Thursday, May 7, 2015

Judah & The Lion // Playlist

Thanks to my roommate introducing me to Noise Trade and Noise Trade introducing me to Judah and the Lion, I have found a new musical obsession. Judah and the Lion is basically a southern version of Mumford and Sons and I can't stop listening. The only problem is that all their songs make me a little homesick. And with just over a month until I am back in the States I am feeling that itch to be back more than ever. (Note: I still love Laos, and am currently trying to find a way to bring everything I love about this country *cough cough my students cough cough* home with me.) Anyway, I wanted to share with you a few of my favorite Judah and the Lion songs that remind me of home.

I grew up in Tennessee so I can relate. Tennessee >>> Alabama

This one is my personal favorite and probably makes me miss home the most

Okay, this one isn't by Judah and the Lion but it is one of my favorite songs. And it goes along with the missing the south and travel theme. Also there is that whole Tennessee thing I can relate too again.

And now back to Judah and the Lion. Not about travel or the south but I am a twenty-something that has no idea what she is doing once she goes home... so yah there's that. 

Friday, May 1, 2015

5 More Reasons to Come to Laos

Last week I told my students I wasn’t returning to Laos. As if that wasn’t difficult enough my students keep bringing it up. Sending me text messages that make me cry and making me pinky promise to come visit them. (I repeat if you would like to give to my Send Dani Back to Visit Laos Fund, I would be more than grateful). Anyway last week I also gave you 81 reasons why you should come to Laos and 81 of those reasons were my 81 students. Well I know not everyone is meant to be a teacher or stay somewhere for an extended time, BUT that doesn’t mean you should come to visit Laos yourself. So here are 5 more reasons why you should come.

You like nature – If you’ve been reading my blog I think you should realize by now how beautiful this country is. If you haven’t been reading my blog than go Google some pictures of Laos (or just scroll down a little and look at the picture I posted.) Between the endless mountains, turquoise waterfalls, thick tropical forests, and winding rivers Laos is a country full of nature waiting to be explored.

You like friendly people–The people in Lao are really what make this country worth coming too. They are the reason why it is so difficult for me to leave. They are genuinely friendly and have the biggest smiles. Smile at a Lao person and I guarantee they will smile back. Also fair warning you can’t out kind a Lao person so don’t even try.

You like spicy food – Okay, Okay, the food in Laos isn’t my personal favorite. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t good. My problem with Lao food is that my tolerance for spicy food is really low. But if you are the kind of person that can take the heat than you will like Lao cuisine.

You like Thailand – Lao and Thailand are similar in so many ways. Similar cultures, similar foods, similar languages. The biggest difference is Thailand is a lot more westernized than Laos. So if you love Thailand but are looking for something a little more true to culture head over to Laos.

You like hot weather – Out of all the thing my friends and I talk about it is probably funny things our students have said or the weather.  And when we talk about the weather it usually includes others complaining and me talking about how wonderful it is. Now I must note that here in LP it doesn’t get nearly as hot as other places in Laos, and I am also from the south so I’m use to the heat. So if you are like me and like hot weather year around Lao is a good place to be. 

Friday, April 24, 2015

81 Reasons to Come to Laos

On Tuesday I finally told my students that I wouldn't be coming back to Laos next year. I have since regretted my decision to leave approximately a thousand and one times since then (tears were included with that regret). Telling them was the worst. I didn't want to do it, because I knew they were going to be upset. I was right. They begged me not to go and tried to trick me into promising them I would stay. It was everything in me not to change my mind right then and there.

Despite being upset they were still the funny sassy students I love. I promised them I would come visit them before they graduate then one asked if they could all come visit me in America. Before I could answer another replied, "Whose going to pay for that plane ticket?" The students broke out into laughter but sadly the student is right, it's up to me to come visit them. (So if anyone wants to donate to my new send Dani back to visit Laos fund, let me know) 

Other favorite comments from that day were "Teacher as long as you don't pass away I believe we will see each other again in the life." Optimism at its finest right there. Another student promised me this "Teacher we will throw you a welfare party" Umm thanks... but maybe a farewell party would be better. Oh how I love them.

Leaving my students when I return home is going to be the hardest thing I've ever done. Not even exaggerating. I love them so much and I hope they know that. With that said if you are ever thinking about coming to Laos I have 81 reasons for you and my students are all of them.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

I Blame the Hair: Stories of Pi Mai Lao

Happy 2558! Yes you read that right. Today is the first day of the year 2558 in Lao. Though the holiday is technically only three days, the country has been celebrating Pi Mai all week long. As I mentioned the holiday is 3 days beginning April 14th through April 16th. The first day is the last day of the old year; the second is considered no day and is neither part of the old year or the new one, The last day, today, is the first day of the new year. Never have I ever celebrated so many new years since coming to Laos. First there was Hmong New year followed by Khmu. Next there was the International New Year known in Laos as countdown and then there was the bombardment of Chinese tourists celebrating their new year here in Luang Prabang (which I still don't completely understand), and finally Lao New Year. With so many New Years it's no wonder I'm still struggling to put 2015 instead of 2014 when I write the date.

Anyway, Lao New Year has been quite the interesting experience. My first taste of this water throwing festival happened a couple weeks before Pi Mai actually began when I was "attacked" by my little neighbors. 

Fortunately, the rest of the city was patient enough to wait until it was closer to the holiday to start throwing water. The water throwing really began to pick up on my birthday. I already shared about how my students and I threw our own little Pi Mai/Birthday party, but after they left my friends and I headed to the pool. On the way I was doused twice, the second time I didn't even see it coming. All of the sudden I was soaking wet, good thing I was already prepared for swimming. After the pool we headed to dinner. We were all driving one right behind the other and I was in the middle. Groups of people were throwing water all around yet somehow everyone except me managed to show up to dinner dry. Every time we passed someone they skipped my roommate who was directly in front of me, hit me, and didn't managed to fill up their buckets in time to get my friend behind us. But being the obvious falang of the group with my blonde hair sticking out of my helmet revealing my true identity as a non-native I was a sure target. "Get the Falang", they cried not realizing that my half-Asian roommate was also a falang herself. 

It stayed this way until Tuesday with just a few groups of water throwers scattered throughout town. Going out meant risking getting wet but there was still a slight chance you could make it back home as dry as you left. But once Tuesday hit it was all out madness. Music blasting from every home, trucks lined up down the street, crowds of people pushing their way through the streets, and Lao and foreigners alike dousing everyone that passes by. 

Now let me back up for a minute to Monday and tell you about a random meeting with a Lao-French family at KuangSi. Two friends were visiting us here in LP for the New Year, (Luang Prabang is known for being THE place to celebrate Pi Mai) and so I went with them to KuangSi. I've already been to KuangSi a lot so I volunteered to hang back at the bottom and watch their stuff while they made their way up the waterfall. Meanwhile I was sitting alone at a picnic table (a big no no here in Lao, the being alone part, not the sitting at a picnic table part) just people watching when this family walked up to me. "Are you alone?" "Yah, well no, i'm just waiting on my friends" "Oh, do you mind if we sit here." "No, not at all." So they sat down and we began chatting. Next thing I know my stomach is stuffed with bananas, corn, and some strange yogurt type thing. I learned that they are now living in France and left Southeast Asia as refugees. We talked until my two friends returned and they handed me their business card telling me that if I'm ever back in Paris to call them. 

On Tuesday morning, the city set up a huge market downtown. It was crazy crowded and since I hate crowds I was ready to leave quickly after arriving. But before turning to head back home my group decided to stop for coffee. While waiting in line, I saw them! The family I had met at KuangSi. In this huge crazy crowd there they were again. We laughed about how crowded it was and that it really is a "small world after all" before they went on their way into the bustling market. 

Wednesday, we once again headed downtown to watch the procession. The procession was beautiful, but this quick and final story isn't about the procession. Since being in Lao I have learned that absolutely nothing is yours. What's mine is yours and what is yours is mine. I have also found that Lao people are really touchy, and not just in a romantic way. Friends are always seen holding hands, with their arms around each other, or just leaning on each other. I will never forget when I was taking a picture with a student and she grabbed my hand. It threw me off a little, but to her it was perfectly natural. With that being said I always felt that this touchy culture was usually confined to just people you know. WRONG. So i'm sitting there watching the procession and a little Lao girl is sitting next to me. I have never met her before but as she sits and watches she feels comfortable enough to prop her elbow up on my leg. Before coming to Lao I probably would not have let some random child use me as a support but then again a random child in America would never sit close enough to a stranger to be able to prop themselves up. Nevertheless, it was adorable and I creepily snuck a picture. 

For the record you can throw water on the monks, but not the police.

Okay enough ramblings. Pi Mai was wonderful and full of water throwing battles. I say that is if its over, but in fact the music is still blaring outside my house. And the Lao people sure do enjoy having that bass up... I'm enjoying the holiday but I'm also ready to get back to school. I miss my students and it's only been a few days. Also the end of Pi Mai means my year 4 students will be back from their practice teaching!! So that kind of make me happy. 

The streets of Luang Prabang over the past couple days and probably what they still look like right now

My co-worker and his son

Home from a day of water wars

And lastly a short clip of what it's like walking through the city. Also big thanks to my LifeProof phone case for allowing me to take all these pictures without having my phone drowned.


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