It became a recurring thing, the Hmong “Lost Boys” coming up to us, and asking us to buy them shoes or pants. It’s a tough predicament to be in. On the one hand, just giving away money encourages life on the streets. Turn your back on the hungry, and of course it makes you feel bad for living the charmed life that most of us have taken for granted.
It is customary for Lao people to ask company if they’ve eaten yet. Even if you are a complete stranger, some type of refreshment or nourishment will be offered. It’s that hospitality that makes me feel proud to be Lao.
While we were having a literal feast in Phonsavanh, some of our group members noticed the Hmong kids darting in front of the restaurant. ST says that all they asked for was our rice. Having way too much food, the kids happily wolfed down all we had left. I guess word got out that we weren’t your typical “farang” tourists or backpackers. Most of us were of the Laotian Diaspora, leaving as refugees, yet still keeping the culture, language and heritage, and returning to Laos to reconnect with a lost homeland.
After dinner I asked the kids to draw some pictures in my journal and also just asked them their interests and future goals, the same thing I do with the kids back home. No matter the country, poverty level or social situation, every child likes to draw. I had a “Nacho Libre” moment while engaging in the short art session.