Sunday evening: I attended a birthday party for a 20-year old student at our school along with some other co-workers/friends. She is the only believer in her family. She boldly invited the local fellowship leader and other young people from the gathering, and we had a time of worship and reading/teaching from the word. Her 85-year-old devout Buddhist grandmother (who has never been to a school in her lifetime) and her step-dad joined the time with others from the fellowship, but her mother and sisters refused to join and instead prepared food downstairs for the group of about 30-40 people who came to the party. The birthday girl cried as she thanked everyone for coming, and I can only imagine how encouraging it must have been to have some light in her dark home. It was also crazy to think of the incredible changes in just one generation in this household- from a grandmother who never went to school- to a granddaughter who is studying English!
I got home, debriefed a bit with my roomie Heather, and double checked that our "water process" had begun. We turn on two different switches each night- one which is outside our front gate- to fill our tank with water for an hour and a half until it starts to overflow and rush out to turn it off. Then I washed my feet, and oh you wouldn't believe the dirt! I read some more of "The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down" about a Hmong family's cultural misunderstandings with doctors in America... and got my room cooled off with the air con. Then I used just the fan for the rest of the night.
Monday morning: After eating an omelette breakfast, braiding my hair, choosing the skirt-shirt-earring combo appropriate for the 95 degree weather, and reading the Word, I ventured out as usual with Wanda the Honda just before 8:00 am. After crossing the wooden bridge across the mini-abyss from our house to the road, I noticed the construction workers staring and smiling at me more than they usually do... I started feeling frustrated, but then realized Wanda's front light was on! Oh, the enjoyment we "filang" bring to the people of Laos. What a good reminder to not get frustrated too quickly... there are probably good explanations. :)
I taught my two regular English classes. This morning's attendance was 7/10 in my 8:30-10:00 class (with one student coming fifteen minutes late, and another coming thirty minutes late), and 3/4 in my 10:15-11:45 class. In the first class, we practiced simple present tense (see below) and shopping dialogues between sellers and customers. The verb changes for he/she are incredibly challenging since verbs don't change in the Lao language according to the pronoun- and there is simply one word for he/she... and that word is actually "lao."
Do you have any pets?
Yes, I do.
Does he have any pets?
Yes, he does.
In my second class, we also studied shopping dialogues, and reviewed comparative and superlative adjectives. For example:
China is more developed than Cambodia.
She is the best cook that I know!
I was also given a really fun new purse from one of my students who wanted to wish me a Happy Women's Day (3/8). We don't have school tomorrow for this international holiday. I love living in Asia over Women's Day... how come no one in the U.S. celebrates this day?!
Monday afternoon: After my second class, I quickly changed into what Maria Von Trapp would call "play clothes." Then our entire school staff left for an afternoon outing in honor of Women's Day. We celebrated by eating lunch together on a floating restaurant/house boat. Lunch consisted of:
Spicy Papaya Salad
Spicy Green Bean Salad
Spicy Fish and Mushroom Soup
Minced Meat with Mint
Morning Glory with Garlic
After lunch, we floated up and down the Ta Ngon river and sang karaoke songs. Most songs were in Thai. The Thai and Lao languages are super similar and most television shows and songs here are actually in Thai. I was handed the mic for some "Sha La La La... in the Morning.... Sha La La in the Evening..." English song that I'd never heard before- oh dear. I would guess there were at least 40 of us on that boat? Our CAMA staff from our crafts and silk projects was also on board. I'm thankful we had a roof above us to provide shade!
I rode back in my teammate Calah's car, and got to hold her youngest- Kezia- on my lap and play games with her on the way back. They've taught me songs about the fish that bites your right pinky and the ducks whose father says QUACK QUACK QUACK. I have so much to learn about kids, and so much respect for you moms out there!
On my way back to my house, Wanda's tank was empty so I turned left into a gas station- and at the same time I pulled in- a herd of cows crossed the road and also walked into the gas station. So funny! Then the men at the pump informed me that they were out of gas. I thought to myself, what if this were to happen in America? Does this happen in America? So bizarre for a gas station to run out of gas...
Monday evening: I got home and sat down for a few minutes to take a breather, and heard someone saying my name outside. I went to the side door and saw my former student and neighbor... he wanted to see a picture of one of my current students (I take students' pictures on the first day of class), but I think he just wanted to talk because he was all dressed up and went on talking for a while- but I didn't invite him in. He's also asked me the meaning to some of the words from the song "You're Beautiful" and has asked me again and again why I don't want a Lao husband. Oh, dear.
Glad I had a dinner to go to get me out of that one. Wanda and I took off again to Me Kek's (she's my second Lao mom) for a taco dinner. Usually she makes amazing Lao food, but tonight was the last night for one of the ELIC gals who had stayed with her for a home stay similar to my own when I first came to Laos, and so this gal had made tacos! Me Kek is in her late fifties, and is one of the most joyful, spirit-filled followers I've met in Laos. She has seen horrific things in her lifetime... working and living in caves during the war, hearing bombs and planes flying overhead nearly 24-7 at the age of sixteen, seeing many friends die in front of her and behind her, and she even bears the scars on her arms of multiple gunshots. She didn't have the opportunity for formal schooling, but I believe a relative of hers studied as a monk and taught her how to read- and now she reads the word daily! I love spending time at her home, and tonight was no exception. She has one daughter who is currently studying in the U.S., and her husband died this summer. So she has adopted me as her daughter, and I in turn call her "mom" and continue to visit her along with my host mom. It's interesting how "roles" develop... and I've come to realize that one of my given roles here in Laos is to be a daughter to some widows and love on them.
I'm grateful for a safe ride home on Wanda- especially as I passed by my second accident of the day. Upon returning home, Heather turned on the water pump, and now we start the next 24 hour adventure... with a day off!
*Note: Some people joke that years in Laos are like dog years... which would mean that I've been here about 10 years already- ha, ha. In many ways, I do feel like I've been here more than a year and a half because it's been SO full- but it has been rich- as you can see from the amazing people and experiences I've shared about in the last 24 hours here in Laos.