Wednesday, August 12, 2015


I don't know why I was expecting my less-than-2-month summer back home to last a life time, but it didn't, and I'm faced with leaving for Lao again in a week.  In the last 6 weeks or so, I've attended a best friend's wedding, visited San Francisco, gone up north, and spent several weeks with many members of my family.  I've been seriously grounded by the time with my family but I also feel like I'm a little floating cloud at other times. just skimming over the surface during a strange and short summer at home.

It's like skimming this time probably because being here feels like a stopover.  I don't mean this in a tragic way---like woe is me, home is no longer home!  I guess it's a good thing, because I have continuity in Lao, and I'm excited about going back.  I guess I just feel like I live in Lao now and I'm home for a few months, which is exactly what is happening.  It doesn't feel like I live in Minnesota and I'm off on another adventure.  I'm just going back.  I feel untethered here, but with none of the loaded implications that the word may connote.

This summer has been a good resting point and of course a great chance to see people I love more than once.  It's also provided a good perspective of culture shock and differences, but this time, I feel lighter about it.  Last time, it was less funny, as I was coming home from Uganda and settling down to live in the states for at least a while.  This time I can enjoy and chuckle at the weirdness, knowing that I don't yet have to follow all of the rules (real and fake) ones that America has.  I've been charged $130 for a tiny tube of prescribed face cream, which I laughingly walked away from. I've been woefully unprepared of nearly everything, mostly due to lacking a phone.  Something I can say that I got from Lao, is a sense of trust.  Trust in people and trust in the universe.  This trust can best be illustrated by a few very creative ways I have gotten home, especially from a wedding in a suburb of San Francisco (details provided to those who ask!).  Not only my sense of trust that things will probably be fine and that furthermore most people don't want to chop me into tiny bits, but I also believe my capabilities of problem-solving are at an all-time high.  Living somewhere like Lao where things usually don't work out the way you want them to, I have an extensive Mary-Poppin's bag filled with all sorts of charming tricks and ideas for how to do things like buy medicine, get home from somewhere, figure out what to do when my motorcycle tire pops at night in the rain, navigate the US sans cellular data or sim card, and more.  More trusting, and more crafty (which may make me less trustworthy?)

I feel sad not to have seen people as much as I'd like to have, but that'll always be the case.  Keep connected, friends and family.  I'll miss you all.  Let me know if you want some elephant pants next time I come home.

My new address in Lao should be:

Ilse Griffin, c/o Kiettisack International School
Phetsarat Road, Nongkham Village, Luangprabang District and Province, Lao PDR, PO Box 221

If you care to pen pal or send me delightful things such as sunscreen or teaching resources:)

Keep in tune for the exciting news updates of whether Laos lets me back into the country 3 days before my visa expires!  

Love and Laos,

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