In the last few weeks I have moved back across the world to Lao to live in Luang Prabang, a quiet, quaint, Buddhist town nestled between green mountains and at the convergence of the Mekong and Namkong rivers. Here's where the two rivers meet:
My school is surrounded by rice fields, horses, and this view:
My experience so far as been mostly exploring on bike--an exceptionally crappy one that will be broken within months--slowly navigating the muddy roads to peek into temples, cafes, neighborhoods. Already, this is a huge improvement from Vientiane, where having a motorcycle is almost a necessity for safety and expediency. However, I miss Vientiane. I happened to leave Vientiane right after I was finally making friends, connections, and finding communities that I felt happy within. I miss my friends there, I miss playing frisbee with Sabaidisc, I miss all of the cafes and routines, and habits I had there. I miss Erica. It took me more than 6 months to feel at home in Vientiane and to feel comfortable enough to get out and do things that I loved like frisbee and make connections with Lao people. The good thing is that that comfort carries over in Luang Prabang, and my paltry Lao language that I accumulated last year has been a huge asset here towards making connections and meeting people so far. I've already started to do the things that took me 6 months to do in Vientiane: play sports, meet Lao friends, etc. If anything, I think it'll take much less time to feel at home here.
Right now I don't have much to do but when school starts, my schedule will burst at the seams. I will work from 8:00-1:30 every day, with two days ending at 4:00 because of tutoring. Then, from 4:00-5:00 every day I have Lao lessons. In my other time, I have to study for grad school, and then I want to volunteer in some capacity like teaching novice monks or something similar. I don't really like being busy but this year I want to do more volunteering not only because I feel weird living in Lao and teaching rich kids (not that they aren't awesome and worthy), but because it's also an opportunity to make connections and learn more about the culture.
In the meantime, I'm eating noodle soup like it's my job and shamelessly speaking Lao to everyone I meet to get practice. I'm also volunteering to help some young Lao people with writing their CVs and getting conversational English practice.
Here's Joe: He is from Thailand and owns a delicious restaurant and within 10 minutes of meeting him, we had exchanged whatsapp contacts. I love Lao. 'Getting a number' in America is serious business, but here it happens every day.
Love and noodle soup,