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 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.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Kuang Si Falls

This past week a couple friends who are teaching in China have been visiting. Not only has it been awesome to hear all their stories about life in China and catch up on everything that has happened since we last saw each other in Colorado, but having them here has also provided an excuse to go back to all the best touristy places in Luang Prabang.

I have been to Kuang Si Falls twice now. The first was back in October shortly after arriving in Luang Prabang. A typhoon had recently hit Vietnam and effected Laos as well. As a result the water level at Kuang Si was crazy high; my friends and I were soaked from just standing on a bridge near the waterfall. On my second visit to Kuang Si the waterfall wasn't as strong and powerful as the first, but the water transformed from a mucky brown color to a mesmerizing turquoise. The falls were much safer for swimming this time around and though I thought it was still a bit to cold for that, many tourists took advantage of the blue waters.

Kuang Si the first time I visited during rainy season

Kuang Si the second time around in dry season

It's hard to believe that it is the same waterfall, and even more difficult to choose which season is the best time to go. During rainy season Kuang Si is powerful and an incredible sight, but in dry season the waters sparkle and allow for a chance to cool off from the hot Southeast Asian sun.

If you do ever get the chance to visit Kuang Si whatever the season may be don't forget to take the hike up to the top for an incredible view of the mountains.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Six Months In

Today marks 6 months since I left my home in Georgia and 5 months that I've actually been in Laos. It's been a crazy, fun, exciting, frustrating, exhausting, exhilarating 6 months. Some days are so good that I want to live in Laos forever. Then there are the days that I feel like I can't take any more and all I want is to be back in the comfort of my family and home in America. Heck, sometimes my emotions change hour by hour.

Living here is an emotional roller coaster. Take this morning for instance. My computer wasn't charging but everything else was so I knew it had to be my computer that wasn't working. I quickly ran (actually I tiptoed because people are visiting and are sleeping in my living room) and silently panicked as I tried to plug my computer into all the outlets in our house. None of them worked except one. I unplugged our washing machine (which just happens to sit inside our shower.) and crossed my fingers that it would work. Nope. But then I remembered there is a switch to turn the power on for the outlet. I flipped the switch and a magical beep sounded from my computer telling me that it was charging. So I sat in my shower/laundry room charging my computer listening to the leaking pipes drip drip drip happy as a clam because this meant my computer wasn't broken.

This pretty much sums up life here in Laos. Things don't always work and you have to get resourceful. But when thing do work you are extra grateful.

Not only have I learned to be more appreciative when even the smallest of things go right, but these past six months have held lots of adventures. 

I left the good ole peach state for the Rocky Mountains. Taking a quick pip stop in Boulder to visit my lovely cousin/best friend.

From Boulder I headed off to Greeley for TEFL training. Here I also got to meet the other teachers moving to Laos as well as soon to be teachers headed to other Asian countries. 

Me and the other Lao teachers flew to Phnom Penh for our teaching practicum 

After we finished practicum we traveled and hung around Siem Reap

My new teammates and I dipped our toes into a tank of flesh eating fish

Then we finally arrived in Luang Prabang at sunset

We explored the capital, Vientiane 

A dream came true and I went swimming and rode with elephants

After a month of living in a guest house my roommate and I finally moved into our Lao home

I started teaching and fell in love with Lao students

Got a Lao license and began driving again

Survived being away from home for the holidays and shared Christmas cheer with my students

And finally ended up sitting in my shower, charging my computer, waiting for my friends to wake up so we can show them more of this beautiful city I get to call mine. 

Now to another 6 months in this beautiful city which I am sure will be filled with just as much adventure as the first. 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Views from Chomphet Hike

When I first came to Luang Prabang I expected to do much more hiking than I have. My lack of hiking isn't due to laziness or busyness but simply due to a surprising lack of trails in the city. Luang Prabang is surrounded by mountains, you would think that hiking would be a big deal here. But I guess when peoples' villages and homes are scattered through those mountains it would be a little intrusive for falangs to be walking through all the time.

However, this past weekend after discussing the lack of hiking and a quick Google search my friends and I found a trail across the river known as Chomphet Hike. We made plans to meet back up after lunch to catch a boat across the Mekong and to the start of our trail.

The Chomphet Trail begins along the riverside taking you through several wats before curving up along the mountain where you can see spectacular and I truly mean spectacular views of the city. The hike follows along through thick bamboo and palm tree forests before bringing you to a long dirt road that crosses through a small Lao village and loops you back to the Mekong. Despite being just a boat ride and a short walk away from the heart of town, I don't believe many of these people are used to a small group of foreigners making their way through the neighborhood. We got so many waves and hellos (and about caused a motorbike wreck) that I am sure we were the hot topic at dinner that night. I just imagined them running to their neighbors and gossiping "Did you see the falangs?!" "Yah, do you think they're lost?"

We returned from our hike just as the sun was setting on the river bank making for one last beautiful snapshot of the day.

More views from The Chomphet

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