Saturday, October 23, 2010

Vientiane, Laos

I've been in Vientiane, Laos for the past few days for my first visa run and to switch to a working visa. Now, I can legally work here! Yay! It's about a 10 hour bus ride up to the border from where I live and trust me- it's a very LONG 10 hours. Vientiane is the capitol of Laos and it's just over the border. I have to say though, it's pretty lame as far as capitol cities go. There's not much to do or see there, and the day and a half I spent there was more than enough. Still, it's been on my list of places to see while I'm over here so at least now I can cross that off. Plus, my passport is really starting to fill up with stamps! I thought the trip was going to be all work no play, but I ended up meeting some pretty cool people and we definitely had some fun.

Patuxai is probably Vientiane's main attraction. It's a war monument dedicated to those who lost their lives in Laos' struggle to gain independence from France. Funnily enough though, it's meant to resemble the famous Arc de Triomphe in Paris.

Gotta love Engrish...

A girl from South Africa that I met on the trip, taking a photo of Patuxai (clearly).

The road leading up to Patuxai is even meant to resemble the boulevard in Paris.

That Luang is Laos' most sacred Buddhist monuments. It's completely covered in gold, and absolutely beautiful.

We didn't get a chance to see it during the day, but I have a feeling it's prettier at night anyways. Unfortunately, going at night meant that it was closed to the public, but I'd say it's a pretty fair trade-off.

Just to the right of That Luang is a wat, and the temple grounds are lined with Buddhist statues.

It just happened to still be open, so we asked if we could come inside. We were happily invited in, and it was absolutely beautiful. It was kind of sistine chapel-esque and it's the first wat I've actually been inside. You're not supposed to take pictures but being the rebel that I am, of course I had to sneak a few. Sorry Buddha!

There was a HUGE night market going on, so we decided to stop there for a bit and check it out. Now, I am such a market aficionado, but this one was just too much for me! It was so overwhelming and unnecessarily loud, but I guess it was pretty cool to see it.

The market was right along the Mekong, so we escaped the market to go see the river at one point. It was pretty cool to see the river itself because it's so well known, and the solace it gave us from the market was much appreciated.


Tonight is a full moon AND Chulalongkorn Day, so I don't know which one all of the festivities are for. Standing on my balcony, I can see an unobstructed view of the full moon to my right. We got lucky and it's a perfectly clear night! A few hours ago, there were fireworks going off directly across the street from my house- literally. I guess they don't have the same safety issues here as they do in the states. When the first one went off, I actually thought it was a gunshot!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Chiang Mai

After I left Future Light, I went up north to Chiang Mai to relax and take a few days to myself. It was amazing. I was too busy loving life to give much thought to taking pictures, but I did get a few HDRIs. They're not the best, but they'll do.

Goodbye, Future Light!

As per the requests of a few very persistent people, I now present some photos from my last few days at Future Light...

My last day there, a few of the younger kids were participating in Sports Day. Sports Day is the most amazing day of the school year, and I'm jealous that I didn't grow up with it. It's an intense inter-school competition where the kids compete in everything from running to relays to Muay Thai. They really go all out with new uniforms for the competitors and elaborate costumes for the "cheerleaders". I went as the proud parent/crazy soccer mom, but apparently it is a very Western thing to watch your kids at an event like this. Our kids were the only ones with fans cheering them on and buying them all sorts of sweets and treats, but they were definitely the happy kids there.

Zorbay being awesome and owning a tennis ball throwing competition... he got one of the farthest distances!

Adelle is one of two Australians that I hung out with whenever I needed some time away from the home. This is her taking pictures of some children she does not know. These are a few of the cheerleaders in elaborate costumes that I was talking about!

We spent a rather eventful morning at Sports Day, and then I went back to the home to spend some time with the kids who were there.

Natasha and Jen are the two amazing girls who run and fund the home. On one of my last days there, they came up to see the kids and bring LOTS of donations. It was Natasha's birthday just a few days before they came, so I thought it would be fun for all of the kids to make her a birthday card to surprise her with when she got there. Little did I know it would occupy them for HOURS. I can't even describe how excited the kdis were for Natasha and Jen to come, and they were even more excited to have something to give them when they arrived.

They were all so proud of their cards! Matay only arrived at the home a week before I got there, so when we were making the cards he had never even met Natasha. But of course that didn't stop him from putting just as much love into his card as the rest of the kids did into theirs. His card was actually the product of quite a few kids' (and my own) handiwork, which I think makes it even better. And, he learned how to say "Happy Birthday" and "I love you", so he definitely had the right to want to show his card off!

After all that hard work, it was time for some fun. Or for a nap, as evidenced by Nichi sleeping in the background!

I was serenaded by the little girls for at least an hour, and treated to some (very Traditional) Burmese song and dance...

In anticipation of Natasha and Jen's arrival, all of the kids put on their best clothes and did their hair and make up. They even got me all dolled up... Natasha paid me the "compliment" of saying I looked like an 80's pop star. Once they were ready, they all sat quietly and patiently in the main room, just waiting. After nearly two hours, they finally arrived and you should have seen these kids' faces. They came with TWO VANS FILLED WITH DONATIONS, and the kids could not get out the door to carry everything in fast enough.

They were SO eager to help unload the vans, and not because they knew the things were for them, but because they just wanted to help.

SO many boxes! And this is only about half of it. Lots of awesome frozen food and TONS of cheese that they absolutely hated. They said it tasted like armpit.

Now, this goes against absolutely everything I stand for, but these kids are worth it:

They are ALWAYS in need of donations, whether it be goods or funds. There are 36 kids, 4 staff, and 2 houseparents all living off of the kindness of two twenty-something girls in Bangkok. If you would like to help in any way, you can contact me or get in touch with them directly by clicking here. Every little thing counts, and even the smallest acts of kindness go such a long way with these kids!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Smiles, Smiles, Smiles

This is my favorite batch of pictures yet... so many SMILES!

Papalin (I think I'm finally learning how to not butcher their names!)

Desioo and Tada.. they were blowing bubbles and catching them in their mouths. At first I discouraged the eating of soap, but then I came to the sad realization that it was probably the cleanest thing they'd done all day.

$1,000 to anyone who can look at this photo and not smile...

I wish I could be fascinated for hours by something so simple!

Tadalie... such a little model.

Yota, one half of my shadow...

... and Tantanso, the other half.

A cutie whose name I am embarrassed to say I still don't know. He's always by my side, but never says a word. He's always got a smile on though!

Monday dancing and putting himself in a trance.

Checking himself out... too too too cute!

Yota and Tantanso.

He's gorgeous. And I think this might be the best picture I've ever taken. Of course, it helps when your subject is so photogenic!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Just an evening stroll to Burma...

The Thai-Burmese border is not even a half of a mile away from the home, so we took a little field trip yesterday and played and walked along the border. I still can't get over how much fun these kids are!

Starting our walk, this is a (harvested) cornfield right next to the home.

Chatook and some sort of yucky, muddy creature.

Such cuties...

They kept telling me this was fish... so maybe fish eggs? They found some crazy things.


There's some digging going on with a makeshift bulldozer- operated with a bucket- so the kids had fun playing on the mounds of dirt.

Nichi, Thana, Mumu, and I. You can't tell I've been roughing it for a week, can you?

Desioo with... a jaw bone?

Thana and a little old man we picked up along the way.

Shower time for some dirty, dirty boys!

Desioo on the swingset out in back of the home.

Popali, all dolled up.

Mumu and Sasa... these kids are all such hams =)