I can't believe I'm living with a Lao family! Their home is in a perfect location- a 10-15 minute bicycle ride from most places I need to go- Candlelight (where I take Lao language classes), the mini-mart (think Wal-Mart small scale), foreign food (Joma Bakery!), and teammates' homes.
Their family has been great to get to know. There's an 8 year old girl who I have blast with! She's raised by her grandma (my host mom) as her parents are both working- and only has older boys around- so she's quite the tomboy. Whenever I offer to do her hair or paint her nails, her eyes get SO big and she nods an excited YES. I LOVE loving on her and having "girl" time she doesn't normally get! We giggle lots and she corrects my pronunciation and has been so helpful for my language learning because she'll speak slowly and simply. It must be so strange for her to have a foreigner in her home... I guess she writes stories about me at school.
Her older brother is 13 years old and is quite shy, but very kind- and is a hard worker. He lives next to the house I stay in... his bed is a mat on the floor with a pillow. A cousin (?) also lives there with him. They have a motorcycle washing and repair business. He washes one motorcycle for 5,000 Kip = 60 cents .
Speaking of motorcycles, I had my first "driving lesson" on Saturday. Carolyn explained the basics of how to drive a motorbike, and then I got to practice some in an open area. I have ridden on the BACK of many motos, but was never the driver. I was wobbly starting off, but it wasn't too bad once I got going :) I'm going to practice more the next few weeks- and would appreciate your thoughts as I learn to drive!
So back to my home stay... here are some interesting tidbits for you:
- Squatty Potty- YESSSS! Fan in my room- YESSSS! Barefoot in house- YESSSS!
- Daily misunderstandings due to language barriers/different cultures= LOTS of laughs.
- If you leave something in a common area, it will become a shared item! I left some shampoo packets in the bathroom, and they got used up :) I also left a pair of flip flops (thankfully cheapo ones) on the porch, and those were on the neighbor's feet the other day... haven't seen them since.
- I was pleasantly surprised to have a washing machine to use (you just add water manually 2x)... however- upon hanging up my clothes to dry on the line, I noticed only shirts and skirts were visible (no undergarments). So I took mine into my room and hung them there to dry. Later I learned this was a good thing because undergarments are never hung in public places to dry here... PHEW! However, the little girl peeked into my room later that day and saw them hanging there and just laughed her head off :)
- My host mom makes sticky rice every morning outside at 5 or 6 for the day's meals. I'm determined to get up one morning to watch and learn how to make it! We eat the same food throughout the day- breakfast, and dinner (I usually eat Pho noodle soup or fried rice Candlelight staff for lunch) are the same- sticky rice, vegetable dish, sometimes soup, and usually a meat dish. We eat lots of fish- which still looks like fish when we eat it. Last night my little sister took the fish head and ate the eye! Oh, and we eat mostly with our hands- sometimes a spoon for the soups.
- The phrase I hear the most is "Kin Lai Lai" which means "Eat a LOT!" My host mom wants to fatten me up- and I can never seem to eat :) "Kin Kao" is the expression used for "let's eat"... which is literally translated "eat rice." Language is so fascinating!
- It isn't a big priority to have all family members sit down to eat together. From what I can tell, people seem to eat whenever is convenient for them.
- Evenings are usually spent watching Thai soap operas. I usually work on Lao language homework or try to start up a game of checkers or UNO since I have no idea what's going on in the show... but it's kind of fun to try to guess. Last night there was this girl and guy on the show who seemed to be having lots of drama- and I just figured it was relationship issues. Then my host brother told me they had different blood types? Wow, I was way off! Ha, ha.
- No internet at home- so every once in a while I bike down the street to a hotel which has wifi for less than $1/hour in its lobby... So each blog is an act of love in appreciation for YOU and your thoughts for me!
Seriously, I have sensed many people uplifting me and so thankful for my amazing support team. When I left for Laos three weeks ago, I had no idea if a home stay would even work out and no plans were in place. Now I feel somewhat settled (albeit temporarily) with my Lao family- who will probably be "family" to me from now on in Laos whether or not I'm living with them. WOW! I'm just in awe of His care and His plans... He knew all along where I'd stay- and where I'll be in days to come.
I continue to give Him the unknowns of the days ahead (especially housing), and am asking for daily language learning ability (to hear 6 tones) and creative ways to bless and honor my new family. Thanks again for your thoughts!