for doing what she did and getting free

Friday, August 13th, 2010

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If I had a legitimate excuse for my prolonged hiatus from this blog, it would be these two women: Lanoy (basketball star/surrogate Lao sister/PoP MVP) and Phet (architect/duck blood soup lover/PoP Rookie of the Year).

For the last month I’ve spent hours on end with these two ever-inspiring, always-entertaining, seriously kickass women. We’ve tediously translated budgets, interviewed contractors, braved the monsooned roads, hosted village wide meetings, and, of course, drank beerlao.

Our goal was very simple: build a school. Build a school and show every single villager, government worker, unconvinced observer, and ourselves that we could. Build a school and provide the kids in Houy Thong with a place to learn.

So we did. With the empowerment and help from an amazing visiting co-worker (and every person in our organization) we built a school.

And a few days ago this little school opened to some very happy people and very big party.

There were speeches (mine nervously in Lao), there was dancing (think square dancing take Lao), there was massive amounts of food (and beerlao), and there was me, with a ridiculous cotton-flower smile on my face all afternoon.

And I can say now with complete confidence that I have never been so honored, so humbled in my life as I was that day with those two great women at my side.

may your feet always be swift.

Monday, June 28th, 2010

With our friend from the states visiting, we undertook a (what we didn’t know would be so) major project to build soccer goals for the talented and fierce kids of rural Bo He village.

The men folk, B and friend, put in laborious days of metalworking in the heavy Lao humidity.
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Our Lao friends and PoP supports stopped by daily to help cleanup, paint, and serve the boys beerlao.
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Once in Bo He, the epicness of the project was far from complete. Villagers had to carry the goals down the hill, across the bridge, up through the village and to the school.
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But then, the rowdiest, far-better-than-any-world-cup-game, commenced.
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And when we left Bo He, sufficiently exhausted and Beerlaoed, a group of primary school girls, their skirts knotted up around their waists, were tied up in a raucous game, mimicking their new Lao city friends, determined to be serious ass-kicking females.

romance, learn to dance.

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

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When you hear the drums coming, see the villagers marching, and are waved over to join in on the procession, go.

When a warm glass of shared Beerlao is passed to you at 10 AM and the dancing village elders chant for you to chug it, chug.

When you end up packed in the temple with all the villagers, drenched in humidity, and everyone around you bows in unison to the floor to pray, pray. Thank whomever it is you thank that you are here, in this temple that is open to the locals twice a year. That they have invited to join their ceremony, that the eldest in the village is blessing you and the monks are praying for you.

And when, an hour later, the bowing, chanting and praying stops and the music starts, get ready to dance. Don’t hesitate when the woman next to you holds out her hand and motions for you to rise, to dance right here, right now, in this temple, alone and in front of an entire village.

Just dance. Dance your hybrid white-girl-lao-traditional dance.

They’ll laugh at you, with you, with each other. They’ll point and make jokes about your height, your skin color, your moves. They’ll say you’re beautiful.

And they will love you. They’ll embrace you and share with you the most intimate parts of their cultures and their lives.

And when you leave hours later, woozy from heat and boiled chicken and Lao whiskey, you will love them, too.

mama, you been on my mind.

Sunday, May 9th, 2010

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Here, many things may be lacking: Enough schools. Access to clean water. Sound medical care. Good coffee.

But, there’s an abundance of many others: Ridiculously happy children. Compassionate people. Sticky rice.

And loving mothers. Mothers who, against all forces, care for, raise and appreciate their children.

Teenage mothers. Elderly mothers. Surrogate village mothers. Mothers who spend their hours nursing, singing, dancing and playing with their children. Mothers who come home from the fields to cook and care for their children, to hold them and sing them to sleep. Mothers who pick their kids up when they fall, brush off their naked bottoms, and send them on their way.

And it’s inspiring. I know I’ll never be a Lao mother; I come from a much more privileged place in life and my children will have far more innate opportunities. But I hope that someday I, too, can be like them.

These mothers that care not just with gifts and expensive music classes. Not just with private schools and trips to the museum; with expensive foods and organic clothes. Undereducated, underpaid and underserved mothers who care just with what they have: their maternalness.

Their natural motherness to love their children, to nurture them and watch them grow. To appreciate their challenges, their triumphs and their growths.

To brush off their bottoms, to hold them close, to sing in their ears at night.

And see the lights surrounding you.

Thursday, May 6th, 2010

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I’m magical.

No really, I am. Just ask the kids of Phayong village.

Last week, AB, who was here with PoP, made the challenging, epic, and down right ballsy trek up the mountain to Phayong with me.

Our mission: Pure, youthful joy.

Joy in the form of glowsticks. When the sun falls, the fires dwindle and the clouds roll in, Phayong is cloaked in a thick, rich blackness. So with a group of our small and curious friends, AB and I broke out the magic.

And as each unassuming stick broke into a crack of neon, pure joy. Glowsticks made into bracelets. Glowsticks tumbling down the hills and flying through the air. Glowstick sword fights. Glowsticks tucked into shirts, coveted, snuck home to huts.

In the end it’s hard to say who had the most fun. The small worn out tots who chased flashes of neon through the village for hours, or us. Us who got to witness this discovery, this magical, youthful moment in their lives. It was, hands down, the most amazing childhood exploration I’ve ever seen.

Glowsticks. Now that’s one way to stay forever young.