Saturday, March 21, 2015

A Family and a Village

I believe I have already posted enough pictures to prove that Laos is one of the most beautiful places in the world.. I mean look at it.


Sunshine, rivers, mountains, palm trees, elephants, waterfalls... What more could you possibly ask for?! 

The thing about Laos though is just when you thought the country could not be any more beautiful you begin talking to the people. The people of Lao are the most generous, hospitable, and kind people I have ever met. The are often shy especially around foreigners, but smile at them and they won't be able to keep from smiling back. 
A few weeks ago some friends and I had the opportunity to spend a day with a very special family here in Laos. In downtown LP there is a line of fruit/sandwich stands and over the past several months we have befriended a family behind one of these stands. They work all day long, every day of the week. Rarely do they take a break. But despite the exhaustion they without a doubt must be feeling they are always smiley and happy to see us. For a while now we have wanted to invite them over for dinner, but because they are always working we never could find a good time for them to come and eat with us. But we didn't give up. Since they couldn't come to us we brought dinner to them.


The family still had to work that night but in between making sandwiches and blending fruit shakes, we talked and giggled. And by the end of the night we were making plans to visit Hua's family out in her village. So Saturday morning they Hua's sister filled in for her and we were off to meet Hua' parents and other siblings. Her mother was just as kind and generous as Hua and cooked us a delicious Lao lunch. After walking around the village, gawking at the gorgeous views, and stuffing ourselves chicken and rice we headed home but not without a bag full of papayas. (Another thing Hua must get from her mother. We can never leave her stand without arm fulls of fruit.)

Hua (far right) and her beautiful family


Hua's daughter



Not only were we given bags of fruit but at one point we were offered a puppy



One final laughable picture of the giant falangs and the family

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

When Life Happens

Sometimes life is hard because I live in Laos. Sometimes life is hard because well life is just hard sometimes. This week is one of those times. Monday morning (Southeast Asia time) I received a message that my great-grandmother had passed away. I knew this was coming. I was prepared for it to happen. I knew when I went to visit her before I left that it would be the last time I saw her. This doesn’t mean I’m not sad about losing her, but honestly most of my pain comes from not being able to be with my family during this time. I desperately wish I could go home and hug everyone; to be at the funeral.

My great-grandmother who I just simply called grandma (and occasionally just Fowler) was an amazing women; she was sassy and loving all in one. I consider myself lucky to not have only had two wonderful grandmothers on both sides of my family but to have also grown up with a great-grandmother. Not many people get to do that. My great-grandmother was also very fortunate to not only have watched several great-grandchildren grow up, but to also see and love a few of her great-great grandchildren. And though I will miss having her around and visits to Michigan will never be the same, I rejoice in what was my grandma’s life here on earth and celebrate that she is not dead but living in Eternity.

My visit to Michigan this past summer to see my great-grandmother

Unfortunately, the news of my great-grandmother was not the only bad news I received on Monday. A couple of weeks ago I had a student who was in a motor bike accident. While he was waiting for the police another person lost control of their motorbike and hit him. I received a call from my student while he was in the hospital letting me know what happened. The student who was the class clown, always dashing into the room at the last minute yelling “not late, teacher!”, and the one who pretended to not care about school but somehow always managed to make straight A’s, his voice was shaking as he apologized to me. He told me that he wouldn’t be coming back to school for the rest of the semester, that he was at the hospital in Vientiane. I assured him that it was okay, that there was no need to apologize for getting hurt, and I hoped he would get better soon. I thought he was going to be okay.

Then on Monday I found out that he too had passed away. My student. This wasn’t supposed to happen. I came to Laos to love my students, not to lose them. This student who was just at my house making pancakes, the same one who asked me if I had to leave Laos after this year or if I could stay; he is gone. Dealing with one death in one day was difficult enough but now trying to process two in a matter of hours was more than I could manage. It is more than I can manage. I’ve never really dealt much with death before. I’ve never had anyone I was really close with die, and now I am forced to figure out how to stand by my family’s side when I am half a world away. Meanwhile, trying to figure out how to process in a culture that approaches it all so differently.

My student, Kom, (center) and other students from my year 2 class over to learn how to cook pancakes

I desperately wish I could be home, but for this moment I am meant to be in Laos. I don’t know why, but I believe there is a reason I am here and not there. So for now I’m doing the best I can, pushing on with teaching and daily life, relying on the Father, and the support of friends and family. 
Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Chiang Mai

Finally getting around to posting the pictures from my adventures in Chiang Mai. I surprisingly didn't take very many. I brought my camera along with every intention of taking tons of pictures, but I didn't touch it a single time I was there. Instead all the photos I have are some quick snapshots I took with my phone.

My lack of photos from Chiang Mai isn't because I didn't enjoy my time there, but more the opposite. I got so caught up in being with people I hadn't seen for a while that blogging and photo taking were no longer in the forefront of my mind. It was so great to hear stories from friends who are teaching in other parts of Asia. (I also feel that I talked everyone's ear off about Laos, but I mean if you've ever been to Laos you would understand) And even though I missed Laos it was hard to say goodbye. I was having so much fun that I didn't want it to ever end.

But enough of me just telling you that my time in Chiang Mai was great, here are the handful of pictures I managed to snap (& steal from Facebook).

A group of us took a trip to Art in Paradise, a 3D art museum.



Another day was spent at the Zoo feeding the animals


Many mornings were spent at Starbucks soaking up bit of Western life that Laos does not have. I shamelessly admit that I devoured a lot of the western food Thailand has to offer. Thailand is very similar to Laos is many ways, but one thing they have that we don't is Western restaurants. I took advantage of it while I could.


I drank a lot of smoothies and fruit shakes as well. Which I do have in Laos, but they are just so good. And Chiang Mai has an abundance of strawberries (and really good strawberries at that) so I stuffed myself with those while I could.


I pushed my way through the terribly crowded Sunday night market.


And though I admittedly ate a lot of western food while I was in Thailand, I did try some of the local foods. For example when my friend and I ate a cricket. How did it taste you ask. Look at the pictures and decide for yourself.  







Friday, February 20, 2015

Back from Chiang Mai

After a visit from some wonderful friends and a quick jaunt in Thailand I am back to teaching. It's good to back in Luang Prabang and seeing my students again. Unfortunately my year 4 students aren't around because they are off doing their own teaching. (Side note: The highlight of my week this week was when one of my year 4 students called me to just talk. He told me all about how his teaching was going and how it was much more difficult than he expected.) Though I know they will be returning in a couple of months I miss having them in class. My year 4s were braver an less shy than my other students; therefore, I was a lot closer with them. Fortunately though I also have my year 2 students again and unlike at the beginning of the first term they are no longer trembling in fear of the mysterious falang teacher.

As I said it is good to be back in Laos again, but upon returning Laos did not exactly welcome me with open arms. My roommate and I arrived home to find that our shower/laundry room door was mysteriously locked. We began digging through our pile of a thousand keys for which we do not know what they lock/unlock. None of they keys worked. We called a co-worker of mine to come help us who after a little bit of confusion sent someone over. He too tried going through the pile of keys jamming each one into the lock but still none would turn. After the many failed attempts to unlock the door he did the next most logical thing and began hammering away at the door knob.

"Oh please make it stop" I complained to myself. Finally the man stopped hammering, muttered something in Lao, and promised he would return. While he was gone I decided to take one more whack at trying the keys. I pushed key after key into the lock and finally there was a click. The door swung open. "Thank you!" I cried.

I wish I could tell you that the story ends here, but I would be lying and I do live in Laos after all. You see before we left for Thailand the shower had a small leak. Unfortunately, that leak had grown into a gushing stream. We called my co-worker once again who came over with his brother to check out the leak. Next thing I knew his brother was leaving my house soaking wet and my co-worker was telling me, "Dani, your shower..it is broken." I restrained my every instinct to be sassy and simply replied, "Yes, I think it is."

Let it be know that living here in Laos is not without trials and tribulations, but let it also be known that the people here will never fail to show you exceeding kindness. The following Monday my co-worker explained to the school that our shower was working. Because my house is owned by the school it is technically their responsibility to take care of the problem. Unfortunately, the school didn't show any urgency in fixing my shower so my co-worker took the matter into his own hands. He bought us a new pipe and replaced the old one for us. After the job was completed he looked at me and said, "Dani, I am your hero!" With a laugh I replied, "Yes, I think you are."

I promise to post pictures from my trip soon. As for now please enjoy this YouTube video that has absolutely nothing to do with my blog post, but is probably the cutest thing you will watch all week.

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