Project Phongsali: Villagers welcome us with food, drink, and unexploded ordnance.
Bunking here at the hospital, we get a close look at the level of emergency medical care. It’s good for us to know what’s available, since we might need the care ourselves.
Yesterday a girl came to the clinic fresh from a motorcycle accident. I suspect she took a spill on the gravel road that is the main highway through the province. With the doctor gone, the nurse stepped in to dig grit out of the girl’s knee and then stitch her up. It took five or six stitches to pull the jagged wound together, accomplished without any local anesthetic to ease the patient’s pain. As the nurse worked, the young girl did her best to gut it out; she was determined not to cry out, although there were tears streaming down her cheeks.
The nurse was no seamstress and the finished product wasn’t an especially pretty job. No cosmetic surgery here. But, in the end, the girl limped out of the clinic with the wound closed and her knee well doused with antiseptic. In another village, one that lacked the level of care provided here, (and that would be most of the 10,000 villages in Laos) bad things could follow from such a small wound if left untreated.
People in the homes that we have visited have given us food as a welcoming gift. Onions seem to be in abundance at the moment. So is some kind of woody root that, when peeled, yields a white potato-like flesh. Yai was vaguely familiar with it but wasn’t certain how to cook it so we decided to simply steam it and eat it without any garnish. We gave it a try and found it not bad, since it was mostly flavorless. I bought a chicken from the lady a few houses away. It looked like chicken enough for the three of us when it was running around, but when its feathers were gone it looked pretty skimpy. Still, with whatever the root crop was we had a meal.
Before bed, Oratai and Yai went to work on whatever parts of the chicken had not been grilled for dinner. They put leftover meat and bones into a cooking pot, along with the chicken’s head, feet, liver, heart, lungs and gizzard. They created a nice pot of chicken rice soup that’s now set aside to be reheated for breakfast tomorrow morning.
We’ve seen and marked with GPS several pieces of UXO, all rockets and cluster munitions.