Winter Vacation 2008/2009
01.02.2009 - 01.02.2009
Today was a relatively laid-back/relaxing day. We woke up earlier than we really wanted to and made our way out to a meant-to-be-hot-but-was-cold buffet breakfast. I enjoyed the meal; Court did not. She wasn’t a fan of her cold, onion flavored hash browns or her extra gingery tea. She’s really excited about breakfast for tomorrow.
After we had breakfast we made our way down to Big Brother Mouse. Big Brother Mouse is an organization, created by a retired American publisher, which writes, illustrates and publishes both bilingual and Lao books for Lao people. For a lot of Lao, the only books that they have read, if they’ve read anything, are their school textbooks. If we all remember, school textbooks are NOT interesting at all. Most Lao have never seen a book that they would be remotely interested in reading for fun. Big Brother Mouse has created a lot of books, covering topics such as math, hygiene, animals, and other famous stories like “The Wizard of Oz”, to engage Lao children. They also sponsor book parties. For the book parties they travel out to a village in rural Laos, play games, talk to them about hygiene, safety and health, and, most important, leave them books. For some of these kids, these books are their first possession.
Big Brother Mouse also organizes an English speaking hour on most mornings. During this time volunteers come down and help out teenagers and other Lao people who want to practice their English. We made it down in time to help out, however there were only two students there and they were already being helped out by volunteers. One was a retired principal from Calgary who is living in Laos now. We listened to them helping out these students and decided for our own sensibilities we had to stop listening to them try to teach these students. Let’s just say the “lesson” they were getting was worth the money they paid for it, i.e. nothing. Oh well.
After we left Big Brother Mouse we went needed to have a morning refresher, which came in the form of chai latte, hot chocolate, and fruit salad. Feeling refreshed we made our way back to the main road and split up. Courtney went to a wat and I went in search of a working ATM and the hours of the post office. My expedition was not exciting. Court’s was more enlightening.
While Court was at the wat taking pictures, a group of teenage monks came up and started to talk to her. They said they’re not in school right now and they have to do lots of work around the temple. Court figured they wanted a reason to take a substantial break from doing work and practicing English is a good reason to take a break. They also agreed to let her take their picture.
(Aside: I also learned a little about a day in the life of a monk. After waking at 4am, they have morning prayers and
go around town collecting alms from the people in town (they asked if I had seen it, but we haven’t yet been awake at 5:30am, so sadly we haven’t). After alms collection, I think there are more prayers, followed by study and school for six hours. Then they have free time, which usually involves walking around the town and hanging out. They could all speak English quite well, and were very friendly. It was a really cool experience.)
We met up and decided it was time for another break, Italian soda and desserts, and made our game plan for the rest of the day. We wanted to book an elephant tour, do some more shopping, and try to find something we left at an old hotel. We actually managed to accomplish all of this; it was a tough day.
We went into Kopnoi store and met a lovely Québécoise who is living in Laos now. Her daughter and son-in-law were on a round the world trip, fell in love with Luang Prabang and settled here. She opened the first English bookstore in Laos and has started other fair trade projects in and around Luang Prabang. Her mother moved over this year to help out in one of the stores and, more, importantly see her grandchildren every day.
After shopping, it was back to the hotel for another refreshing nap. We were planning to go to the Royal Ballet Theatre at 6:00, but got up a little bit later than we should have. We had to hustle down to make the start of the show. Unfortunately, we also had to stop and get more cash on the way. Even after stopping for money we managed to get to the theatre in time. But then we ran into a problem: a disorganized family of six. They had no idea where they wanted to sit and were trying to negotiate where they could sit. Once they got the seats figured out they then had to figure out how much it was going to cost. All of us in line were getting quite frustrated with them.
We settled in to our seats only five minutes late and watched the show.
Court’s chicken soup was TOO spicy. This meant a trip to another restaurant, Dao Fa, so Court could eat some pasta. And finally, after a tough, tough, tough day, we made our way back to the hotel for the night.