It’s been over a month since I left the land that I love in exchange for a land that I am teaching myself to love. If you know me at all, you know that I enjoy writing but that I almost despise writing about the monotonous. I feel that I should put pen to paper only when I have something candid or inspiring or eye opening to say and dread anything less, thus it has been almost a month since my last entry. In lieu of this, I also know the importance of sharing experiences, after all, realizations are usually hidden somewhere among the countless hours of our normal days. So for those of you who care to know what I have been doing all this time, I propose a synapses…and the promise of more timely entries in the future.
By plane, I traveled what seems like a ba-gillion miles to the capitol city of Laos (Vientiane) and made it my temporary home. There I met and built a relationship with the country directors, started to learn how to cope with inconvenience (which I am convinced will be a constant in my life for the remainder of my time here), borrowed a bicycle and made it my main form of transportation, realized that smiling whole heartedly crosses all language barriers, daily attended Candle Light Language School, ate sticky rice and assorted grilled meats bought from street vendors, killed approximately 45 mosquitoes living in my bedroom, and continued to take in the culture on a moment by moment basis.
Also while staying in Vientiane, I was lucky to meet the administrator of the store Camacraft, a Lao based small business that buys handmade crafts from remote villages in order to provide stable income and relationships for the locals. He and his wife invited me to their office work day so I could meet the staff and learn more about the company. Upon arrival, I quickly realized that they did not mean an “inside the office work day” but more of a “clean up the grounds work day”. Nothing could thrill me more. I spent the next five hours cutting down old palm tree leaves, bagging trash, sweeping dirt (yeah…they sweep dirt here) and digging trenches! It was the first time I felt of any real use to anyone in this country. With the very little language I had mastered, I offered up introductions and made small talk with everyone on the premises. Luckily, it was enough to win the favor of the Lao staff and gain an invite to the following week’s village trip. The next Tuesday I traveled with three Lao women to a village where families had hand stitched beautiful fabric patterns that were to be made into purses, blankets, pillows, etc for the Camacraft store. Upon our arrival, women and children seemed to appear out of nowhere to bring their artwork in exchange for payment. Babies with no clothes, dirty faced children and mothers without teeth looked back at me as I took it all in.
Somewhere during my stay in the capitol, I met a girl working with an agency similar to FWBIM and ELIC named ARDA. This small business was also very open to my questions and observation. Essentially, ARDA is a vocational center. The American employees train teenage boys electrical engineering and building skills and teenagers girls how to cook, clean, and take care of children so they can be maids in ex patriot households. They all learn Engilsh, study from the Word and attend a Lao fellowship. I only had enough time to visit the center once, but luckily chose to go on the day that was set aside for CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE making….I volunteered as an expert taste tester!
But now, I am in Pakse…a town on the southern tip of Laos where things move a bit slower and remind me more of Vilonia, Arkansas than Nashville, Tennessee. I have been to the school were I will be teaching twice so far this week to get use to the grounds and meet co-workers. Every corner seems to be bustling with Lao students that I will soon get to know! My ELI team consists of Amy, Sara, Jeff, Russell and Bethany. I am so very exited to finally be in the same place with Russell and Bethany because they are some of my dearest friends from college but I am also loving my new friends. So far I have found them to be super fun, welcoming and American (which I have to admit is a huge plus!)
As I promised before, I will keep you updated on all the coming attractions of my life. If you are reading this, thanks for making it all the way through…I truly appreciate you interest and ability to read! Until next time…