Two hands clap and there is a sound. What is the sound of one hand? — Hakuin Ekaku
I’d say the sound of one hand clapping is pretty much the sound of my progress over the last few months. Rather quiet but rather meaningful, too. With the relentless help of my brother, Steve, I bought a pair of Tingley neoprene boots when I was in the US. They have steel toes and are made in accordance to ASTM F 2413-05, which I think means they are bullet-proof. They made exceptional umbrella stands. But these days of useless idleness are over. Gradually. These boots were made for walking, in water.
And so it was that I went to my land, for the first time in what seems like ages, to see if my boots leak. They would surely have saved Achilles during the Trojan War. Good boots. Thus assured, I got down to less practical matters, such as inquiring about getting electricity from the grid, for construction purposes and for backup for my aquaponic project. It turns out that I can just pull power from the owner’s house on the main road. That’s about 350 meters away. I also surveyed the land where I intend to put up the greenhouse. I was startled to see that the location, which had been flat and inviting in my memory, had somehow morphed into a bumpy downhill grade in reality. So, some heavy equipment is required.
But, assuredly, the most practical step I’ve taken is the acquisition of a Hyundai H-100 truck. This is a work horse. It will carry far more fish and lettuce heads than my now gone Chinese SUV could have imagined carrying. Okay, it’s not sexy, but it’ll do the job. If, however, the resale value of a Chinese SUV wasn’t bad enough, things could only get worse, in a typically Lao fashion. I’d made the mistake of not being present for the “blessing” of the Chinese SUV at the local Buddhist temple because, well, it’s all a bunch of rubbish, I thought. But, in the short time that I owned it, an astounding number of composting worms, thousands, actually, either died in it or were doomed as an indirect result of bad car luck. I mean, I could have been rear-ended at any time. Why did it have to happen when I was smuggling composting worms into the country? I’m no stranger to superstition. This is an animist country with a thin Buddhist veil. The Lao family sacrifice a variety of Buddha’s creatures, or parts of them, to the village Spirit every time I travel. A neighbor at the apartment I stay in when in Vientiane, who recently moved out, and was an outstanding version of an effeminate male bisexual with a troop of children, was one day possessed by the spirit of a dead old lady. That was, I was told, the cause of his sudden lower back pain and even sillier high-pitched voice. Now, I’ve often got lower-back pain, but I attribute it to a high-school track and field injury. It never occurred to me that I may be frequently possessed by the spirit of a dead old Lao lady with lower back problems. He had some lady come, a shaman, of sorts. I had to turn down the music I was playing while she coaxed the spirit to go forth and multiply. He and his troop of children eventually moved out and were replaced by a pretty, bisexual lady with, if not a troop of children, at least one or two, as far as I can tell.
The new Hyundai and I were, therefore, subject to a relentless and altogether exhausting blessing at the temple. The head monk was there and seemed exceedingly pleased to bless the big Western guy and his commercial truck. The vehicle, in its entirety, had to be wrapped in string, the end of which was brought into the temple and deposited on a silver try amongst a variety of essential Buddhist items that we had prepared, including candles, flowers, local moonshine, and, of course, money. He chose the longest Buddhist sutra he could think of, and we listened for what seemed like an eternity while my legs, at least, went completely numb. I’d pointed out that this blessing should be not just for safety, but for success in commercial matters involving the vehicle. I neglected, however, to include resistance to petty theft. For that very night, during a thunderous rainstorm, my shiny new truck’s battery was relieved of its post.
Had Gaga, a dear dog which belonged to the people in the apartment next door, been here, surely the thieves would have thought twice about making my Hyundai 20kg lighter. Gaga loved me and mistakenly thought of me as his owner, often accompanying me to the shop nearby to buy beer. But, alas, Gaga was, himself, stolen a few months back. I hope the assholes who stole him “nearly” choked to death on one of his bones.