From 14 June to 5 July I took a trip back to Laos. It was an extraordinary time, my heart was so happy. Lao people are special in ways that no one else in the world is.  Life is so real and alive there.

I arrived at Wattay International Airport, Vientiane,  on the evening of 14 June and were greeted  by 2 friends and one of my friend’s father who owns a tuk-tuk. After finding me, we went to one of their homes so we would be together for church in the morning. Only, my friends were so excited (as was I) we didn’t stop laughing or talking for a while. My friend’s, Chanbang, house is located near the airport. For a long time she wanted me to come to her house, but saying it’s uncomfortable and dirty. After repeated conversations of bo pen yang (no worries), she decided it was a good idea. After that day she ALWAYS wanted me to sleep with her at her house!

Her family’s house , similar to many Lao families, is small, only a couple rooms, but what makes a home is definitely the people not the structure. Lao people like to live together.   Chanbang’s family is definitely full of lots of happiness and life. Since I first met her many of her family members have come to live with them in Vientiane from other provinces – because they want to be part of the church.

As Chanbang’s English has gotten better and my Lao, her family members have also got to know me. On this trip her aunt and uncle wanted us to come stay at their home. Their home is located way outside Vientiane near lots of rice paddies and the Mekong, of which we went to one night.

Chanbang also wanted me to go to the graduation of 2 of her friends. The graduation was held very far away at a school we didn’t really know how to get to, but eventually we made it and Chanbang was able to take pictures with her friends!

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The first Sunday I was there I spent the entire day at Nongtha (Nakham Church).  It felt so good to worship with so many very proud and faithful Christians , as well as familiar faces all day. Many of my Lao Christian friends used to tell me, “Thai Christians do not love God.”  I thought what they were saying was ridiculous, but now that I have lived in Thailand there is some truth to that statement.  Thai people love God, but in a very different way.  Lao Christians love God with all their heart, body, and soul.  For Thai people and many others, many other things get in the way of God (their jobs, a materialistic lifestyle, etc.).

Nakham Church is still being built. It is expected to be completed at Christmas! Lao Christians are very excited and proud for the new church.   Below a few recent pictures of the progress.

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For most of the 3 weeks I was there I stayed with one of my Lao families (the 2nd family I had lived with). My 2nd family has had an MCC volunteer living with them this year, Kris (see previous blog entries). Kris is ending his MCC Lao work this week and so they were all glad I came back before he left. We spent a lot of time together, much of it spent into the early hours of the morning each night watching the World Cup! I never really liked football that much before but when you are with one of your many Lao fathers, MCC friend, and 2 Lao brothers football definitely gets more excited, even at 1 AM!

My Lao family all sleep together  (5 of them) in one of the rooms of their home on blankets on the floor! That’s the way they like it best (!), even though they have mattresses and other rooms to their home. 🙂 Kris and I joined them for part of some nights while watching the World Cup!

Kris, the MCC volunteer, and I also spent much time helping Mina,  our Lao mother, learn computer skills. She has a new job where she is the manager of a Korean school and English volunteers programs, so she needed to learn about the computer. Mina is such a busy lady, not like your typical Lao person. She is always taking on new projects, eager to learn new skills. I helped Mina a lot with her evening English classes. Every evening about 40 students come to learn English at her home. There is no permeant teacher though – they are all volunteers.  Many of the students don’t have money to come study, but are still invited to study! Mina’s dream is to open a Kindergarten and computer classes in a few years.

I spent a lot of time at Proviedence School and Donkoi Primary School. Since I came during the summer, there were fewer students at Providence School and at Donkoi summer camp was in session!

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After the teachers at Donkoi realized I had come back to Laos they wanted me to come teach English and help with activities, so I went back a few days to do just that.  For 1 week a group from World Friends Korea were visiting Donkoi.  World Friends Korea is a South Korean government-run overseas volunteer program, similar to the Peace Corps. There were about 10-15 volunteers that came from South Korea that came to help at Donkoi school. They taught the students English and Korean, but also worked to build the final school wall!

 

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Since I have left to come back to Thailand the wall has been completed and the students and teachers are now working to replant a garden in the empty spaces. What do you think? It is very beautiful!

 

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While I was in Vientiane I also volunteered at the Children’s Hospital. Activities were created at the Children’s Hospital a few years ago to keep the children busy and happy while they wait for visits with the doctors. Many of the Lao social work students volunteer in this way. On many days the students go around with a cart of books to read and spend time with the children, in this case especially the children who are too sick to come down to the activity room. I recruited Mailo, a very active social work student and friend to help me.

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After volunteering at the hospital, I went to a different hospital.  Since it is rainy season, it is hard to stay dry and clean always and so I got ‘nong’ infection on my foot.  It hurt to walk and when I went to show my friends they all said go to the hospital. While you know your  Lao language skills are OK when you can communicate with the doctor and he prescribes the right medicine.

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I also spent some time with 2 of my best church friends, La and Kor,  who have had their babies since I last was there. I had fun seeing them for the first time and talking care of them.  Both of these friends are teachers at Providence School. When I saw them again for the first time after 6 months I was crying in happiness. They were confused because Asian people very rarely express emotions in public, but I told them I was just very happy. They just smiled and laughed!

Afterward, they had me come back to teach English at Providence School many days, as school is still in session during the summer there, just with less students. It felt as if I had never left!  A world that was once so different and foreign has become a place that is comfortable, a place that is just as much home as in Iowa, and will continue to be that forever.

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I also spent time visiting and spending time with lots of other friends and family. I spent a couple days at Pastor Khamphone’s house (where I used to live), visiting with him and his family members.

I spent time with one particular individual and friend who has had mental illnesses, but is now getting better. She now teaches English at a school in her village and weaves during the summer. She is really talented at weaving. We spent lots of time weaving together!  Two pictures of us below, the one on the right with friend that works at her family’s home.

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I had a wonderful visit to Laos getting reconnected with my best friends and volunteering in many different places.  After 3 weeks I was able to get a new Thai VISA and return to Thailand, but I left very happy and rejuvenated, until I return again.

Love from my home in Laos ❤

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