Just a quick post here to let you know we’re all back safe and sound in Luang Prubang and ready to board our flight home tomorrow afternoon.
Our village experience was something to savour. It’s not everyday that you get an opportunity to immerse yourself in another culture and experience the life they lead. I’m pretty sure I’m safe in saying that we all have been deeply affected by the experience and it will help shape our lives from this time forward. I’m too exhausted to write an extensive post about all we did – its 11.40pm now and I need sleep! Here’s a recap of Day 1, written by Tiffany and Lily.
Day 1 at the village
After the pleasure of getting to sleep in and not having to pack in a small amount of time, we departed the Haysoke Hotel on a tuk tuk. After 2 and a half hours we arrived at the village where we would be staying for the next few days. We where greeted by the head of the community and many of the villagers. Afterwards we where split into groups of 2 or 3 and where taken to our hostess’ homes to be shown where we would be staying. Many of the homes where completely different to what the majority of us have experienced. Instead of a shower they had a trough of water and a bucket in order to pour the water over you, instead of a flushable toilet off the ground they had squat toilets and instead of a mattress they had mats on the floor with mosquito nets above. The hostess’ were very welcoming despite the fact that we didn’t speak the same language.
After a lovely lunch in he community hall we headed to a village close by. Unlike the village we were staying at, they didn’t have the luxuries of education. For this reason we would help their village build a school. When we arrived we straight away began working on the concrete posts. This involved mixing sand, cement, gravel and water all together in a certain process to form the concrete. We then poured it into the frames. As a team we all worked together to get 6 posts done in around 2 hours. Although it was very hot, sweaty and tiring it was pleasing to know that we were making a difference.
After coming back to the village and enjoying another delicious meal we all gathered along with the community for a welcoming celebration. The school children performed songs and dances for us, we all played games together and we even performed “Spirit” and “Dynamite” for them. It was a fantastic night and a great bonding experience for us and the community. We then headed off to bed, experiencing a new way of life and wondering what other great opportunities are ahead of us in the village.
By Lily and Tiffany
I did ask the girls to write posts for the other days, but our time was occupied with our construction work and other activities – they were pretty tired at the end of each day.
The picture above was taken today at a Blessing Ceremony held for us by the local and neighboring village. These are very special occasions in village life, usually reserved for weddings and new year celebrations. We felt very privileged to have the villagers hold one in our honor. It was quite moving and made it even harder to leave these kind and generous Laos people.
Your daughters will have many tales to tell on their return home. Both Justine and I am sure that their world view has altered as a result of this experience. Thank you all for supporting them to take this journey.
Thanks too for the comments you have left here. The girls have been reading them. All going well, we should be seeing you sometime around 3.30pm on Friday afternoon.
After the elephant experience we took an hour and a half Songtau (taxi) ride to the Kouang Si waterfalls. We had a picnic lunch of fried chicken, noodles and beef stir fry, with rice of course! We took a short break to take pictures of the beautiful waterfalls before making our way to the swimming area. The sun was hidden but the heat was definitely present so we weren’t excited to get into the water, until we actually did! Although the water looked beautiful, being turquoise in colour, it was pretty cold! Slowly we immersed ourselves in the water, actually finding it relaxing and fun after we got past the cold and the fish swimming around our ankles! After about an hour in the water we took a short walk through the forest to see the bear enclosure. The aim of the foundation is to save the bears from extinction as in the wild they are at risk of being poached. They didn’t do much, mostly sleep and walk, but they were really cute!
-Aynsley and Emma
*This will be our last post until next Wednesday. We are heading to the village to work on the community project for the next five days and four nights. We will have no Internet access during this time. We will get the girls to write posts throughout the duration and will post them on our return.
Jenny and Justine.
Today we ventured to an elephant preservation village 30 minutes from Luang Prabang. We were astonished to see the beautiful set up the mahouts(elephant trainers) and founders have created for this beautiful endangered species. We enjoyed an hour ride on the elephants enjoying the kind and friendly service from the mahouts and being given the opportunity to sit on the elephants neck whilst walking through the Namkhong river. It was a surreal and amazing experience for all the girls.
As soon as we hopped off the elephants we were greeted by the on site manager who broadened our knowledge of what the reality is for some of these poor animals. Next year three of the ten elephants at the village will face being hired out to a circus in China leaving their beloved mahouts and sanctuary behind.
After hearing about the history and aims for the elephant village, we were moved by the dire future that awaits the elephant species in Laos.
In the Songtau (taxi) on our way to the next location Laura, Tiffany, Lily, Alix, Lydia, Emma, Aynsley, Sinead and Charlotte had an idea to try and help these beautiful creatures.
Because of the elephant villages beautiful and natural setup we think that we should support them by either purchasing or sponsoring an elephant to live in the village, this contribution will generate more money for the elephant village. The elephant village is very supportive of the local communities surrounding it, they provide employment opportunities for the people, the village have set up souvenir booths so that the community can sell locally made products and they also lease land off the villages for the elephant trails. These are just some opportunities the elephant village have provided for the community.
By Toorak College choosing to support this cause we are not only helping save one elephant’s life, but supporting the surrounding communities as well.
Charlotte. (in consultation with the other girls mentioned above!)
Rising early in the morning we all went out to the streets to give offerings to the Monks, waking at 5:30 was a challenge for some girls but we all enjoyed the experience. We were all given a bowl of sticky rice, a shawl and a mat to use to make our offerings to the monks. The monks: ranging from novices age 7-18 and 18+ walked down the street and received our offerings. It was a amazing experience, although most of the girls reported it to be rather stressful to try and make sure all the Monks received some rice as they walked past.
After visiting the Monks we had a interesting experience at a morning market, this market was mostly produce. Ranging from live fish on tables, frogs, caged sparrows to chicken feet. The smells and sights where at the least to say a ‘new experience’. After venturing through the markets and making a few purchases we had two new additions to our group. Sinead and Charlotte had bought two of the little caged sparrows to set free. We were told freeing these birds is a sign of good luck. After walking to an area near the river we set the birds free. These little sparrows are actually the first birds we have seen flying here in Laos. This brought a close to our market experience this morning.