February 17, 2006
Waking up in LaosThe two roosters started before first light, crowing in conversation. Or competition? They were raucous, but in a comfortable way. Then some minutes later the drum started. Low and slow at first. Then picking up speed. Syncopated. Setting the heartbeat for the new day.
We were waking up last week in Laos, in the capital city of Vientiane in a guest house that seemed to have changed little since the 1940s or before. It stands down a lane, off a main road. We investigated the sounds after breakfast of eggs, French bread and strong coffee on the wide porch. We discovered the roosters—and hens and chicks—next door, in the yard of a family home. (Perhaps the hens were responsible for our breakfast?) Across the lane is one of the city’s many temples, which really are compounds of several buildings. We walked among them and found a tower in which a long drum is suspended. The mystery was solved.
But the effect was no less a wonder on us, used as we are to a morning sound mix of car alarm, garbage truck, el train, radio. The next two nights, as we fell asleep, we found ourselves anticipating the crowing and the drumming. And the next two mornings, we reveled in this revelry.
“This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24).
We can hear it still.