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While we were living in the refugee camps in Thailand, my aunt left the family and got married. I was too young to remember her but my family spoke of “the aunt who got left behind” all the time growing up. My aunt and I met for the first time. She lived two hours east of Nong-Hai Village. Her house was nested between two hills, the north side led to a Laos Village and the south side led to a Hmong Village, and the closest market was an hour car ride away. Apparently, she had just moved to this part of town and was currently the only resident on the block.

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Every year, the villagers took a trip to the biggest cave resting along the hills in Nasavang to gather soil to start their crops. We were so fortune to be able to visit the cave and observed the daily struggle that these villagers had to go through to just find soil for their crops.

Sadly, the path was too steep and I never made it to the cave but I did cheered everyone else on from the halfway point. 🙂

My uncles disappeared for a day and when my parents asked where they went, nobody said a thing. We later discovered that they went to find a cow to sacrifice for a soul calling “hu plig” ceremony for my parents, and I. In Hmong, a “hu plig” ceremony calls on the spirits to be in good health. My uncles hosted the ceremony to make sure our spirits will be in good health for the rest of our trip.

The view of the house as folks gathered at the house to prep the meat.

The men prepping the meat:

The following day, one of my uncles threw a soul calling (hu plig) and we were invited to join in the feast. At the feast, my father met a long lost cousin of his and he invited my parents and I to visit his village which was a 30 minutes ride from my grandmother’s. That evening, we plowed through the dark to visit the uncle and his family. I was a little freaked out since there were no street lights and I only had a travel size flashlight, but my fears went away as soon as I walked in the house. I looked at their faces and realized that they all had the same face structures as my family in the states. Indeed, we are defin. long lost families.

I accompanied my father and uncles to visit my eldest uncle’s farm. My uncle mentioned that he normally slept at the farm most of the week, 6 out of the 7 days, because the farm gave him a sense of peace. Having a sneak at the amazing landscape myself, I couldn’t agree more.

I, now know why my grandparents and parents missed the homeland, Teb Chaw Nplog (Laos) and the beautiful landscape so much.

There was a tiny rain storm when we woke up the next morning. The rain helped calm the wild dirt and dust,and filled the village with a nice, fresh air. We didn’t do much but continued to unpack and visited with families. It was nice to wake up without an agenda or schedule to follow.

After a restless night jetlagged and without any sleep, we explored the Talasou Market in Vietiane, and then, headed north of Vientiane to Nasavang Village.

In Vientiane, there is the option to rent a both a driver and a car to take us north so that was what we did. The driver took us north along the Mekong River ( pronounced as ‘Nakong’). The roads were not consistent. There were areas that were perfectly paved and other areas completely unpaved and recognizable even as roads.

About 6 hours into the trip, we stopped at Xanaka, the next biggest market in the area with a mini clinic, to rest and buy groceries for dinner that night.

We left the city at 11am and arrived in Nasavang Village around 8pm that night. It took us 9 hours! It was already dark but the entire village came to greet us! Despite that fact that people (both families and neighbors) were greeting us from left to right, my mother walked past the crowd and headed straight to my grandmother’s house to look for pots and pans to cook dinner. We haven’t ate since we left the city that morning.

After our first meal of rice and broiled chicken with lettuce (which never tasted so good), everyone gathered around my grandmother’s house as my mother handed out the gifts we packed from home. The expressions on the children’s faces were priceless.

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