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By SUEP
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April 25, 2006 – A journey to Hinboun Prefecture, Laos in Asia


Happy Homestay

Passed through the Annamite Mountains to get close for border crossing into Viet Nam the next day. The limestone mountains are quite picturesque and somewhat surreal. Made me wonder if they look similar to the Shilin Stone Forest in Yunnan province of China, where I'm hoping to visit. We’ll see!



Annamite Mountains


Stopped at a local Lao Loum village in the Hinboun prefecture for an overnight homestay. The area seems to be quite rural and away from modernization. Got to spend the night in a house on stilts. During the rainy season, the stilts keep the houses from getting flooded. Underneath the house is where the animals sleep, such as chickens, pigs, ducks, roosters, and the like. These types of houses can be seen all over Lao, but mainly in the countryside. The bathroom is just a small outdoor hut with a toilet basin and bucket of water. You scoop water out of the bucket with a cup to flush.



a house on stilts


bathroom


inside bathroom


Even though neither Rick nor I could communicate with the children by the Lao language, we were able to hang out with them regardless. I was surprised at how un-shy the kids were at the village. Just within a few minutes of entering the village and poking around, I was surrounded by a group of little girls and a couple of little boys offering me magenta-coloured flowers. They started putting them in my ponytail. In return, I put flowers by their ears. I would’ve liked to braided the girls hair in different styles, but in Lao culture, it’s forbidden to touch anyone’s head. The head is a sacred area, and to touch it is a form of insult and degradation.



a sweet welcome


You can also see the behavioral differences of these kids in comparison with quite a few of the kids in America. The kids seem more innocent and more appreciative of what they have. They may not have a lot in terms of material wealth, but you can tell what they do have, which is, most importantly, a strong sense of cohesiveness and family values.

For example, Rick taught them tic-tac-toe by using rocks to draw on the dirt ground. He also showed them the American game of baseball by using a makeshift stick and empty water bottle. The kids that quickly caught on both games also helped and taught others to play.



playing tic tac toe


Taught them a few English words and they a few Lao words to us. Soon, got a whole chorus going for counting numbers. They seemed very keen on learning as well as teaching. Afterwards, while Rick and I were walking to purchase some water, they took our hands and diverted our path to go visit their school. We visited each classroom and wrote on each chalkboard.



some of the friendly kids and their classroom


It’s amazing how little verbal communication was used in terms of understanding each other and spending a good afternoon together. I was also surprised at how easy it was to interact with the children. They weren’t afraid to approach me, though maybe just a little with Rick at first. But in the end, they were holding Rick’s hands and taking him around, too. Very cute. Needless to say, I’ll remember this precious experience forever.



Rick and the kids in a classroom




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