Have you ever thought of doing one of those silent retreats? The kind where you go far into the countryside, reflect on your life and refrain from speaking.
Well I did just that. I spent the past week almost mute as I did field work for the communications team in the south of Laos. With English being minimal among my coworkers, I became a professional day-dreamer (when appropriate of course). I’m able to pick up on a few Lao words, which sometimes helps me determine the subject of the conversation, but have lots of work to do to keep learning the language. I’d say I’m at about 40 words, excluding numbers. It’s frustrating to only be at 40, but I have to stop comparing my experience with the one in Spain where by this 2 months mark, I was having long conversations in Spanish.
We were sent to the field to collect stories of people who benefited from food and nutrition projects and an irrigation system that was started by World Vision Lao. We interviewed lots of families and got an insight into what their lives were like before, and what they are like now. From the translation, I understand that World Vision’s biggest contribution was the technical training. Before, people just didn’t have the necessary knowledge to initiate and manage these types of sustainable projects.
My main task this past week was to take photos. I love photography and was so excited to get the chance to take photos. I took this opportunity to try and use photography as a means of communication with people in the villages. Trough the lens, they were showing the world and I what good has come from the projects started in their village. It’s funny because the kids were all scared of me yet couldn’t take their eyes off me. It was so hard getting a smile out of them because they are all so shy, especially in front of me.
Eating in the villages was interesting to say the least. You know when you go to someones’s house for lunch and another guest arrives on their motorbike holding a chicken upside down? And then kills it, defeathers it and cooks it in front of you?
Maybe you don’t know, and maybe it’s best that way. Though some things (^) are out of my traditional way of doing things, the quality of the food was amazing. Eating straight from the garden is always ok with me, and eating among friends too. Everyday we were invited to eat with families in the village and I got to try to many different foods. Oh, and whiskey Lao. No way was this one particular family going to let this falang (foreigner, aka me) get away from trying this one-whiff-and-youre-done-for-the-day kind of whiskey. I think there were wood shards at the bottom…regardless, I’m happy it wasn’t a scorpion or a snake, because trust me. it exists here and I am not prepared to try it.
One thing is for absolute sure: I have never been stared at more in my entire life.
Conclusion: I need to go back to the Netherlands, the sweet land of tall people like me.
I was busy taking photos for World Vision that I didn’t get the chance to take some to share with you all! Forgive me!