What Did Gen… think was the most interesting place I’ve been to?

The most interesting place I’ve been to is Ban Na Yang, a weaving village in Laos near Nong Khiaw. When people ask me about my trip to Laos, this is the first image that shows up in my mental photo album. When I try and distill the reasons behind why that is, it comes down to a dichotomy of how drastically opposite their lifestyle is to mine while reminding me of what I can only describe as “that feeling when you think about your grandma” (it’s familiar…what I mean is familiar). This contrast is how you feel when you see neon yellow and green next to each other – it’s something you wouldn’t usually see, but you can’t stop looking and wondering why. I haven’t seen how a vast majority of my clothes were made yet they create, dye and weave everything themselves. I have never been so far away from home, yet they’ve made this place, that doesn’t have a single sidewalk, a place that means everything to them.

This place was the furthest away from home I’ve ever been. Literally, it was 7,452 miles away. Figuratively, it was the complete opposite of my day-to-day. It helped me anchor my point of view by showing me how relativity is just a way you see the world. Everything was a reference point: the dirt roads, how short the Laotian people were, how hot it was for example. When your surroundings help set your expectations, your 20-minute bus ride down a four-lane street in San Francisco seems just as long as a three-hour bus ride on a dirt road from Luang Prabang to Nong Khiaw.

On the villagers’ faces was history – knowing the turmoil they went through and what they might have seen during the U.S. Secret War in Laos to years and years of equatorial sun beaming down from above them without having societal pressure of sun protection force fed into their brains. It was all apparent in how they simply held themselves. It was peaceful and so content in knowing what their truth was. It was life.

They were born in Laos, and they will probably die in Laos, but they are there and that was ok. In the hour I was there, meeting only 15 or so villagers and sitting in a home and having tea, I knew instantly what their priorities were: family, food, the land that they live on, keeping their craft alive and having a place to call home. Here in San Francisco, you need to dig a little deeper to understand that about the people around you.

From 7,452 miles away to none, we’re more alike than you think. Together, we got it.

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