So junior’s molar, which has been threatening to drop for the last few weeks, finally did the deed today. He hasn’t, historically, had the best record with teeth.
Lost one in ice-cream. Swallowed another. And one, I think, fell out of a car window, in circumstances which are blurred, though the ensuing sorrow, of course, is not.
Now, I believe in keeping up traditions while travelling longterm.
On Marinduque, in the Philippines, we may have watched flagellants, crucifixions and centurions in honour of the Resurrection. But I also made damn sure to do the annual Easter Egg hunt, setting cryptic paper clues from one puddle of melting chocolate to the next, and crossing my fingers that the ever-present columns of sugar-loving ants didn’t give the game away completely.
So, naturally, the Tooth Fairy will be visiting us in Laos. And the usual pound will be replaced with…
Well, we go to Thailand tomorrow.
(Sir is all trekked out in Laos, plus we need to be in Malaysia in under a month, so we are heading cross-border to Chiang Mai rather than spending more time with the tribes.)
So in all due reason the Tooth Fairy would be paying Thai baht.
But I have no Thai baht. Nor dollars. (The pound doesn’t count for much round here.)
I have, in fact, a wallet stacked full of Monopoly money.
Vietnam dong. And Lao kip.
Two of the least convertible currencies outside of, maybe, Zimbabwe. Or possibly Burundi.
I took out the Vietnam dong (millions of the buggers, AKA about 200 quid) because I thought I could change them in Laos, if not at the border, and didn’t want to rely for our survival for the next few days on finding a compliant ATM in Luang Namtha. (I’ve seen that road lead to long, frantic roundtrips to big cities on money borrowed from a guesthouse, passports and belongings left behind as surety.)
But Lao banks won’t touch the stuff. They literally laugh at you.
Well, it’s more a smirk, to be fair. Folk are terribly, terribly nice round here.
But no-one, I mean no-one, will touch Lao kip, outside of Laos itself.
Which means that sir will be getting 12,500 lovely Lao kip under his pillow, ce soir.
And he’s been stung. The exchange rate here is set by the Lao government. He’d have been sitting on nigh-on fifteen large when we were last here in March.
But, in the government’s very special world, the economy, or at least the currency, is booming. Dollar and euro quailing before the mighty kip. Up 30-odd percent since January! Who’da thunk it?
It’s an exchange rate almost as fictional, in fact, as the Tooth Fairy.
Now, sadly, no longer a source of belief in our little accidental family.
One of sir’s many adorable quantities is how long he continues to believe in those beautiful illusions we create for our children despite, or conceivably because of, a rigorously scientific mindset.
We spent Christmas in Kenya when he was five. “Mum,” he says. “That man is not the real Father Christmas.”
“No,” I say. “He’s not.” (Thinking, oh god? Is this a stereotyped response? Is it the black Father Christmas which does it? Though I’m pretty sure he had a black Father Christmas at his nursery…)
“In fact,” he says. “None of them are the real Father Christmas. They’re all pretend. All the ones at Dalston shopping centre. And school. And nursery. All of them.”
“Uhuh,” I say, metaphorical pennies not so much dropping as clanging on the floor.
“The REAL Father Christmas,” he says, with a note of building confidence, “Lives in the North Pole and is NEVER seen outside of Christmas when he comes down children’s chimneys.”
His belief even lasted through our lovely couple of weeks in Finnish Lapland. And a trip to the official Father Christmas office.
He too, of course, was just a pretender. As were the elves.
Though the reindeer were, naturally, totally pukka.
Anywise… The last time the nipper lost a tooth, I took inspiration from my father, who had managed to cunningly swap coin for tooth under my pillow while I was awake, a memory which is still seared into my brain almost three decades later for its pure parental genius.
I swapped, successfully, too early. He stayed up a bit too late.
I forgot about the tooth. Turned over the pillow.
Found a quid, not a tooth. And blew my own cover. Effortlessly…
So tonight I will be snuggling under his pillow a hefty stack of — woohoo! — Lao kip. We will change them at the border with the rest of my excess paper. Change the dong into baht at the least bad rate in Bangkok or Chiang Mai.
And arrange a trip to the dentist in Bangkok. Because I’m not entirely sure how the first emerging adult molar is supposed to look. But it seems to be coming out the side.