BOUNKHAM told us that he
was born here. Here, too, his mother died when he was only eight years old. His father
remarried, taking as his wife a woman from another village, and the family moved from
village to village during the years when war and strife tore the country apart. Not until
now did Bounkham have the opportunity to return. An uncle, his mothers brother,
still lived in the village, but he was very old. Bounkham had brought two cans of
condensed milk as a gift of respect for his uncle. He could not bring more than two
because the trail was rugged and the extra cans would have been too heavy to carry.
"Will anyone in the village remember you?" I asked.
"I dont think anyone will remember, but I will try to
ask the people in the village where my uncles house is, since I dont remember
We kept walking, admiring the abundance of the gardens and
orchards as we looked here and there. Then, from one of the gardens on our left, a
pregnant woman appeared, carrying a basket of various vegetables.
"Sabaydee, Auntie! Where do you live?"
Bounkham inquired politely.
"Oh, around here she answered hesitantly, suspicious of our
"We came from the city. I am from this village, but I went
away many years ago. Ive come back to visit," Bounkham explained, hoping to
ease the womans mistrust.
"Oh, really? I dont recall anyone of your age who grew
up here. Whose son or nephew are you?"
We told her our names. Bounkham even mentioned the names of his
parents and uncle. The pregnant woman told Bounkham that she knew his uncle well: he lived
in the southern part of the village. She lived in the northern part and called herself
"Mae Poon." Bounkham showed he had never heard the name before. Nevertheless, he
responded casually, as if he remembered her, "Oh, Mae Poon, how is everything in our