28 November 2012

LAOS

Decided to just transfer everything from my little polar bear (how apt) notebook into this post. I didn't take any pictures throughout the entire trip because my phone kind of died. Some parts of it may be a teenyweeny bit disgusting (hahahaha) but the rest of it is okay, albeit kind of boring :-) Added-in comments shall be in brackets hahaha.

DAY ONE
18/11/2012 
2313

On the plane to Laos now with Gladys reading her book next to me and Austin sitting in my seat next to Timothy going crazy to Gangnam Style [new love for this song after the trip hahaha]. The other half are sitting in front playing cards and I really don't know what I'd do without the Kindle.

Really relieved everything went smoothly (pilot is making an announcement and the plane's landing AND my ears are exploding). Heard it's air-con tempterature now in Laos!! Yippee. All ready to crash after checking in to Dragon Lodge I'm not even gonna change. HAD A PLEASANT FLIGHT. I'll be back :)

0110

Checked in to Dragon Lodge and I love this country already. So many Tuao memories flooding back into my mind and I /know/ this is going to be one unforgettable trip [I should be a fortune teller]. 
Really glad to see everyone helping each other when we were moving the bags in ESPECIALLY THE GUYS can't believe they're the same guys they were 24 hours ago. Quite funny how once one person starts helping the rest follow :))))) Happy chain of helpfulness.

Sitting on my bed in this extremely dim room (romantic...) with XT and Srija who I'm rooming with for today before we set off for Na'ang Village tomorrow! Weather's exactly like Singapore's which I admit was a BIT disappointing considering they told us it would be air-con temperature.... BUT the people are so nice and relaxed and so is everyone on the team so I'm supersuper thankful :-) 
Super looking forward to the next 8 days with these people!!!!
Goodnight :)


DAY TWO
19/11/2012 
1145

In the van on the way to the village with Srija, XT, Timothy and Nicholas [coughandmrtaycough]. Visited the supermarket earlier this morning and bought all sorts of junk. Stared out the window for a while when I got kind of bored of reading my book. Driving past rows and rows and rows of hourses and fields and.... brown.

Was thinking of what to say for debrief tonight and once again questioning the meaning of life hahahahaha. Everytime I have debrief I just really want to start talking about the True Meaning of Happiness and cliche stuff like how we have so much and these people have so much less yet they are so much more contented and how we should count our blessings and blablablablabla. but anyway, still looking for important lessons I can take away from today. Haven't really interacted with the people yet but got a glimpse of what their lifestyle is like. As usual, ~seemingly~ carefree and they never ever complain. but maybe that's really just part of their job. 

Everytime I come to Tuao/Laos/whatever I start imagining what life would be like if I lived here. Poorer, probably, but much much stronger and independent (this van is frreeezzzinggg).

This country is really beautiful in its own way [sorry a bit of disconnection from previous sentence here]. Looking up at the huge sky again and thinking about the 7 billion people who share the same sky. Reminds me of what Mr. Sum said to us about appreciating what we have and making the best of out it, but few of us do it because we forget all the time, and when we forget, we forget to even try. Came here to make a difference, and I hope I'll be able to at least try.

[NOTE: from day 3-  my journals are all about the previous day and not the day itself!!]

DAY THREE
20/11/2012
0830

HELLO refreshing showers I can't believe I have missed you so :) Was too tired from playing with the kids yesterday so I didn't write in here :( Now I'm sitting alone with Ms Lye beside me HAHA. Anyway the village is exactly like Tuao!! Arrived here, took a mini "tour" and then we had some free time where the boys/some girls played volley/captain's/football and me being the most non-athletic student of ACJC played with the kids and HOHHO I can count to 100 in Lao!!!

Had a nice nice dinner before debrief/discussion and SLEEEEEPPPP.

Oh before dinner we all said proper grace and because my name is grace I was chosen to say it [ok this happened at least once everyday for the next 4/5 days -.-] and we ended off with a prayer too. Can't express how relieved (?) and thankful I am for this. First day of planting/teaching today. Hope all goes well~~~



DAY FOUR 
21/11/2012

As you can see [you can't, only I can hahaha] I have completely given up on decorating this book because it is simply too physically demanding for me to do so.

Yesterday we did farming, teaching AND painting and I was so DRAINED. Guess I was wrong about this trip being like mission trip hahaha [which turned out to be a blessing in disguise, really :)] but to be honest I was really quite disappointed with myself yesterday.

Planting was fine but during the lesson it was so difficult to step out of my comfort zone :( Felt so lost and didn't know what to do so in the end I felt like I really didn't do anything. 

Whitewashed the wall after that which was kind of fun hahaha. Just can't open my mouth to share during reflections though I have quite a lot to say. BUT I really really like my teaching group [Valerie, Shuying, Adela, Bryan] so yayyyy :)

Up early today to write this and do some QT before we start the day!! Really praying for the courage to be able to step way out of my comfort zone and to know what to do :(( I have a big poop on the way down BYEBYE poopytime!!

[DISCLAIMER EXTREMELY GROSS PART AHEAD]

Ok I was going to end this but I just had to come back here because I just took the biggest shit of all time and it's quite disgusting because it was a modified version of a squatting toilet so when I looked down I could see every single detail. OH by the way, my aiming somehow kinda failed me and one piece landed on the floor but I didn't realise until I STEPPED on it. omg hahah I'm just laughing at myself now I'm the grossest person I've ever met in my life k BYE.



DAY FIVE
22/11/2012

Awake early again because 早睡早起身体壮 :)
Yesterday was a really good day!! Started off the morning with a bit of sports and games (which I honestly wasn't excited for, being the least athletic person to exist on this planet but it turned out to be ok because we played frisbee and frisbees are not balls so I can touch them). Went on to sit in a circle talking to some fortune-teller and...... I'm going to lead a great life HAHA. (k Bryan is now having his own mini celebration in a half-asleep state because he managed to wake up for the morning jog)
Headed back for lunch and o m g most filling meal since we arrived. Played I Have Ever/Never with my teaching group and I ate 8 pieces of chicken and a whole LOAD of carrots. Lesson after that and I'm so relieved it was much much much better than yesterday's!!! Prayers answered :))) Taught them colours and shapes and I think it's safe to say they all learnt some things :) Finally getting my head to stop comparing this to mission trip and accepting that OCIP is very very different from a mission trip.

We went for home visits after that and it was super fun too!! Couldn't find a house at first but was invited to this elderly couple's house. They couldn't understand what we were trying to say so we walked around. Then when we were leaving we saw them feeding the ducks/chickens[/duckens] so we decided to tri it out!! Chased the chicks too before having a mini hairstyling session with the girls there and then playing the bamboo pole dance/game thing. 

Came back again for dinner/debrief and then SLEEEP. 
I'm supposed to talk about the tastes/smells I notice today during debrief aaaaaaand I need to poop again.

// It felt good. and none landed on the floor. YAY.



DAY SIX
23/11/2012

GOOD MORNING everyone is up early today for no particular reason but they all went for their morning jog/walk. 

Yesterday was a half-bad-half-good day. Bad because I just felt bad about myself and... I didn't know why I was that troubled actually but it was just baaaaad. 

Started drawing the world map design on the walls of the hall and that's when I started feeling a little crappy actually but anyway!!! Bad things are not meant to be remembered. Came back for lunch and then lesson timeeee. Really starting to like teaching the kids because they make you smile no matter what. Kind of life we are obliged to? Taught them how to make the animals masks but all of them only wanted to make cat/dog/pig so we let them [I was quite sure the duck was the cutest ok]. Had a bit of problem with the logistics so we let them use crayons/colour pencils to decorate their masks and I was actually quite amazed with their ~decorating skills~~. Moved on to teach the alphabet after that and I think that has been the most productive/useful lesson so far!! We broke them up into smaller groups so that each of us could concentrate on who we were teaching and understand their learning abilities better? Really felt like a teaching HAHA.

Started painting the walls and we were experimenting with the ~gradients~ and ~textures~. All born painters tqtqtq. 

Came back for dinner and debrief and HOLA couflkd;lfkglkjejslsjkdhflksjdhljskdhfljksdlhfsd [SECRETS REVEALED CAN'T TYPE IT OUT HERE]

Duckens have also kind of taken over our trip HAHA. 

Realised yesterday that I'm going to miss the kids here especially my ahgua boy :( :( and unlike mission trips the chances that I actually come back here again are painfully low so sigh must learn to love without getting attached. No tears shall be shed in the leaving of Na'ang [failed. miserably]. Bye think I need to poop AGAIN.



DAY SEVEN
24/11/2012 

Today is our last day here and I'm very very sad :( So much for not getting attached right. I keep thinking of how the kids would be like ten years down the road and it's just sad that I can't be there to watch them group up but sigh it's okay I just need to get over it ;(

Yesterday we completed 99.9% of our painting!! It's a miracle it looks so pretty actually. Turns out there was nothing to be worried about at all because everything turned out perfect :)

Discussed games for telematch today and slkdfkjldkjslkjhdljhfdlshfldjhflsdf [COMPLAINTS COMPLAINTS COMPLAINTS COMPLAINTS]

Lessons after that and we made a pencil holder and did word search! Pencil holder went well for my group (consisting of Noi, Moan, Riam, Pud)[Oh speaking of the kids' names I accidentally burst out laughing because the two guys sitting in front of these four girls were called Toi and Let and I know it's bad and evil and I shouldn't be making fun of their names but you can't deny it it's funny especially cos they said their names one after the other] but the word search...... heheh. BUT we managed to keep them in class all the way till 4 which to me was a great achievement because the kids from other classes were all running out their classes before that!! Really thank God for my group I can't ask anything more of them :))))

Debrief last night was the longest ever because we had to relearn our orientation dance and discuss telematch so by the time we formed our teaching groups everyone was -.-zzzzzz already.
And then at night a few of us got together to __________ and at 0000 we filmed a birthday video for Chengen!! Today is Chengen's b'day btw so happy birthday!!!!



DAY EIGHT
25/11/2012

Shall continue and finish this journal although I'm already back in SG [ok to avoid confusion days 8/9 were written at home in Ang Mo Kio]

Cooked dinner and had a mini BBQ with the villagers on our last day in Na'ang. Had a super difficult but still enjoyable time chopping the fish. One of the few things I'll never forget :)
Both the chicken and the fish tasted amazing anyway so yayyyy!!

Oh we had our finale earlier in the day too where we did our orientation dance and gangnam style and held this telematch thingy. Only 4 people from our class turned up due to a bit of miscommunication and I was so sad my favourite kids weren't there but it's ok :( Teared when they didn't want to leave though we kept say bye bye and I miss them soooooooooooooo much now :'((((

Anyway after the BBQ the village chief et cetera presented us with certificates and rice baskets, and then at 12 we celebrated Chengen's birthday~~!!! I was dead tired from all the cooking and chopping but it turned out to be a significant part of the entire trip!!

Roger convinced CE to go to sleep in case he fell sick after being cut by the fish bones and he had to wake up at 0000 to "take his temperature", then all the girls held our rice baskets and started chanting "Neung song sam sii ha (12345)" while tapping our baskets and some sprinkled "holy water" and surrounded him. The guys held him down and spread toothpaste all over his face but he K.O.-ed again. So when all of us were just kneeling in a circle trying to wake him up Timothy thought it looked like a funeral and started crying and so all of us were just kneeling in a circle converting our laughs into cries. He only woke up after some of the guys tried doing mouth-to-mouth "resuscitation" on him hahaha. Anyway it was definitely more than just a celebration and I'm quite sure he'll remember it for as long as... he lives? Idk ;)


Woke up again today [once again to avoid confusion, 25/11], packed and had breakfast for the last time in village D:

Got into my van with the van people (Srija Valerie Vivian Timothy Bryan) and left for Vientiane straightaway!! Got a bit teary but nothing too bad. After the 4-hour ride we checked to Lovan Guesthouse  where there was WIFI!!!! All of us just instantly became desperate internet-lovers. Lunch at Dragon Lodge after and it felt so weird, not bad, but just a little strange being back there with the same (same but different) people after 5 days. Can't believe how much all of us had changed :))

Went to Black Canyon after to get our doses of city food/drink AKA gelato/coffee/frappes. Left for That Laung Festival [not sure if I spelt it right too lazy to check my arm is getting tired from all this typing] after that and a few of us girls bought the same sweater!! Yayyyy. Shall wear it coming Sunday to church :) The boys got matching Superman shirts toooo. 

Headed to some famous-ish restaurant for dinner after visiting COPE and its museum where they provide free prosthetic limbs for those injured during the war/now even. Read so so many stories of how some heroes sacrificed themselves just to get food for their families and just... wow. 

Okay back to dinnerrrr which was some kind of Seoul Garden kind of thing. It was not bad but the night market after that was the BEST. Was literally running around to every store and squealing at the bags and (this sounds very bimbotic) everything. Was about 10 minutes late when we were supposed to gather back and then we walked back to the guesthouse.

Debrief session in our room where we talked about our highest/lowest points of the trip. General reflections [will type all of mine at the bottom], commended others :) It was good :) but all the body heat ruined our air-con ahahaha. 



DAY NINE (LAST DAY)
26/11/2012

Previous night was inarguably the best night of the whole trip cos Srija Vivian Valerie and I all ended up in Timothy/Bryan's room (which had very cold and nice air-con) and we just talked and talked and talked until 0530. Then we decided to take a 20-min nap (which obviously did not end up being 20 mins) on the same bed and at one point I just rolled onto the floor. Rushed to wash up before breakfast at Dragon Lodge! Met Hwachies including Jaymond who were going to Na'ang that day :) Left for Talao Sat Market where I didn't buy anything except for some Lime Tea thing which had so much colouring my entire mouth turned orange. Lunch was at the food court there and I was just nodding off the whole time.

Tuk the tuk-tuk back tu the guesthouse then we tuk the tuk-tuk tu the airport!! Filmed an MV for BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM I WANTYOU IN MY ROOM which got stuck in my head forEVER.

Sat with Bryan/Aspen on the plane but I just slept through anyway HAHA. Decided not to eat dinner with the rest cos I didn't want to go home by myself oink. 
Homed, bathed, unpacked before crashing again.

Now I'm suffering from severe major (major) withdrawal symptoms :( Never realised how much I love spending time with these people who have inspired me in so sos so many ways. Really so thankful for all the memories we made together and all the friendships forged. 

28, no more, no less :)
Wouldn't trade this team for the world 





GENERAL REFLECTIONS
Thinking about what to say for our final reflection and I actually had lots to say but I forgot already haha.

I guess at the beginning and before the trip I had this default misconception that village kids don't learn as well, but in these few days I realised that they are not any slower than the rest of us and it just makes me sad that the quality of education they receive is nothing compared to what we get. It's amazing how despite everything they turn up in school everyday without fail and eager to learn. I really hope in these 5 days I have touched some of their lives, whether through my actions, lessons or words.

Couldn't stop my tears from flowing just now when we were saying our goodbyes and the girls all hugged me so tightly. Really hope that one day I would be able to tell these kids how much they have changed my life and how they are and will always be my motivation to work harder in everything I do. I feel so much injustice  that we have so much more than them in terms of education and healthcare etc. but I believe God has also blessed them richly with things that we can only pray for, like people they can trust easily and smiles to wake up to every morning. 

5 days was definitely not enough for me to fully experience and understand their culture but right now I am in complete admiration for the people here.

If only we could take a moment each day to think about these people and to remember to try and work hard for the things we CAN achieve that people living here will probably never have a chance to. 

Through all the mural painting and lessons, I have realised that truly, nothing is impossible with God. Can never express my gratefulness for having been blessed with such a wonderful wonderful experience, team, teaching and lesson group. So thankful for these people who have made serving a billion trillion zillion times more joyful and pleasant and I hope that we'll be able to serve together again one day.

Through all my ups and downs during the trip alone my faith has wavered but has also been restored multiple times, but ultimately I just can't be more thankful. Thankful for having been given this chance to motivate and inspire myself for everything I'm going to face next year. It's my choice what I want to do with my life (to a certain extent) and now I'm certain I want to keep serving and experiencing the joy that comes with it.

A million billion trillion gazillion khaop jai lai lai's for everyone who contributed to making this trip and my life such an enriching one. LOVE YOU ALL WITH ALLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL MY HEART. AND SOUL. 

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