Friday, June 26, 2015

Hey, I'm Home!

I've been home for a week now. I've slept off the jet lag, caught up on both Once Upon a Time and Parenthood, and stuffed my stomach full of cheese! And I already have cabin fever; ready for a new adventure. Sky scanner is my best friend at the moment (a one-way ticket to Puerto Rico is less than $200... that's all i'm saying)

Okay back to right now and being home. People keep asking me how it feels to be home and all I can think to say is it just feels weird. On one hand it feels as if I've been gone forever and on the other it feels like I never left. Very few things have changed since I've been gone. It feels as if I just pressed pause on life, moved to Laos, moved back, and pressed play again. And I haven't experienced much reverse culture shock either. However, I have found that I have a tendency to drive like a Lao person and have to constantly remind myself that in America we DO stop at stop signs. (kidding...sort of) I also purged my closet and threw out lots of clothes because I found it overwhelming to look in there after a year of wearing the same skirts and handful of shirts everyday. But other than that life here feels the same as it did before I left.

Oh one more thing I want to share before I end this rambling post (maybe i'm still a little jet lagged). So back in January I posted this on my cousin's Facebook about what exactly I wanted to happen when I came home...

Now I don't know what kind of relationship you have with your cousin, but me and my cousin are practically besties (and by practically I mean we are) So I was disappointed when she posted this a week before I came home...

But imagine my anger/surprise/joy when I discovered she is a little liar! 

Also I got everything I wanted from that original post... my whole family was there, I got a cupcake, Mexican food, and lots of hugs. (There wasn't any confetti though.. i'll have to talk to them about that)

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Teaching in Laos // Behind the Scenes

As you read this I am probably packing up the last of my things and getting ready to catch a flight to Bankgok. From there I will head to Seoul for a couple days where I will do my best to avoid the MERS virus and eat some authentic kimchi. Then I will finally make my way back to the USofA.

I am still coming to terms with the fact that my year teaching in Laos is over. Wasn't it just yesterday that my cousin dropped me off in Greeley for TEFL training? Sheesh.. And you can bet that there have been some hardcore tears shed this week. I'm talking the Kim Kardashian ugly cry here.

And as this year comes to a close and I begin my long journey back to the States, I wanted to share with you what life is truly like here in Laos. Sure I spend a lot of time doing observations, lesson planning, grading homework, and trying to figure out how exactly this indirect communication thing works, but that's not really what being a teacher is about. But instead of me rambling on about all the joys of teaching and living in Laos, I will stop here and you can see for yourself. 

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

LP Bucketlist

Back in the first days of my Laosy adventure when there wasn't much to do besides sitting in a guesthouse or studying Lao, I created my LP bucket list. Now with less than a week left I am proud to say I have crossed off every item on my list. 

Ride an Elephant

I know there is a lot of debate about whether riding elephants is ethical or not.. but let's not get into that right now. The point is I love elephants and had a blast swimming and splashing around with these beautiful creatures. 

Visit Tat Sae and Kuang Si

If only I had know how many times I would actually visit Kuang Si. (note: it was a lot of times) Fortunately it is a beautiful place and definitely worth multiple visits. Tat Sae is also beautiful but dries up during the hotter months.

Sunset at PhuSi

Have you really even been to Luang Prabang, if you haven't walked up PhuSi?

Boat ride on the Mekong

My friends and I took a boat to Pak Ou cave. The boat ride was amazing.. the cave was not.

Have an entire conversation in Lao

It was definitely broken Lao. And mostly consisted of talking about what I ate for breakfast, but I did it. (Since its just a little bit difficult to take a picture of a conversation, please enjoy this series of pictures of me being tied up and fed yogurt) (Also, I just noticed I am wearing the same exact outfit right now that I am wearing in these pictures #outfitrepeater)

Pak Ou Cave

One word.. disappointment. But at least I got to spend time with these lovely ladies. 

Visit a Lao village

You can read about my morning at Hua's village here

See the monks during the morning alms

Many foreigners go downtown to watch the monks, but living among the locals meant that I could watch this Buddhist tradition from the steps of my own house.

Learn to cook a Lao meal

Celebrate Pi Mai Lao

I celebrated and then I locked myself in my house. So much water, so much traffic, there is no escape.

 Do you have any city bucket lists? or travel bucket lists?

Thursday, June 4, 2015

English is Difficult

Despite being an English teacher I am afraid that my ability to speak proper English has been destroyed. Though I know better it is easy to succumb to speaking English like a Lao person. Even when talking to other Americans I still use broken down language and refer to myself in the third person. So this is my pre-apology to everyone I talk to when I come back home. There is a good chance I will compliment you on how good your English is and speak to you in fragmented sentences. I might even throw some Laonglish into the mix and act out everything I say. I truly am sorry. But can you really blame me? English is difficult. It's no surprise that my students pronounce marriage like marry age or stomach ache like stomach H. They are excellent at sounding out words, but unfortunately English isn't that simple.

Try and read this poem out loud and you will see why my students (and I) struggle

Dearest creature in creation
Studying English pronunciation,
I will teach you in my verse
Sounds like corpse, corps, horse and worse.

I will keep you, Susy, busy,
Make your head with heat grow dizzy;
Tear in eye, your dress you’ll tear;
Queer, fair seer, hear my prayer.
Pray, console your loving poet,
Make my coat look new, dear, sew it!
Just compare heart, hear and heard,
Dies and diet, lord and word.
Sword and sward, retain and Britain
(Mind the latter how it’s written).

Made has not the sound of bade,
Say — said, pay — paid, laid but plaid.
Now I surely will not plague you
With such words as vague and ague,
But be careful how you speak,
Say: gush, bush, steak, streak, break, bleak,
Previous, precious, fuchsia, via,
Recipe, pipe, studding-sail, choir;
Woven, oven, how and low,
Script, receipt, shoe, poem, toe.

Say, expecting fraud and trickery:
Daughter, laughter and Terpsichore,
Branch, ranch, measles, topsails, aisles,
Missiles, similes, reviles.
Wholly, holly, signal, signing,
Same, examining, but mining,
Scholar, vicar, and cigar,
Solar, mica, war and far.
From “desire”: desirable — admirable from “admire”,
Lumber, plumber, bier, but brier,
Topsham, brougham, renown, but known,
Knowledge, done, lone, gone, none, tone,
One, anemone, Balmoral,
Kitchen, lichen, laundry, laurel.

Hiccough has the sound of sup.
My advice is: GIVE IT UP!

I made a couple pronunciation mistakes myself even on words I know. How about you? Were you able to get through the whole poem without messing up?
Thursday, May 28, 2015

My Lao Kitchen // Lao Salad and Fried Vegetables

If i've learned anything this year it certainly wasn't how to cook Lao food. Getting people to cook for you here is easy, but getting them to actually teach you.. not so much. Fortunately, I finally found someone who would. And so I put my best indirect communications skills to work and my co-teacher agreed to show my roommate and I how to make some easy Lao recipes.

First up Lao Salad. With the weather being extra hot these past few months I have been craving fresh fruits and vegetables so Lao Salad was a perfect choice. 

Lao Salad & Dressing

Salad ingredients:
green onions 
2-3 tomatoes
4-5 boiled egg whites
1/8 crushed peanuts
*many Lao salads also include cucumber, but I have a strong dislike for cucumbers. So if you are a cucumber person I first of all don't understand how you can eat those nasty things and second feel free to add them to your salad* 

Dressing ingredients:
4-5 boiled egg yolks
approx. 1/4 cup of sugar
2 Tbs oil
2-3 Tbs mayonnaise
3 limes

Directions: First boil about 4-5 eggs. Meanwhile, wash and throw your greens into a large bowl


Once your eggs are boiled slice them in half and separate the whites from the yolk. Then slice up the whites into smaller strips and toss them in with the greens. Top the salad with tomatoes and the crushed peanuts.

Next make the dressing. (or make while your eggs are still boiling) My co-teacher said the dressing was to sour and needed more sugar, but I thought it was fine just the way it was. So you might want to add more sugar when you make it; most of my measurements are approximate anyway.

In a bowl mash the egg yolks and mix in the sugar and oil. Add the the mayonnaise, and finally squeeze in some lime juice. Stir until the mixture is thick but liquidy. Drizzle the dressing over the salad and you're ready to serve. Easy Peasy. 

Along with our Lao salad we had fried vegetables and chicken. The best thing about this dish is you can really make it however you want to. I've had this same dish with completely different vegetables and pork instead of chicken, so it is really up to you. Just pick out your favorite veggies; we had carrots, green peppers, mushrooms, red onions, and miniature corn on the cob. Then pick a meat. 

Directions: Start by cooking the meat. We had a sort of chicken meatball thing that was already cooked so we just had to heat it back up. Though not bad, I think next time I will make it with just regular grilled chicken.

Next add your veggies as well as 2 tbs of oyster sauce (again I repeat all my measurements are approximate so just kind of eyeball if you think you need more or less). Then add in about a tablespoon of pork seasoning.

The pork seasoning comes in packets that look like this! Though I doubt you will find this exact one in your local grocery store, I am sure they have similar stir fry seasoning in the Asian food isles that will be just as good. 

Serve the vegetables with steamed rice, a side of Lao salad, and enjoy!

Sunday, May 24, 2015

A Laosy Life Update

I have been a terrible blogger these past couple weeks. But I promise I have a good excuse reason. Finals week was pushed up by a whole three weeks and so I've spent my time trying to finish up the textbook, write exams, and spend as much time with students before they leave to go home. This upcoming week is going to be extremely busy and difficult as well. I have several farewell or as my one student called them welfare parties coming up and lots of grading to do. Also Saturday is going to be goodbye with many of my students. Most of them will go back to their hometowns after they finish exams and i'll just be hanging around LP until I leave for Korea. Oh did I mention I am going to Korea. Just for a few days before heading the rest of the way home. So many adventures, so bittersweet.

Now onto updates of life in Laos via pictures

A couple weekends ago the Foreign Language Department had a soccer tournament, and my year 2 girls won! 

I even got to play with them. I'm the very non Asian looking person in the left corner.

A group of us made and ate spaghetti with our favorite Hmong family.

The spaghetti party continued when I invited my year two students over for dinner.

Then I had enough Spaghetti and my co-teacher came over and taught me how to make Lao food. I promise to share the recipes with you soon!

I also filmed and interviewed my students this week. Some of them were too shy, but these two boys made up their own mock interview and performed it in front of the class. They even shook hands a very non Lao thing to do.

While filming my class I also tried to sneak around and take pictures of my students. These guys caught me in the act.

Class photo!

This week also included lots of Baby Pineapple cuddles. Can I please take her back to America with me??

Ling and I also drew each other's portraits. I made this one of her..

And she drew this one of me.................... ummm.. so.. yeah...

And finally today some students, friends, and I went on a hike to Pottery Village where they make lots of pottery #captainobvious

On the way we got caught in the rain and used giant leafs as umbrellas

We falangs enjoyed the rain, our students thought we were strange. What else is new?

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.

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