Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Laos 2

Our bungalows

Jan 14
Vang Vieng is one cool town. Its completely overrun with drunken, partying tourists, but its situated along a river among the mountains and has restaurants of every type galore.  I can’t help myself.  I love this place.

 We’re supposed to go tubing today but we’re off to a slow start..

We share a tuk tuk- a motorcycle with a cage like cart on the back perfectly purposed for carting tourist around- with an Australian couple, and three German girls.  It’s begun to rain.  I can’t help but pout.  I wanted to go tubing today, and the weather is not cooperating.  We’re going down to the river anyways just to see whats the big fuss.

 Bars line the river.  Free shots of Laos whiskey are given at the entrance of each bar.  I don’t know what I was expecting, but it wasn’t this.  Its just a drunken party along the river.  Were I warmer, I might enjoy myself more, but all I wanted was to go tubing today, not getting drunk by four in the afternoon in crappy weather.  Why did I not bring warmer clothes?  Its winter for goodness sakes.

We see the Irish bloke we met last night.  He doesn’t remember us.  He’s been drunk for 30 days straight.  He’s a hilarious fellow, with red hair, and calls himself, “the ginger man.”  He plants his legs, bends his knees and does a funny jig when he introduces himself. He says he has a pain his back, we're pretty sure its his liver.

"side effects to our malaria tablets.  We especially like the oe that says 'breast-feeding'"

Jan 15
We’re staying an extra day.  The sky is clear, and the sun has emerged bright and shiny as a newly minted coin..  We’re going tubing today.  A number is written on our hand in permanent ink.  Tourists, especially the drunk, rowdy ones have been known to take others tubes while they’re at the bars and profit on the deposit thats returned to you upon return of the tube unscathed.  These people, the ones who are drunk before noon, give westerners such a good name.
The water is a bit chilled from the rains yesterday, but I’m ecstatic to be tubing again. 
A water bottle slams into my face knocking my sunglasses off.  Two men standing on a platform in the middle of the river are waving happily at me.  A rope is attached to the water bottle so that one can be pulled into the bars.  I tuck in my growl, and say “no thank you” as they balk that I'm not tubing to go the bars.

Groups of children with baskets are collecting the riverweed.  They eat it after its been fried and salted.  Its like seaweed except from the river.  I can’t help thinking, “shouldn’t they be in school?”

We took a cooking class and cooked four dishes.  They were all fantastic: Penang, Laotian sweet and sour, Laotian pad thai, and a coconut curry soup. 

Jan 16
9:00 am is when were supposed to be picked up for our trip North to Luang Prabang.  They’re never been on time.  We choose a minivan over a bus this time.  It might have been the wrong decision.  Half of us don’t have backings; no support for our necks or heads for six hours.  The road is serpentine and twists our stomachs until everyone in the car wants to hurl.

Without a hotel room booked, we wander around a bit looking for rooms.  We run into two of the Aussies in our van.  With six in our group, we’re able to negotiate for better rates.  Score!  And whats more, we’ve made friends, and we’re going to dinner with them.

Lao Lao Garden is amazing!  Its set outside, under the night sky, with a cool breeze drafting through. Water buffalo is a fantastic meat.  Some of their cocktails use coconut milk.  Unconventional- but delicious. We're coming back here for sure!

Saturday, February 25, 2012


Jan 13
We leave Vientiane on whats called a VIP bus. I don’t feel like a “very important person” on this ratty, rusty piece of junk on wheels sitting next to a guy vomiting into a plastic bag.  We spent most of the time in Vientiane sleeping.  We did get malaria medicine from the local hospital for $2 for a months worth. Thank goodness we didn’t buy it in Korea for hundreds of dollars.

Laotians aren't pushy at all, in fact they're quite content hanging in the back of their tuk tuk until you find them! 
If there’s one word I could use to describe Laos at this moment would be dusty.  Everything is covered in dust. The motorcyclists have to wear masks in order to breath, and the leaves along the road look dead from the two inch layer of dust weighing them down.  We saw a man watering the road.  We couldn’t understand what he was doing, but now we understand, he was attempting to keep his home from being completely weighed down and crushed in the dust.

They sell sandwiches along the road; sandwiches with bread, real French loaves.  Are we really in Aisa?

The bus breaks down only once. I’m a little surprised to find that there is a man on the bus almost entirely for the purpose of fixing the bus when it breaks… It’s the suspension, there isn’t any left… we’re back on the road in about 15 minutes..  We’re lucky really.

Our guest house is supposed to be situated on the river, but it’s the end of the river, and has turned into a stagnant cesspool.  A bamboo bridge separates us from our bungalow huts across the “river.” The wooden planked stairs are unevenly spaced out with huge gaps in between.  The bridge shakes as we cross. One heavy handed step, and I think this bridge would collapse.  I grip onto the bamboo handles for dear life hoping that I don’t fall while carrying my pack across.  One of the many stray dog happily crosses with us, turning his head with curiosity as if to say, “I cross this bridge everyday, why are you gripping the bamboo handrails for dear life.

Our huts aren’t much better than the bridge, and are actually completely made from bamboo.
Fantastic and Safe Electric practices in Laos!

Offerings to the ancestors.  Everyone must do this.

Lisa and Dee demonstrating how confusing Laos money is.  Which  number means how much the bill is worth?  I dunno?

portable fruit stand.  What more do you need?

Our room, four beds, four holy mosquito nets, all in a bamboo hut.

Kyle LOVES hammocks. Seriously loves them.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Christmas dinner 2011

It was almost a disaster. Almost.  We had it planned for months.  Call and order Christmas dinner from the military base.  There were so many people working, and it was easier on the Koreans who couldn't cook to save their life, but it didn't work out.  Our plan failed.  It didn't just crash, but face planted and spontaneously combusted into ashes.  The military base, well, they didn't come through, and Christmas Eve, Kyle and I were calling people to figure out a new plan. It was difficult.  I didn't want to have to do a big cook-a-roo right before we were scheduled to pack up and leave, but it didn't look like we had much of a choice if we wanted a Christmas dinner.  And there also was the issue of NO TURKEY.  So we bought chickens.  And we didn't invite the Koreans.  I felt really bad.  I knew my preschool teachers were really looking forward to the dinner, but we couldn't invite them and not the others, and it would just be WAY too much work to cook for 30 people.  So we kept it small, and miraculously it turned into a dinner.

I did burn my finger on scalding water, but other than that it went off without a hitch.

Monday, February 06, 2012

Saturday breakfast

Kyle and I, while in Korea, always made Saturday morning breakfast special. And cutting shapes in our toad in the hole bread just made the food that much more enjoyable.
Toad in a hole (basically cut out a shape in bread and then fry and egg in it!  Yum!)

We also tried to make shapes with pancakes using a trick we saw on pinterest: putting the batter into a squeeze container.  It probably would have worked if we hadn't put bananas in it.  The banana chunks kept getting stuck only to burst out unpredictably, destroying the pancake artwork.  They still tasted good, but we'll have to try again later without the bananas.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Monster bookmarks

I love my husband.  I love my husband for many many reasons, but one of them is that he LOVES to do crafty things.  Many people attribute craftiness as a girly trait, but he throws out all the girliness and paints it into a manly masterpiece. I, along with others, poke fun at Kyle for his "girly traits" but why does sensitivity, detail orientation and artistic-ness have to be of females?  Kyle claims these qualities with a growl and a burp, and takes it by force, all in a burly stride.

The other night, I decided, I wanted to try a new project I'd seen on pinterest; monster bookmarks. I thought, we could sit down, play some Christmas music and make some gifts.  What I saw as simple project, my husband  took to another level, bringing out the watercolors, and felt eyebrows, to turn a few simple steps into a marathon evening of monster making.  Honestly it was a blast.  We watched "the Grinch" and "Santa Clause."  We ended up making something like 15 monsters in a little under 7 hours. By the end our backs ached and our eyes were strained, but we were gleefully satisfied at the outcome.  We gave them out at our Secret Santa exchange before we indulged in S'mores.

To make these monster bookmarks follow the instructions on this site

We added some of our own features, painting the teeth to give the appearance of rotting and blood and adding fury eyebrows. Kyle even made some that weren't monsters with cool artwork found in magazines.

Friday, February 03, 2012

Christmas decorations

When your in a foreign country, away from home for the holidays, Christmas decorations, even simple construction paper ones help to brighten the soul.  So this year, we went all out, with help from our friends at the cost of cookies, and mulled wine.  We cut out letters to spell Merry Christmas, we designed and cut snowflakes, and Kyle even constructed a fireplace from cardboard and construction paper.  We hung ours and our friends socks as stockings, even finding little surprises in them on Christmas morning. Walking into our apartment and seeing the fireplace, even if it was purely psychological, helped me to feel a little bit warmer this holiday season.

this Christmas tree was constructed with scrap paper from our decorating extravaganza.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Ding Dong Dang- Dance off

A few weeks ago, (when this was originally written, but probably a few months ago now) our preschool was chosen to attend a special event, the Ding Dong Dang show.  It's a famous children's show here in Korea that is filmed live in front of an audience.  It was in the afternoon, and most of the childrens parents came to pick them up to experience the show with their children.  Because we couldn't leave until all the parents who were going to pick up their children came, we ended up getting to the show late enough to get nose bleed seats, or the equivalent of.  I thought the whole set up was strange.  It was a childrens show and yet the seating was plastic chairs, not any type of leveled seating, which I thought would be required for a childrens show.  My lap, along with many other parents and teachers laps, showed marks from the wear and tear of little feet trying to balance, just to see a piece of the action on the stage so far away.  I'm not sure if any child could actually see without standing on their parents (or teachers) lap.
For most of the show, the happenings on the stage was a mystery to me as I don't speak Korean. But even the children who's first language is Korean were bored much of the time.  There was a LOT of dead time.  One moment, however, stood out as a truly rousing twinkle when another teacher and I were called onto stage for a dance off. Yes, you read that right, a dance off.
In Korea, blond hair, and round eyes pretty much stick out like rudolf's red nose. So when we raised our hand for the chance to win a prize, we were obviously spotted and chosen quickly.   We were brought onto the stage, and luckily, the MC spoke some English, enough so to communicate.  We were asked first a few questions, and then asked to say some Korean words.  Now, I'm a big girl, and I can admit, that as far as learning the Korean language, I have been an utter failure.  And its all my own fault, I'll take full blame for my lack of initiative, but I would like to say in my defense, that whenever I did try and pronounce Korean words, even simple ones, I was stared at as if I were an alien and NEVER understood.  It kind of puts a damper on learning when NO ONE can ever understand the words you do know.  So when the MC asked us to speak some Korean words, the ten vocabulary words that I know flew out and fluttered into the wind.  Literally my mind went completely blank. I recovered slightly, but the experience was terrifying, much more intimidating even when they asked us to dance in front of at least a thousand people.

My dancing was far from amazing... but we had a fun time, and we even got a prize.  I didn't need any of it so I gave it away, but the experience  was unique and one to write home about.

ding dong dang video