Manophet, April 2010
Folks, we arrived in Bangkok to the saddest news. In addition to the violence outside, we have just learned that our dear friend and guide, Manophet, died in Laos yesterday of an apparent blood clot to the brain. Manophet lived in Phonsavanh, near the Plain of Jars. He was taken to Vientiane but it was too late.
We are utterly shocked. I remember the last lunch we shared with Manophet, not three weeks ago: he ordered steak and fries—not his usual meal, but a treat at his favorite restaurant. That morning, he had taken us to meet a young Hmong man who told us the story of his childhood accident with UXO—a bomb that exploded while he and his friends were building a fence. Through the years, Manophet helped us immensely on our UXO project (and you will be able to read much more about him in our forthcoming book). Like many of our Lao friends and guides, he had his own stories. Manophet remembered well the American bombings, which destroyed his house and split his family. He spent several years of his childhood living in a cave with his mother, hiding from the explosions.
Manophet was one of the most generous, kind-hearted people I have ever met. With his own hands and money, he established an English school for hundreds of youngsters across Phonsavanh, particularly Hmong kids who have little access to education. He also coached soccer, and his team had just been invited to compete in Sweden in July. When we met Manophet a few weeks ago, he was a bundle of grins. He could not wait for Sweden! He said his mother cried when she learned “the little boy in the cave” would travel so far.
I have just finished reading Jerry’s tribute to Manophet. The goodbye gets me most. We never said goodbye to Manophet—it was always “good luck” until next time.