Photographer's Note

Day 9
We had arrived in Phonsovan the previous evening. Since the capital of the province, also called Xieng Kuang, had been razed to the ground in the Secret War, Phonsavan became the new province capital. Our first stop of the day was at the Hmong village of Ban Thong, which has 300 inhabitants. We were obviously expected and were invited into one of the houses belonging to the oldest member of the village and her daughter and family. (see WS for a shot of the house). As is their custom we left our shoes at the bottom of the steps and entered barefoot. The only furniture in the room was a large bed. We sat on rush mats on the floor; everything was very clean. We were given home-made herb tea to drink and freshly picked pineapples. It is their custom to make all travellers welcome. In fact local people travelling can expect accommodation at any village. One of our group gave them postcards of London; they were fascinated by them. We were strenuously discouraged from tipping for photos etc. and genuinely nothing was expected in return for the hospitality. Another humbling experience.
This old lady is 90 years old, which, in a country where the average life-span is mid 50s is incredible. (A high infant mortality rate distorts the figures a bit) She had 11 children but 8 of them, as well as her husband, were killed in the Secret War. In a country with no social care a large family is important so you are looked after in old age.
It was very dark in the house so I had to use flash. She is looking at a postcard of Buckingham Palace; not a sight she will see too often. You can just see her knee at the bottom of the frame; her feet were flat on the ground. They don’t sit on the floor cross-legged as Westerners tend to as you would see the soles of their feet, which is insulting to anyone in whose direction they are pointed. I didn’t crop too much so you could see her headdress and other details, but I have severely cropped it, which I like, and put it in the WS. You might prefer that compositionally
For details of the Secret War see here. here and here. Alternatively click on the theme on the left.

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Additional Photos by Kath Featherstone (feather) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 7646 W: 399 N: 14391] (51130)
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