Friday, October 31, 2014

Happy Halloween from the LP

Halloween is over here in Laos, but I hope the rest of you back home are having a blast finishing up a night of trick or treating and pumpkin carving. I spent my day teaching my classes about the holiday telling them all about how people dress up and children knock on doors asking for candy. They must have really loved the idea because later in the evening a group of my students came knocking on my door yelling "trick or treat" with bags open waiting for their candy. Because this is Laos and I wasn't expecting any trick or treaters, I didn't have any candy on hand so I ran around my house looking for anything I could put in their bags to play along in the Halloween fun. I gave them bananas. Now don't judge me; bananas are usually served as dessert anyway here in Laos so I think it made a good substitute.

I hung out with my students for a little while longer before heading downtown to a little books and tea shop where they were playing Warm Bodies. Though I missed not being able to see all the adorable children in their costumes it was nice to have a relaxing and quiet Halloween (well quiet if you don't count the music that was blaring next door). And my roommate and I even managed to create a little fall magic of our own. Between roasting pumpkin seeds and making muffins we forgot all about the fact that it is still in the high 80s and the leaves are still as green as they were when we arrived. 

Friday, October 24, 2014

Fire Boat Festival

Earlier this month Luang Prabang celebrated Boun Lai Heau Fai (aka The Fire Boat Festival). The weeks before the festival are filled with people creating elaborate boats many of them resembling dragons. The day of they fill the boats with candles, lighting them, and sending them on their way down the Mekong River to burn up.

I can't imagine spending so much time building a boat from scratch only to watch it burn before my eyes. But I admit the sight of the boats sparkling down the river along with the lanterns that fill the sky like stars, and the floating candles twinkling as they too make their way along the river is mesmerizing.

If you want to come visit Laos during the Fire Boat Festival I suggest arriving in early October. Figuring out when the festival took place was almost an impossible task; everyone my friends and I asked told us a different date. All I can tell you for sure is that it takes place sometime around the second week of the month and when the moon is full.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

My Lao Kitchen: Breakfast for Dinner

Let me introduce you to my kitchen...

Okay end of tour. Yes that's right all I have is this single stove top. (A toaster oven is hopefully on its way, and I can not wait for it to get here!) As a girl who practically grew up in the kitchen, I have developed a love for cooking and especially baking. So how am I supposed to go a year with a single stove and a toaster oven (that still hasn't made its way into my kitchen yet)? I'm going to have to get creative I guess.

So I present to you adventures in "My Lao Kitchen". I made a fun little tab at the top of this page, where I will be documenting all my adventures in cooking here in Laos. First up, pancakes!

My roommate and I were out shopping planning to pick up some pasta and just have a night in, when we spotted the pancake mix. We immediately forgot our spaghetti filled dreams; texting our friends inviting them over to join us for dinner. After picking up the rest of the ingredients we headed back home ready to whip up some delicious flapjacks. We dug through the pots and pans that the teachers before us left behind, and found a huge frying pan. Perfect! or so you would think. Remember we were working with a single stove top that was maybe half the size of this pan, but we didn't have much of a choice. We had to work with what we had. So we heated up the stove and whisked together the pancake mix, milk, eggs. Once the batter was ready we poured a little into the pan, starting out with making three pancakes at a time.

I wish I could say it went smoothly. That we played Frank Sinatra (which we really did) and each of our pancakes came out perfectly golden and fluffy. Instead our first round cooked so unevenly due to the fact that only half the pan fit over the stove, but we didn't give up hope. We ate the pancakes, hiding all evidence of failure, and continued on this time making one pancake at a time. Success! It took us a little over an hour, but we had enough pancakes to feed us and our friends.

Next up was syrup. Syrup doesn't exist in Laos as far as my roommate and I know, so we decided to take a chance in making our own. I found a recipe and began boiling the water. Later pouring and mixing in the sugar until it dissolved. How can you go wrong with sugar and water? I'm glad you asked. Soon after taking the concoction off the stove the syrup cooled and hardened, not exactly ideal for pouring over pancakes. I attempted melting it again, and left it on the stove top so it would stay warm. Unfortunately it didn't turn out quite like it did the first time, but my friends swore to me that it was still good.

Despite the syrup setback, we all stuffed ourselves full with pancakes and fruit. Enjoying a taste from home after a long week. And having to make enough pancakes for five people one at a time must not have been to much of a hassle for us, because my roommate and I volunteered to do it again the next night for some of our students.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

A Place To Call Home

The good news: I am finally settled into a home! The bad news: I've been a terrible blogger. The good news: I promise to start blogging more regularly again!

The new home

After two long long months of living out of my suitcase and moving from country to country and hotel to hotel I am finally in a home and officially living (and teaching) in the LP. The house is conveniently located on the same road of the schools my roommate and I are teaching at which allows for lots of opportunities for students to drop by and hang out. Though only one has thus far. But fear not for I have high hopes that we will soon be the cool teachers on the block.

First day of school, and for the record the color coordinating outfits were not planned

We're also on the outskirts of town with Lao neighbors on every side allowing us to experience true local life. (though if we are being honest this town is so small I can get to the westernized downtown area in almost no time at all, which at times is definitely a blessing)

For now when we aren't teaching my roommate and I spend our free time lesson planning or coloring with our cute little next door neighbors. They first popped their heads in the day we moved in, coming up to our windows and watching us as we unpacked. Over the next few days they timidly began making their way to the other side of the front door and into our living room. My roommate and I only being able to speak broken Lao looked for ways to entertain the girls, offering them the universal language of paper and markers.

Now we've been in the house for two weeks and if the door is open it is safe to assume that two little girls might waltz in at any moment with numerous friends or relatives. They know where we keep the markers and paper and have no problem pulling them out and making themselves comfortable on our kitchen floor. They point to the Little Mermaid DVD to indicate they want to watch a movie or to my phone meaning they either want to listen to music or take pictures. Sometimes they even break out my roommates guitar and serenade us with the ABCs.

Ling and Manao
Neighbors and Friends

Living here has without a doubt been an adjustment, but at times it all seems so natural. There are things that people back home will comment on, making note of the differences between here and there, and I hadn't even noticed before. Like the fact that it's a little abnormal to have handfuls of children barging in your doors everyday when none of those children are your own or eating sticky rice with every meal. But that's the thing about life and living in new places. You quickly forget a sense of what is normal and you just go with it. 
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