A crowd had gathered on a boat dock in the village of Nong Khiaw, where I had come with my friend Jeff and our guide, Oun, for a countryside excursion from the splendid city of Luang Prabang in Laos. Europeans in hiking boots trundled nearby, beneath mountains covered in tropical greenery, but here on the dock, the chatter was in Lao, as passers-by jockeyed for position. They all wanted selfies with a newly anointed local celebrity: a young farmer named Sone Soukchaluam, and his shiny, brand-new, silver refrigerator.
“It’s a lucky refrigerator,” Oun explained, and began translating.
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