.

Enough details, here's part II of Don Det: The Lost Chronicles

"The Mystery That is Soulith"

Soulith at first glance: a Laos man in his fifties with skin darker than bronze, still fit, wearing nothing but old football shorts.

If he likes your face he'll take you by the hand, asian-squat in the middle of the road, and start to tell you your fortune by drawing signs in the sand and making himself understood with hand gestures. I've had mine done three times now and watched countless other fortunes being told.

Soulith, as I would later learn, is deaf.

The theme is always similar, and through drawings and hand gestures he makes you understand what he sees. I can summarise easily: don't worry about the past, you'll make good money soon. Don't travel during year X because the plane you are on will crash (usually the same year you or your girlfriend is pregnant). You'll get married in year Y. Sometimes he tells you the year you will die, but that wasn't very popular so he didn't do it often.

After a month on the island he has taken a liking to me and me to him. He's especially fond of my beard. If he sees me speaking with a girl he will mime taking my beard and putting it on his on face, then shoot us two thumbs up and start laughing.

Over my stay I was lucky enough to meet two beautiful and laid-back argentinas and Soulith approved of both of them. He would see me walking around with her, come by, check to see if her arms are strong and shoot me two thumbs up. And start laughing. Then he would point at his wrist where a watch should be and spread his hand open. "5 o'clock. Meet me at 5 o'clock" it meant.

I'd usually share a beer with him and then get a massage.

I also knew he approved of the ladies because he would show up at One More Bar while I was "working", sit down with us and start his antics: he'd point at her with the left hand, me with the right, then bring his two index fingers together side-by-side and gesture kissing on the cheeks with the his eyes closed. Then he would start laughing.

He'd follow up by slipping a pretend ring on the appropriate finger, point at me again with a cheeky smile and shoot two thumbs up. He would then direct their attention towards my beard and tattoos - and his lack of both. One night he had me draw on his arm with a pen as he sat very still looking proud as fuck until I was done (I tried to draw a bull skull but red ink on his ultra-dark skin barely showed, wasn't very nice, but he was still happy).

Through mimes and drawings I also learned that in 2009 he was at a party on another island (maybe a temple party on Don Son, those are crazy) but drank too much Lao-Lao and somehow cracked his skull open, and that is how he became deaf.

I was also told by another local that Soulith drinks a bottle of Lao-Lao a day.

One day he was walking around with a big brown envelope. He stopped at One More Bar and showed me a laminated letter of praises he received from a Thaï bridge-building company that hired him in the past.

When I inquired about the letter he rubbed his thumb and index together (the money sign) and mimed accumulating a great pile of it by putting his two hands together horizontally and separating them slowly. Then he started laughing.

A lot of locals thought he was a lunatic and an a little special, wouldn't take his money or let him in their restaurant. I was always very sad when I saw this but thought to myself "There must be a reason". It is very rare that a Laos person is blocked entrance to another's house as in Laos culture, every one is supposed to be welcome anywhere, anytime. Ken later informed me that it is because he is too much like a farang, a foreigner. It is okay for us to behave like we do, but not for him. The way he suggests to people that they marry is considered rude in their culture. He has forgotten his roots.

Over my 3-month stay I learned a good deal about him, more than most people I would like to brag. He was apparently a kick-boxer in the Philippines in his younger days. There is the business of building bridges, and his art of massages that I will cover in a later text... He must have been extensively trained (some say by monks) as there is no one else on the island (or that I've met so far) that does his type of massage.

The legendary man and his shorts

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