The night before moving day I spent hours attached to the toilet with an untimely stomach bug. Tired, weak and fed up, I packed up my room in the morning and waited for my friend to come and pick me up to take me to my new house.
Except this is Laos and things do not always go according to plan. Of course I think I know that. But I am still frequently caught out.
When Phen didn’t appear I called her and she had forgotten. No big deal, she came straight round but her friend who had said that he would drive couldn’t make it, so Phen called her brother-in-law who drives a tuktuk.
As we neared the house the dirt road got very muddy and at one point became unpassable on the tuktuk. Phen told me to get out and I had a minor panic. I didn’t really understand why, but I did not want to get out of that tuktuk. I tried to push it out of my head, rationalising that I needed to trust a bit more and not get angry, that I was just stressed and tired and ill. The tuktuk went off back down the path with all my belongings and made it to the house a different way while Phen and I went by motorbike.
When we arrived at the house there were three guys sorting out the garden and the property agent. Everyone helped to bring all my bags in and then Phen and I set about sorting out a whole lot of very important practical things – drinking water, gas, teabags! Phen was a star and we made quick progress. Then she left to go to work and I started to unpack.
It was only then that I realised that one of my bags was missing. And that it was the one with my passport and cash in it.
Everything that I’ve been learning over the last few months flew out of my head in an instant. I actually remember consciously thinking “f*** mindfulness – now I have to panic”!
In my defense, losing my passport here is a big deal. There is no Embassy and I’d have to sort our paperwork to allow me to go to Bangkok to get a new passport. There was also quite a lot of US dollars in the bag. And mostly I was confused (what had happened? had the bag been stolen or had it fallen out of the tuktuk?) and angry with myself. When I was packing up my stuff I remember thinking that I should put my money belt on rather than shoving it in a bag – but I was tired and careless.
My poor new flatmate, Lis, moved in in the middle of my stress. To her immense credit she suggested pasta and pesto and Beer Lao as comfort foods…
And I realise that I have this amazing network of online and in person support. Phen and Somlod (from Villa Lao) came back to visit and our property agent Sai also came to see if there was anything he could do. My sister in particular and my facebook friends in general put up with me ranting in a truly ungraceful manner.
I am not at my best when things go wrong.
From the moment I woke up the next morning I was planning my day. I would go to see the police to report it missing and then go to the Australian Embassy to arrange the paperwork to go to Bangkok next week. I picked up my phone to call Sai to see if he could go with me to the police station – and I saw that I had an email.
It was a friend request from someone I don’t know, so I almost deleted it. But I opened it out of curiosity and there was a message attached: “I have your passport. Call me on this number…..”. I called and it was a man who lives in a house very near to my new house. His driver had given him my passport and student card earlier that morning and he had searched for me online and found me on facebook. I knew my facebook addiction would prove beneficial at some point.
An hour or so later I was cycling along the canal path and I heard a voice shouting “hello hello hello”. I stopped and had a half English half Lao conversation with a man who is the security guard who found my bag and passed it on to the driver who passed it on to the guy who found me. He said that when he found it there was the bag and a few things in it but no money. Somewhere between him and me the bag and contents disappeared and at some unknown point the cash disappeared – but you know, that really doesn’t matter. I hope someone is making good use of it.
Now I’m left with a nagging unsettled feeling about what it all means. As I typed that I chuckled to myself because I can hear in my head some of my friends saying “why does it have to mean anything?” and others giving an immediate assessment of what they believe it means.
I’m not sure.
What I do know is that I’m enormously grateful to the people who found my passport and made the effort to track me down and also to those who put up with me panicking. Hopefully the incident will aid me on an ongoing journey of learning to look after my stuff better. But also to let go of stuff. If I’d lost the passport it would have been a serious pain in the neck but I would have been alright. I can see that now!
So off I go back to my mediation cushion, to try to internalise the words that are written on my keyring. “Breathe, it’ll be alright.”