Thursday, October 11, 2012

Take Me to Your Heart

Often when I travel there is a song that seems to pervade, sticking to the memories of the trip, and that song will then forever remind me of that place or time or trip. So, what's the song for Laos you ask???

Take Me to Your Heart.

I've heard it at the grocery store, along the street, at the bus stop. While it is definitely not a song I would normally listen to, and it's not even new, I've found myself humming it, and even keeping an ear out for it. (Side-note about music in the grocery store, I've heard Taylor Swift Christmas music, and Eminem songs so full of expletives that I ran around trying to get my stuff and get out as quickly as possible. Apparently they aren't very selective, or aware.) I don't know why it's stood out so much to me. Maybe because I've never heard it before and it's so not Lao, but it's everywhere!

In the Dominican Republic, we were all crooning-Baby te quiero-wo-woo

This song is stuck with the blitzkrieg trip to San Diego made with my roommates sophomore year of college when we helped clean up the damage from all the fires.

Are there any songs that instantly remind you of a trip or place?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Crossing the Border

So every month, I have to leave the country in order to come back in and renew my visa. Convenient huh. Luckily Thailand is a quick bus drive away from Vientiane. So, I decided to make a day of it and head to the nearest city in Thailand-Nongkhai. I didn't really have a plan though. So when the Tuk-Tuk I caught dropped a group of people off at a market, I decided to get off too. There ended up being this cute little set up for people to take pictures at.

And that's when he popped in. Seriously, this is how we met.

And then they were buying me lunch and I was getting in a Tuk-Tuk with them. Let the adventures roll!

First stop, the Thai version of Buddha Park

Yep, I'm so cute.

I've come to realize these shorts are really unflattering. It's quite unfortunate.

These things popping out of the trees were really quite ominous. I kind of felt like I was in Jurassic Park-"Must go faster."

And then why not check out the crocodile show!?

There were like 5 crocs swimming around in there with them.

Yep, he really stuck his head in there.

Before doing stunts like this they would knock around the gator's mouth with the bamboo sticks a bunch and goof off a ton. Maybe to make them feel comfortable with being messed with??? At least we know they weren't hungry!

This stuffed little guy is totally plotting something!!! REVENGE!

They actually paid for most of my activities and things, and it was really awkward when I tried to pay. Apparently this is a part of Chinese culture (they're all from China and are here working), and I totally got the benefit of them hosting me for the day. Score! Lesson of the day: hoping into stranger's pictures is a great way to make friends.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Dungeons and Demons

Two weekends ago I decided to venture out a bit. Near Vientiane there is a sculpture park, known to Falang (the Lao version of Gringo) as Buddha Park. On my trip I met two Slovenian girls headed the same way. It was nice to have some company, and be each other's photographers. 

 This is probably the weirdest statue there, although it was FULL of crazy statues

 There were three levels inside the circle, each filled with creepy statues and scenes

At the top!

The reclining Buddha

The stairs to the top were really narrow!

The way home we hitched a ride with some UN workers, and then walked part-way across the bridge between Thailand and Laos to find the bus. An accidental adventure. One of the coolest things about being here is meeting people from everywhere. I rarely meet any Americans. I'll post soon about the awesome Chinese guys I made friends with last weekend!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Gettin' Fresh at Church

So I was standing there at church, going through introductions with a woman whose husband works at the embassy, when all of a sudden there are hands...running up and down my sides, and words...words that I'll never understand (Lao is hard!). I'm sure she was just being friendly, but man, her hands got pretty low.

And then somehow my wanting to help with English classes ended up with me being an English teacher today. I skimmed the workbook while walking into the room...ummm...hello class.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

I Want to Ride My Bicycle!

When visiting places I love renting a bike to explore. So far I've gotten to do this on Coronado Island, Chicago, and it's a great way to see the monuments in DC. So when I found out I could rent a bike here for less than $2 for a whole day, you know I was going to take advantage of that.

So I loaded up with banana pancakes drizzled in local honey (So good!)

Then I rented a bike from the same place I had my pancakes, which is Noy's Fruit Heaven (they already recognize me here, the fruit smoothies are truly heaven).

My main destination was Pha That Luang. Here's the thing, Laos is not necessarily bike all. I wanted to stick to sidewalks as much as possible, but you see the sidewalks double as parking lots, and often people with their pop-up markets are selling their wares, sometimes the sidewalks end with a high curb and it's either constantly stop and ease the bike down or take to the streets, and sometimes there are no sidewalks. And there are definitely no bike lanes. It was a lot of weaving, stopping, dodging, ducking. And even on a bike, I still got the usual question of "Tuk tuk?!"

But I made it without real incident.

I ended my exploration by biking along the Mekong. And then got some crazy fruit. There are lot of new ones to try here. This is called Rambutan. The outside is CRAZY! You pop the hairy looking shell off and inside is a sweet juicy thing, but you have to beware of the pit. I got a whole kilogram of these, since I had no idea how much that would be, and now I have quiet a lot of these. Good thing they're so good! 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

A STUPAndeous Arch

So, the title is supposed to be punny...

Here's the Stupa-

Here is the Arch-

Both are in my area, so I went and visited last weekend. Here is the view from the very top window of the arch-

So I'm not one to take pictures of myself, and I've never gone anywhere alone where I would want pictures. So, trying to take pictures of myself somewhere cool is kind of a challenge. Here are my attempts-

 I finally asked someone to take a picture for me, it felt awkward...

I invested in ear plugs today, here's to hoping that it will keep the dog fights, cat yowls, and Buddhist chants from waking me throughout the night. 

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference. 
Robert Frost
It is a poem referred to time and time again. I had to memorize it in middle school, and again in high school. But  tonight was one of those times where it rang with such clarity. Oh that first stanza! How I wish I could be in two places at once! To stand at the edge of decisiveness straining to catch a glimpse of what lies ahead. But there is no real knowledge, only hope that it will be a good trail that leads to a great destination. And unlike choose your own adventure books where I would try to place a bookmark at every turning point, and then go back to it after that trail ended to start down another path, we can never really go back to where we were exactly before. The path was grassy and wanted wear, so I took it.