Floods bring joy as well as sorrow

|     Patithin Phetmeuangphuan     |

VIENTIANE (Vientiane Times/ANN) – While Vientiane has been in the soggy embrace of floodwaters for the past few weeks and people have watched as their crops and homes became swamped, the excess of water has produced some unexpected benefits.

Children have had a great time playing in the water that invaded their neighbourhoods, while their parents have enjoyed some productive fishing.

On a recent Saturday afternoon, the sky over Nontae and Lathkhouay villages in Xaythany district was a dark blue as rainclouds gathered yet again and a light breeze turned the air a little chilly. But this didn’t deter the local children who were delighted in the swimming pool that had suddenly appeared in their street.

Parents were not able to stop their children playing in the water and they frolicked as though they were in the sea – a rare treat for children living in landlocked Laos.

It’s a long time since I saw flooding like this in Vientiane. My last recollection of such an event was somewhere around 2002 but even then the water didn’t reach the levels that is has now.

Children enjoy playing in the floodwater. – VIENTIANE TIMES/ANN

I had almost forgotten what fun it was to play in floodwater but this joyful scene brought memories rushing back and I smiled to myself as I stood and watched the children play and recalled my own childhood.

My attitude is different now because I’m concerned about the water being dirty. I don’t know if it’s just because I’m an adult, I’ve been taught about the perils of unclean water, or I’m no longer familiar with such spontaneity and the joys of simple pleasures. I also feel there’s a lot more plastic bags and bottles floating around in the water today.

I recall now, the flood that occurred during my childhood lasted for two to three weeks. My primary school was on the other side of the body of water that had appeared out of nowhere. We didn’t have any kind of boat or vehicle to get us across so we took off our clothes and put them together with our books in a plastic bag and swam across.

At break time and after classes we went into the water again to play before going home.

That’s the joy of being young – children can always find something to play with, and derive delight from the most simple things.

The floodwater that surrounds us now contains a large number of plastic bags and bottles that we have carelessly thrown into the river, along with numerous other items.

Some of the boys I watched playing used polystyrene sheets as floats, placing them inside their t-shirts and using them like a life-jacket as they swam. The ease with which they moved through the water reminded me of dolphins.

It could be a dangerous pastime but children in rural areas are quite good swimmers and there are always people around keeping an eye on them.

Those among the group I was watching who couldn’t swim just played at the side of the road where the water was very shallow.

Nearby, the riverbank was lined with people waiting for a tractor to take their motorbikes to the other side.

The floodwaters also delivered some good-sized fish and villagers were able to cook up a tasty meal.

There was more fun the next day when people set up speakers to play music by the river, gathered a whole lot of food and drink and had a community party as the children continued to frolic in the water.

Nontae Village Chief Vixay said people hadn’t lost a lot of crops because the village was on relatively high ground and the water had only flooded some sections of the road, but people in neighbouring Lathkhouay village had lost most of their crops when the river overflowed.