December 1, 2018
Pencils of Promise Part Three
Welcome back to my Pencils of Promise trip day four and five.
Part of what Pencils of Promise does in Laos and in the other countries that they help with is they offer a WASH program and TS (teacher support). Their WASH program is to really help the students understand how to be sanitary in terms of brushing their teeth and properly washing their hands with soap and water. Something that we take for granted here in the U.S. So, we traveled to a school where we observed and participated in their WASH activities, played around with the kids, took lots of pictures, laughed, smiled, and I actually even got yelled at because I was playing around with the kids too much and they needed to go back to class. At this location, the pre-school teacher was Hmong. So I was fortunate enough to chat with her in Hmong and really speak with someone that was in my families world. It was great and she introduced me to some of the little Hmong girls in her class who were SO adorable to talk with. This made my heart so very happy!!
We had lunch while we were there. We traveled back to the city and we observed more sessions, especially teacher support sessions. Those were amazing to help us watch what the teachers were doing. They were teaching English to the students and I will forever have in my head pig, pen and papaya. Those three words were the three that they were teaching the kids that day. They were singing a song to that which I found quite funny along with my colleagues. And we will now forever have those three words in our heads in the best way possible. After observing a class, Whitney (PoP TS guru) led us through some of the things that she looks for and how and why they use the TS program to help teachers.
I can’t say anything that I’ve already said before. Everything seems like I’m just regurgitating the same information. But honestly, it was such an amazing experience and every single school that we went to, everywhere that we traveled to the children were the best, the most amazing and so openhearted, friendly and you just knew that they absolutely deserve the help that we were providing them. We traveled back to Luang Prabang to have dinner. This was the night that we did go into the night market. They actually close off their main street to the traffic and all of these shops put up their tents and they had this night market where you can go shopping, bargain and really just kind of haggle for some really cool products and gifts to take home, which I did buy a bunch of gifts and I also bought a couple things for myself as well.
In the night market there is also this street alley just off to the side where it is true and authentic street food. You literally walk through this alley and there is just food everywhere. There’s people cooking right in front of you and it’s a scrawny little narrow alley filled with tons and tons of people eating, cooking and making food. It’s just all sitting out there and at first you think, “Wow, this is very unsanitary” but it was quite amazing and I was able to pick up some really fresh cut mangoes and have that as a snack in my hotel room afterwards.
It was a little bit sad because I knew that going to bed that night, that was one of the last days we’ll be traveling to so many of the schools. We only had one more school to visit the next day and I was already sad that I wouldn’t be able to see all of these amazing kids again. But nevertheless, the next day came and that was day five.
On day five we had morning alms at 5:00 AM. It was insanely early but it was so rewarding. There are lots of temples. I mean, a lot of temples in the city. With that, there’s a certain path where the monks and the monks in training will actually walk down into the special ceremony, which they call alms in the morning, where the monks will go through and they’ll open up their containers and you don’t look at the monks and you just keep your head down and you stay very silent and you give them an offering. So, we had sticky rice and cookies as an offering and we would give an offering to each monk that went by. It was pretty amazing. Very dark but very amazing. You’ll see the images below. They’re only cellphone images because out of respect for the alms ceremony we don’t take photos.
We had a nice breakfast together at the hotel afterwards and then we traveled to a school inauguration, which was so much fun because this is where we had our second Baci ceremony, which was amazing. We had some lucky coconuts at the ceremony, which was way better than the first one. Especially for our vegetarian friends that did not appreciate having to touch any raw meat, but it was still a lot of fun and we got to do the Baci ceremony. We had lunch with the community. Everyone came out. People were dressed up. It was wonderful. It was such a great ceremony. We met all the leaders. They gave their thanks. They showed their appreciation to us and it was just so heartwarming.
After we said goodbye to the kids, which I so did not want to. Again, I got in trouble a second time for hanging out with the kids so much. They were supposed to be going back to class, and they weren’t because they were busy hanging out with me. So, I felt bad and had to let them go and then we hopped back into our vehicles and we headed off to a waterfall. The Kuang Si Waterfall is was one of their big attractions. About an hour drive from where we were, we traveled to the waterfall that afternoon. We enjoyed hiking a short ways to see the big fall and hung out watched everyone enjoy the falls. I did not bring a swimsuit with me so I didn’t do any swimming. But it was so much fun watching everyone just splash in the water, take massive jumps off the ledges and have a great time.
This waterfall visit was the last visit in the Pencils of Promise field trip. We came back to Luang Prabang and we got ready for dinner. Headed to the Pencils of Promise office where their entire staff was there cheering us on, they taught us cooking classes. We learned how to cook three different dishes. Their steamed fish, which is a very popular dish. Papaya salad, which is also a very popular dish. And crispy rice rolls. It was amazing and actually, because I knew how to make papaya salad at home it was quite comical to watch everyone making it. Making it wrong, but making it in the funnest way that I just found myself constantly laughing and taking videos for Instagram and taking photos for Instagram.
It was so much fun. We had a blast. There was singing and dancing and karaoke and so, so much dancing. I don’t think I wanted to leave and at the end of the night when it was time to say goodbye I feel like I was a blubbering baby because I would not stop crying. All the emotions, all the feels, everything in my life I just felt like it came so close to home. So close to all the things that I could’ve been in, having knowing that my parents were from Laos and that they moved to the U.S. after the war, and knowing how close my life could’ve been to live in the life where these children were far off in the communities, in the villages with no running water, without education, without any real way to have a future or have a life besides farming the fields and just trying to take care of themselves and their family.
Heart so full
It really brought to life all the goodness that Pencils of Promise is doing, all the goodness that the Rising Tide Society and Honeybook has helped by helping build a school with this partnership with Pencils of Promise and just all the wonderful people with open hearts that are really sacrificing so much of their hearts, so much of their time in order to pour into such a great cause, such a great community and country. It just filled my heart so much that the tears started to flow and I couldn’t help myself. I didn’t want it to end.
I loved everyone so much and I felt like everyone had become a family together. So, our goodbyes were so tough but so worth it to have met everyone that I met on the trip. We left and went back to the hotel, said another set of goodbyes and then everyone else left the following morning while I stayed to visit with my family. More on that on the next post. Thank you for following along.