Many of you have sent me messages asking "Where are you now? We have missed the updates." I am sorry about the lack of updates. I am still in Luang Prabang, Laos. I planned on being here for 5 days then decided to stay 8 days and now it will be 13 days. Yes, I love it here! When I went to the hotel reception desk to talk to them about staying longer, I was told my same room was going to cost $75/night! Wow! That was outside my budget and I decided to visit a few hotels and find something within my price range. I found a room 2 blocks away for $13/night. You are probably wondering what I am doing. I call it living life and being joyful and happy. I read a blog (Solotraveler.com) that hit a chord with me. It asked the question to readers "What do you do when there are no demands on your time?" For me, this trip has been about enjoying my life and thinking about who I am and what I hope to gain out of traveling. From previous trips, I knew I was a culture vulture with some outdoor activities mixed into the activities. I did not know how it would go traveling solo but Luang Prabang has captured my heart. I have never loved a city like this city. I started off doing the typical tourist activities and then had an encounter that changed the focus of my stay in Luang Prabang. I met the novice monk Bandit. He encouraged me to spend time speaking English with the locals. I was timid at first but in the end I enjoyed it. This is why I travel! I love meeting the locals and sharing my life with them as I learn about their world. I have spent the last few days doing the things I love. I enjoy learning and sharing my knowledge. I have spent my time learning to speak with the locals, taking a cooking class on Lao food, volunteering with students, visiting art galleries and working on photography. I am happy and enjoy living my life. So, this post may be boring to some of you. Sorry about that but it is what it is. :)
As most of you know, I love eating good food. Obviously, a cooking class in Lao was high on the list. I wandered around town looking for a good class. I was walking by a restaurant and saw a sign for a cooking class. A couple tables saw me looking at the sign and they asked if I was interested in the class. I responded "yes." They told me that the food was excellent and asked if I would like to try their leftovers. Really?!? Why not? The food was fantastic and I immediately signed up for a class with Tum Tum Cheng's for the following day. Mmmm...I loved what I sampled and was excited to learn more wonderful recipes.
Class started at 9 am. I laughed when Rykka walked in and sat down. She and I ran into each other everywhere in Luang Prabang. We were on the plane together, stayed at the same hotels, ate at the same restaurants and shopped the same streets. It was not a surprise that she was in the class. We all sat down and decided which foods we wanted to cook. I chose the chicken with red chili and coconut sauce. We also chose ginger fish, steamed vegetable salad, stuffed lemongrass, Luang Prabang beef stew and pineapple-banana soup for dessert. Oh, and sticky rice off course...we were in Laos! We jumped in a tuk-tuk and headed off to the market to get the fresh ingredients.
Each of us helped with the dishes so everything would be ready simultaneously. Then we sat down and enjoyed our delicious meal. I loved the chicken stuffed lemongrass.
|Bon appetite! Time to enjoy the meal.|
We were all happy and full as we left Tum Tum Chengs. I have a recipe book full of food and can't wait to share it with you. I promise I will make you a meal when I see you next!
The remainder of my time, I have spent volunteering with English students. They are all very anxious to practice speaking English with the tourists. As an American I am a commodity! Seems the novice monks and the students all like the American accent the best. I had previously met some wonderful young men that were novice monks. They had told me about the organization Big Brother Mouse (http://www.bigbrothermouse.com/index.html) where I could buy and donate books for village children and practice English with students. I became a proponent of the program on my first visit. There were students with a variety of ages and backgrounds. When you arrive, you remove your shoes and go in and sit down with students. Then you introduce yourself and they start asking you general questions about your life and family. I have spent time talking with novice monks and students of all ages. Some will have homework they need help understanding or ask you to help with their pronunciation or to explain a word. My first night, I was sitting with two novices and a high school student. After we went through the formalities and introduced ourselves, they got out a notebook. The young novice opened the notebook and searched for a word he did not understand. Then pointed at it and asked me to explain environment. I smiled and asked if he had anything easier then proceeded to explain the environment the best I could. Until I started doing this, I did not realize how many different meaning there are for the same word in English. They asked me to use it in a sentence and then each of them used it in a sentence. We went through their words and practiced spelling and using it in a sentence. Then they asked if I had photographs from home. I started showing them pictures of friends, family, where I have lived and traveled. They enjoyed this and asked many questions. We went to a map so I could show them where I lived and the distance my families village was from my home. They showed me where their families lived. Then, one of the novice monks asked if I could teach him American slang. I smiled as he shared with me the phrases he knew. There is nothing like a Buddhist monk dressed in his robe looking at you and saying "Peace Out" as he gives the peace sign. I taught him a few more. They were so funny. I enjoyed my evening and walked home smiling. Since then, I have returned every day. The last three days I have been there from 9-11 am and 5-7 pm. I have learned as much from them as they have learned from me.
I would attach more photos of the area but the internet connection is very slow. I have been trying to do this for 2 days. After 2 glasses of Chile wine I decided to just give up and enjoy the evening. Good night!