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The title of my blog obviously has to do with us. But, can you even begin to guess what I might begin to talk about that most foreigners think of when they think of a falang?? Weight! Yes, you're completely correct! We are so huge, massive, tall, gigantic. All of the above. In this particular circumstance, we were just to heavy. Our project in the Seung river valley was to paint boats for the village so they could use them to race. Of course we had to test them to see if they were fit to dominate in the boat racing sport. What we didn't even think to factor in was how small the boat was, and how much we just don't fit in them. And this is where one of the highlights from the project comes in.

Kim, Gabe, Allana, one of the local guides, and myself consisted of one racing boat. We had problems from the beginning. We would be so close to tipping, and jsut barley keep afloat. The catastrophe occured when we were racing on the way back. Our uneven rhythm, and the jolting of our strokes, was too much for that poor boat. We began to sway, and this time we didn't stop. First the boat tipped to one side, and water rushed in from the river. And as we scurried to the other side of the boat to stop the flooding of water, the other side tipped and flooded the boat. It was comedy. All I could do was look from one side to the other helplessely, untill realization hit me and giggles burst forth.

O yes, we sunk that boat. And I'm so glad we did. I am so glad I got soaked from head to toe because it was such a joyous moment. As we abandoned ship and clung to the overturned vessel, all we could do was laugh and laugh and laugh. We sunk the boat! Maybe a quote from Gabe the infamous rower can better explain, "I've never actually sunk a boat before." It was a moment where I was genuinely happy and couldn't stop laughing even if I tried.

So yes, we may be heavier than these boats were intended for, but it ended up bringing laughter to weary travelers. I am a falang, and I like being big.

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Mekong Semester, Spring 2010

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Falang!

Robyn Reeder,Mekong Semester, Spring 2010

Description

The title of my blog obviously has to do with us. But, can you even begin to guess what I might begin to talk about that most foreigners think of when they think of a falang?? Weight! Yes, you’re completely correct! We are so huge, massive, tall, gigantic. All of the above. In this particular […]

Posted On

03/31/10

Author

Robyn Reeder

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Mekong Semester, Spring 2010

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Alone

Jonathon Luckett,Mekong Semester, Spring 2010

Description

The sun sets, burning a deep red, as the moon rises, burning the same shade red. The meandering walk back to the guesthouse seems to last for ages, but not in a daunting way; in a thankful way. For once my time is my own, my thoughts are my own, and my experience is my […]

Posted On

03/26/10

Author

Jonathon Luckett

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BACKROUND!: I stupidly ate a baguette sandwich off of the street a couple weeks ago in Kratie, Cambodia. It had several oil (as in "run my car" oil) looking stains on it. But one of my mottos is stolen from the late great Hunter S. "Buy the ticket, take the ride" so I chowed down like it was my last meal. Mistake. I have never felt so much pain concentrated in one part of my belly. My stomach. It was like one of those mustachioed strongmen from a 1900s era circus was yanking apart my stomach like it was a phonebook.

It was like the Nazi invasion of Poland on September 1st 1940. The oily spot was the Panzers…my stomach the Polish Cavalry ( Represent Poland, Mom)

It was like my stomach was Paullus’ and Varro’s Legions at the Battle of Cannae and the oily spot was Hannibal’s army in all its glory…elephants included. (Represent Italy, Dad)

You get the picture it wasn’t fun. And the only way I felt like I could get rid of this little invading monster was to puke. Not a pretty picture, but I am not here to paint a pretty picture I’m here to Ralph Steadman reality. (Dad please get that one) So to take my mind off the pain I day dreamed this little gem.

I imagined a nurse in Blink-182 “Enema of the State” album attire walking into a room handing me a shot glass filled to the brim of a syrupy substance made from dried rhizome and roots of the ipecacuanha plant. Ipecac. Whispering “chin chin” (Mom) I take the shot and feel its oozing warmth make its way down south towards my belly. I imagined the gentle hand of Ipecac removing the black stains from belly, relieving my pain. I imagined a porcelain throne ala Ewan Macgregor in “Trainspotting” , gold lining, a satin knee pad and a helping hand that massaged my soldiers as I performed my task. It would be the best puke ever. It would get me the Olympic gold for puking. I would have puked like it was my job.

But sadly this was not the case. I did not have such wonderful amenities as the above and my body was certainly not responding as if I had taken a shot of Ipecac. So what did I have to do? “Suck it up” is the answer. So I did. I walked back from the NGO we were meeting through the streets of Kratie, bending over every 20 steps to relieve the pressure and pain on my stomach. I witnessesd one of the most beautiful sunsets of my life over the Mekong River while suffering from one of the most painful stomach aches of my life. There was no carbonated beverage to make me burp (Mom) there was no one to make me noodle soup(Dad) it was just me and this terrible stomach ache. Just the way I wanted it.

You see I did this gap year to make myself stronger. I wanted to have nothing to fall back on, to be in a strange place with strange people, completely uncomfortable. If I could manage that I could certainly manage anything that the United States could throw at me. So yea I suffered from the stomach ache. I took one or two Tums to try and stop the pain. But when that didn’t work I just toughed it out, because that is what I came here for. I never was able to throw up. The black spots slowly worked their way through my body and my body won. There was no hospital trip no more complaining, just the way I wanted it. My body and mind against and outside invader. And this is what my trip is all about from now on. Putting me in a position that I’ve never been in before and making me do stuff I have never done before. I can either sink or swim. I’m gonna swim like I am Michael Phelps. So I say bring it on dirty food, sleeping on the floor and languages I cannot understand. My stomach will destroy anything. I will pass out on the hardest of rocks and I will translate Lao into English then into Spanish then back to Lao. I will beast anything that comes my way. My confidence is up. My low self esteem is down. I am Beowulf(Mom and Dad)

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Mekong Semester, Spring 2010

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Sick

Gabriel "Ajax" Maletta,Mekong Semester, Spring 2010

Description

BACKROUND!: I stupidly ate a baguette sandwich off of the street a couple weeks ago in Kratie, Cambodia. It had several oil (as in "run my car" oil) looking stains on it. But one of my mottos is stolen from the late great Hunter S. "Buy the ticket, take the ride" so I chowed down […]

Posted On

03/26/10

Author

Gabriel "Ajax" Maletta

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Here I sit, at a square, tiled picnic table near the perimeter of a pagoda compound in Luang Prabang. I have been here for nearly an hour now, watching slow time pass while I note tidbits in my journal, glance through my Lao flashcards, and just gaze dimly at the maroon, gold, and white wat resting in front of me. It is an unusually brisk day, with even further cloud cover than that produced daily by smoke from the slash and burn farming occurring nearby. The weather seems to lend an electricity to the air that tenses against the reliably languid, mellow activity of the day. I find myself wishing I had brought along my shawl this morning to guard from the chill – until I realize that it is probably 75 degrees out, a temperature we are lucky to reach at home for most of the year and that I would never have considered cold there. Oh, how vastly our perceptions can change in six weeks.

I take a moment to lean in for a thick dose of champa-scent from the pile of flowers I have collected on the table in front of me. I love to just watch them, smell them. Champa is the national flower of Lao, and one of my new favorites. It is an intensely elegant flower, with softly curving petals of a rich, creamy, vanilla-frosting white that blushes just along the edges into a bright, happily embarrassed magenta. In the center, one can glimpse a swash of lemon-watercolor-yellow shyly peeking from the folds created by the gently overlapping petals. It is the smell, though, a smell that presses your eyes closed and your nostrils open with a rush of crazy fragrance. The smell is unbelievably light, and yet its power lights up the brain with the electricity of a new, defining thought. It is sweet, but not sickly so; it flies with floral levity but remains grounded by a darker, more mature foundation. It is a simple, complex beauty.

As I write, the gentle, flowing scurry of orange monks who, with curiosity, toss a “sabaidee” in my direction as they glide past, of chatting construction workers dressed in army surplus jackets laboring on the restoration of a building nearby, of fashionable backpacker couples and older, retired tourists sauntering across the lot, lazily slows and eventually comes to a halt. It is noontime, and in this part of the world it is a time of rest, of eating, of closing shop to quietly BE. All is quiet here, besides the anxious sparrows perched on the wat-roof ridgepole. I could bottle the calm, it is so tangible.

A few days ago, my first perceptions of Luang Prabang did not include such places as this. I found the city lovely and exciting, but not nearly so mysterious or mossy as my daydreams had hoped. I found it altogether too clean, too restored, too filled with falang (in Lao, literally “french people,” but actually used for all foreigners.) I saw it as a “fun A” place, filled with hawkers of banango smoothies and oreo-coffee frappucinos, of baguettes topped with nutella and banana or bacon and laughing cow cheese. I saw it as a place for regrouping, for buying conditioner and itching that shopping urge.

These observations are true, sure, but really only for one stretch of the main street in the city. By walking one block towards the river or six blocks down the road, you can escape the al fresco cafes and tourist shops. In the nearby local market, locals spread their mats every morning to sell everything from dried local river-weed, to whole squirrels and live frogs for cooking, to machetes and herbal treatments for stomach cancer and menstrual cramps. At the end of the peninsula is this district where I sit now, filled with rows and rows of wats, filled with stillness that could be cut with a knife.

This, it seems, is a place where opposites come to jive – and the best part is that they manage to succeed at falling into a sort of weirdly balanced rhythm. The saffron-robed monks trot gracefully among tiny blondes dressed for (what seems like) a vacation in the French Riviera. Ancient wats shift gently to make room for the new-wavey, high-end tourist art shops squatti ng nearby. Goat cheese and walnut sandwiches don’t wrinkle their noses at the traditional noodle soups sold at the stall next door. Like the champa that fill its trees, Luang Prabang is a complicated place, a place of deep beauty and long history, a place that grabs your attention at first glance and then keeps you there with its complexity and depth. I am excited to stick around for another lungful.

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Mekong Semester, Spring 2010

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Champa

Heather Lyon,Mekong Semester, Spring 2010

Description

Here I sit, at a square, tiled picnic table near the perimeter of a pagoda compound in Luang Prabang. I have been here for nearly an hour now, watching slow time pass while I note tidbits in my journal, glance through my Lao flashcards, and just gaze dimly at the maroon, gold, and white wat […]

Posted On

03/26/10

Author

Heather Lyon

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We have just come from Vientiene a couple days ago, to arrive in Luang Prabang! The bus ride was a gruelling long wind through the mountains and hills of Laos, with mixes between excitement, and boring dullness. Yesterday we saw off Mara back to Cambodia, and got to enjoy an awesome cooking experience at our guesthouse. We cooked up the mother of all salads! Tommorow we head off to visit a Hmong village for 5 days, and then soon after we will be entering our 2-week homestay!

I think we are all enjoying the weather (refreshingly cool!) and the beauty of this city! Well Im off to enjoy a delicious peanut butter, bannana sandwich!

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Mekong Semester, Spring 2010

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Luang Prabang

Robin Bartels,Mekong Semester, Spring 2010

Description

We have just come from Vientiene a couple days ago, to arrive in Luang Prabang! The bus ride was a gruelling long wind through the mountains and hills of Laos, with mixes between excitement, and boring dullness. Yesterday we saw off Mara back to Cambodia, and got to enjoy an awesome cooking experience at our […]

Posted On

03/26/10

Author

Robin Bartels

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    [post_title] => reunited and it feels so good
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Mekong Semester, Spring 2010

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reunited and it feels so good

Kimberly Kenny,Mekong Semester, Spring 2010

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Posted On

03/25/10

Author

Kimberly Kenny

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It has been a long time! Hence the Dang meh, one of MIchaels favorite statements that I will be bringin home, dang mehhh. Alright, things have been pretty good, I'm fightin to organize my the trip itinerary but I'm just caught on the past few days, after hearing that we'd be meeting Marain Luang Prabangone night on a trek we were all so anxious to get there and meet him again. It was so so amazing to see him walk into the restaurant, we were all so grateful to have the original group for a couple of days and just soak up his presence. That has definitely been the highlight of the past few weeks, it was so restoring and even though it SUCKED TO HAVE TO SAY GOODBYE AGAIN, it was so, so special to have Mara there again, and he will staywith us.Mara wemiss you so, so much.

well, we have got a solo today,so im going to get to that, but just checking in, things are great. Much love

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Mekong Semester, Spring 2010

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Dang meh!

Paige Montgomery,Mekong Semester, Spring 2010

Description

It has been a long time! Hence the Dang meh, one of MIchaels favorite statements that I will be bringin home, dang mehhh. Alright, things have been pretty good, I’m fightin to organize my the trip itinerary but I’m just caught on the past few days, after hearing that we’d be meeting Marain Luang Prabangone […]

Posted On

03/25/10

Author

Paige Montgomery

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Crush the thorax? Well that's what you do to kill a butterfly of course. And that's what I did, many times, for science! Catching butterflies is actually much more difficult that one would imagine. First of all, we don't blend in with the surroundings very well. Let me explain. We walked around, bulking humans, with huge blue mesh nets in our hands. Then, when we would spot the precious butterfly, we would wave the nets wildly in the air screaming, " mine, mine!" Ok, maybe I'm exaggerating a little, but it was a spectacle to behold.

I ended up with the stalking approach. See, if your very very sneaky, they don't see you coming. Ha, no that's a complete lie. Butterflies see all. And not only do they see all, but they have mastered the art of diving, dipping, and dodging nets. One second you think you have one, the next you're watching it flutter away, mocking you.

If you think it's ok, you'll let that one go, there will be others, boy are you wrong. If you weren't aware, they also have a secret emergency evacuation plan just for this type of thing. Once you start swinging that net, and you see those butterflys fly up and over the treetops, it's game over. That butterfly is yelling to the enitre butterfly community, "Don't fly too low! The humans are at it again! Stay in the jungle! Retreat!" So when you begin to notice a lack of butterflys where there had jsut been plenty, you can be sure the messenger has done his job.

Despite the obstacles set against us, we caught an incredible amount of butterflies. The grueling task was identifying them. And I say grueling in its most primitive nature. We had volumes of books of butterflies from Thailand that we were supposed to use for the butterflies here. It took hours. It took hours upon hours. Regardless, it was always a good feeling when you identified one. A major accomplishment.

In the end, I do believe we greatly helped the Wildlife Conservation Organization in their quest for tracking biodiversity in the area. With all the butterflies we caught and identified, they will now have a better sense of what species are in the area, and how many different types. This leads to finding out how much the area can actually support. Who knew crushing a thorax could be so rewarding?

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Mekong Semester, Spring 2010

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Crush the thorax

Robyn Reeder,Mekong Semester, Spring 2010

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Crush the thorax? Well that’s what you do to kill a butterfly of course. And that’s what I did, many times, for science! Catching butterflies is actually much more difficult that one would imagine. First of all, we don’t blend in with the surroundings very well. Let me explain. We walked around, bulking humans, with […]

Posted On

03/24/10

Author

Robyn Reeder

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Mekong Semester, Spring 2010

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…I stand corrected.

Kimberly Kenny,Mekong Semester, Spring 2010

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Posted On

03/22/10

Author

Kimberly Kenny

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Mekong Semester, Spring 2010

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computer will only let me load one. picture. at. a. time.

Kimberly Kenny,Mekong Semester, Spring 2010

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Posted On

03/22/10

Author

Kimberly Kenny

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