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Laos: Culture, Conservation, Service, Summer 2011


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The mucus covered snout of a the brown water buffalo is as good of a place as any to begin painting this scene. We gathered under a grass roof set in a remote village out side of Phonsavon. The villagers in the area have been collecting scrap metal from the millions (yes literally millions) of bombs that the US dropped on Laos not so long ago. Under that grass roof we watched a man with hands that looked like the dark leather of a worn saddle melt the aluminum bomb parts into liquid and pour that liquid metal into molds that produced spoons. Several students talked about 'skilled labor' and how that label has been misappropriated and somehow only really belonged to the spoon guy. The buffalo's bottom jaw was set in a rhythm of concentric circles grinding a wad of grass against his upper mandible. Fueled by only a few thin pieces of firewood the underground caldron melted symbols of lost limbs, innocent casualties, and war. That liquid aluminum was then forged into something simple and human, a spoon. And then sold to US citizens. 'Here's a bomb spoon for your irony soup,' one student joked. The project was supported by an NGO called 'Peace Bombs.' By the time we meet the spoon guy and his water buffalo the students were somewhere deep in the unnavigable waters of development discussions. To be honest we are so proud of our 12 students. Only a few weeks in and they are already asking the big questions. In fact they are already asking why those are the big questions. 'Are we developing in the wrong directions?' 'What does development really mean and where does it get you?' 'And at what cost?'

It's the ingredients that a Dragons' experience provides that can create an atmosphere conducive to the open mindedness necessary to ask such questions. The spicy development debate, the bitter rugged travel, the juicy tropical chunks, all mixed in some unique concoction for the personal flavor of each dragons student. The magic happens when a student is open enough, brave enough, to take a big bite of an experience with so much flavor. Well, each one of our students is now equipped with a spoon, lets watch as they eat it up!

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Laos: Culture, Conservation, Service, Summer 2011

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Devouring Development

Brett, Mandy, Emily, Som,Laos: Culture, Conservation, Service, Summer 2011

Description

The mucus covered snout of a the brown water buffalo is as good of a place as any to begin painting this scene. We gathered under a grass roof set in a remote village out side of Phonsavon. The villagers in the area have been collecting scrap metal from the millions (yes literally millions) of […]

Posted On

07/15/11

Author

Brett, Mandy, Emily, Som

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    [post_content] => It's 9:30 AM and I have easily been up for four and half hours. My morning started with some expletives when me and my roommate Kaelyn realized we were 20 minutes late for our planned excursion to watch the sunrise at a vat (or temple) on the top of hill with a view of the entire city. We got permission to try to catch up with the rest of the group. Kaelyn turns to me and says, "alright ready for your morning work out, are you sure you wanna wear flip flops?" So this is how I find myself sprinting through the darkened streets of Luang Prabang (totally safe, by the way) behind my VERY in shape roommate, feeling like my life is a video game. Not to mention that we get to the temple we had something like 380 steps to climb. "It's just like Rocky!!!" She says. When I finally reach the top of this hill weezing like crazy, gazing upon the whole city watching everyone wake up, the orange ant trails of monks walking down the streets, and roosters "eggy egg egg" -ing from all directions I realize how happy I am to be here, and how happy I am with myself that I'm here at this temple, on this hill, in this country on this trip. And as I walked through the marketthis morning between live score of tropical fruit, live eels, chopped up mystery meat and fried bananas, with open eyes and closed nostrils, I thought that no matter how tired I get today due to my minimal 5 hour of sleep, I won't regret this morning, I'll revel it.
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Laos: Culture, Conservation, Service, Summer 2011

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This Morning

Maddie Morris,Laos: Culture, Conservation, Service, Summer 2011

Description

It’s 9:30 AM and I have easily been up for four and half hours. My morning started with some expletives when me and my roommate Kaelyn realized we were 20 minutes late for our planned excursion to watch the sunrise at a vat (or temple) on the top of hill with a view of the […]

Posted On

07/13/11

Author

Maddie Morris

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You google "Plain of Jars, Laos". Up pops 13 pages of images. Mostly showing young Hmong girls climbing jars. You think it looks pretty interesting, so you get excited to see it in person.

Now, you're on your way to the Plain of Jars. It's a long journey.Five hour boat trips, eight hour van rides, an hour along a path that probably shouldn't be considered a road.

Now you face something a little more physical: a hike. Just kidding, a trek. Two hours up. Two hours down. And that's just the first day.

Now, you are following the headman of the village around to different houes, at 11 o'clock at night, making sleeping arrangements at you go. You end up sleeping in the house of a family you've never met. But you don't worry because Mr. Buket told you "everybody safe" and you trust Mr. Buket. How could you not. He's...Mr. Buket.

You wake up to the sound of roosterscock-a-doodle-doing outside your house. Or maybe to lao children staring at you. However you wake up, you remember today is the day you get to see those Google images, but not on your computer screen.

You're told today's trek is double the day before. But you don't take that seriously because 4 kilometers could mean 2 km or 49. So you just start hiking, not knowing what's infront of you.

You encounter pigs on pigs on pigs and children on children on children going up the same trail as you. You're in awe. All you can think is "I'm in name-brand hiking boots...how can they do this in FLIP-FLOPS?!"

So this hike that was supposed to be double...it wasn't. Classic mix-up.

You dive under the water spout. You figure if you're already drenched with sweat, a little water can't hurt.

You're in the hmong village of Ban Phakeo, the neighboring village of Plain of Jars remote site number 52. You're excitement sky rockets. Another 30 minute hike. Psh, that's baby stuff. You could jog that, no problem.

Now you're at this remote site number 52 and you remember those google images from so many weeks before. You don't know how to feel.

You were expecting just as the name suggests...a "plain" of jars. Why are you in a "jungle" of jars?

You walk around. You quickly do the tourist thing and take some pictures.

Now, you do the dragons thing. You sit down on a log and immerse yourself into the surroundings.

The rain starts hitting your dirty skin.

Slowly, you realize that Google lost this battle: they only have the "Plain" of Jars....not remote site number 52.

Slowly, you realize that this "jungle" of jars IS the Plain of Jars.

Slowly, you realize that being is so much more than seeing.

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Laos: Culture, Conservation, Service, Summer 2011

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Plain of Jars

Phoenix Kenney,Laos: Culture, Conservation, Service, Summer 2011

Description

You google "Plain of Jars, Laos". Up pops 13 pages of images. Mostly showing young Hmong girls climbing jars. You think it looks pretty interesting, so you get excited to see it in person. Now, you’re on your way to the Plain of Jars. It’s a long journey.Five hour boat trips, eight hour van rides, […]

Posted On

07/13/11

Author

Phoenix Kenney

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"Observe", said our instructors. We were told to go into the market and observe the people, the city, the life.

I walked alone through the markets of Luang Prabang, weaving through the small jewlery shops and smoothie stands, until I came to a small jewlery shop. I observed the beautiful and intricatley designed silver bracelets and the stunning turquoise earings that covered the walls. "Try on what you like" said the Lao girl working there. I picked out a gold and turqoiuse pendent and tested my bargaining skills. 120,000 kip to 80,000. I was impressed with myself! Just as I was about to leave, I spied another girl beading in the back of the shop. "Observe" I thought, "experience". "Can I watch?" I asked in english. The girl smiled and nodded, and i pulled up a chair and watched her bead an orangle and green bracelet. Sabaidee! koi se wah Elie, jow se nyung? I asked her. She told me her name and we started to talk. I asked her where she had learned english and she told me that she learned in her highschool and she wanted to become fluent so she could travel to London. Why London I asked? Peter Pan is from London she smiled sheepishly. I laughed and we started to talk about American pop culture. She told me she loves Justin beiber, lady gaga and britney. I was impressed with her eloquency and her knowlegde. Do you have a boyfriend? she asked me. Yes i said, do you? I did she sighed, but not anymore. Im not pretty so we dumped me. I decided this was a perfect oppertunity to research my ISP of Lao beauty standards. I admired her long, lean figure and her stright shiny hair. What is beautiful here? i asked. American nose, your nose, she said. Skinny, but well fed, and light skin. I was confused. In america, i told her, people would kill for your body and your tan skin! She laughed and i knew that i had made her day. We continued talking for 30 more minutes and then i had to leave. Bye, kap jai lie lie! I told her! Thank YOU! she yelled back. On the walk to my group's meeting spot I tought about beauty. What is beautiful? Why is it different in different places. For the girl I was beautiful andfor me. she was perfect. In Laos you cannot go anywhere without seeing whitening moisturizers or face washes where as in america you cant go into a drugstore without being bombarded with the latest tanning lotions. I decided that beauty was an unattainable societal construct. Something that people all over the world strive for butin reality, we might be the definition of beatiful somewhere else in the world.

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Laos: Culture, Conservation, Service, Summer 2011

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Buddha-ful

Elie Sokoloff,Laos: Culture, Conservation, Service, Summer 2011

Description

"Observe", said our instructors. We were told to go into the market and observe the people, the city, the life. I walked alone through the markets of Luang Prabang, weaving through the small jewlery shops and smoothie stands, until I came to a small jewlery shop. I observed the beautiful and intricatley designed silver bracelets […]

Posted On

07/13/11

Author

Elie Sokoloff

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The traveler treks through a land, to him, unknown

He witnesses a culture not his own

Rice is grown from persistent hands

Life glistens over the roling land

The soulful eyes of children relay a wise story

The world can learn from their simple happiness

Finding joy in what we possess,

will lead to the most fruitful success

The traveler sees through a conditioned eye,

use to skyscrapers, cars, and expensive things to buy

The jungles of Laos are different

Here, people work with nature, not against it

The wealth of a nation cannot be measured in gold

Prosperity is not something you can hold

Waking up in the morning to rain on a thatched roof,

feeling the energy of the land is all that is needed as proof

The traveler may speak the language, eat the food, and see the sights,

but he will not understand the culture overnight,

neither can he learn it through the pages in a book

he must go much deeper and take a look

Open any fears and let the world seep in

find a small peice and let it begin

A well-travelled individual should not be known for the number of stamps in a passport

or the luxurious entities that give the most comfprt

Instead, cherish the deep knowledge of a culture

it will supply the best memories for the future

Stop talking and listen to the world around you

It will never fail to teach something new

trek, not only beyond your country, but beyond the confines of your own mind

Do not set out to search, but be prepared to find

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Laos: Culture, Conservation, Service, Summer 2011

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The Traveler

Kaelyn Burbey,Laos: Culture, Conservation, Service, Summer 2011

Description

The traveler treks through a land, to him, unknown He witnesses a culture not his own Rice is grown from persistent hands Life glistens over the roling land The soulful eyes of children relay a wise story The world can learn from their simple happiness Finding joy in what we possess, will lead to the […]

Posted On

07/11/11

Author

Kaelyn Burbey

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We just wanted to drop a quick note to let you all know we are all back safe and sound from a 3 day Jungle Trek. We were out of internet communication for a few days while we walked in the beautiful forrest, and completed a service project. We are back in internet communication now and will all be posting more detailed Yak Yak's in the next couple of days. Home Stay is next and all the students are very excited (and a little nervous.)

In addition we sent two Yaks with pictures one did not go through so we will have to repost it. So, keep your eyes open for some great pictures!

Som, Brett, Emily and Mandy

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Laos: Culture, Conservation, Service, Summer 2011

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We are back

Mandy Schneider,Laos: Culture, Conservation, Service, Summer 2011

Description

We just wanted to drop a quick note to let you all know we are all back safe and sound from a 3 day Jungle Trek. We were out of internet communication for a few days while we walked in the beautiful forrest, and completed a service project. We are back in internet communication now […]

Posted On

07/11/11

Author

Mandy Schneider

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    [post_content] => I come from a fast paced world. When it comes to my family, everyone is always doing something, and if there not, there thinking about what to do next. We multi-task too. I'll be doing homework and talking to a friend at the same time. Basically what I'm getting to here is the fact that I have realized how busy I always am, not just active wise but mentally as well. Coming to Laos was an eye-opener for me. Its slow paced here but not in the lazy way. The people live a life that comes off as very relaxed. They do their job and thats it, not think about what else they have to do. When I first got here, it was hard to adapt to the calm life style but being in a new place helped. Everything is gorgeous in its own way. Seeing rice patties instead of huge brick buildings and huts instead of mansions was new but great. The people here are happy with what they have. Everyone has a smile on their face and is very welcoming. Living this way is so peaceful and easy and makes me wish it could be like that back home. If my parents read this, just know, not always being in a rush is a great feeling. Take my advice, step outside, anywhere, just breath relax and enjoy what is in front of you because I know that is not something done often but I also know it is a great feeling. 
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Laos: Culture, Conservation, Service, Summer 2011

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Slow Down

Mackenzie Ward,Laos: Culture, Conservation, Service, Summer 2011

Description

I come from a fast paced world. When it comes to my family, everyone is always doing something, and if there not, there thinking about what to do next. We multi-task too. I’ll be doing homework and talking to a friend at the same time. Basically what I’m getting to here is the fact that […]

Posted On

07/8/11

Author

Mackenzie Ward

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Day 11 in Laos and today the sun decided to take a break from roasting us alive just long enough to visit some amazing NGOs like RISE, and MAG, who respectivly are great, but one NGO really stuck out to me, and that was Peace Bombs. Peace Bombs was born after the United States dropped the most recorded amount of bombs than any other country has during wartime. Now during the bombing, roughly 30% of the bombs did not detonate so what Peace Bombs does is that they take bombs that did not detonate and disassemble them and melt them down into braclets, spoons, chop sticks, and etc. The irony as a AMerican coming to Laos to learn about the culture and the life style to learn more indepth about the Secret War to buy jewerly made from the same bombs dropped decades early and bringing them back home to the U.S. Just taste the irony in the whole situation made spending over 300,000 kip worth it, also knowing that the money will go to a great cause, but this is a little poem I worte not a hour ago about Peace BOmbs and the Secret War. I do not write poetry at all and I do not feel it is my strong suit but I felt it right to just jot my thoughts down, so please enjoy and thanks for reading.

Metallic Rain

Way back when, when the Watchmen still reigned there was this little place over a ways, and in this place where rain always fell, a horrible metallic rain rain fell upon all the people. This rain fell in clusters and gave worse than the shivers. The clusters broke open and gave birth to black droplets that overturned the beautiful soil and gave birth to a cloud of dust, but what lingered in the air longer than the dust was a cloud. A cloud red as roses. This cloud was born from blood, the blood and sorrow of the people across the land. Along with the blood flowed tears that ran cold down the faces of the few who stood, and those lucky few would give birth to a new rain. A new metallic rain that did not scar those it touched, but embraced the skin and made it shine. This rain did not fall form the sky, but game from the black soil it had made ahome in. this rain fell on the glazed over smiles of manyand did not bring the hellish pain of those who first endured it, but a sense of knowledge and pride to hold this new metallic rain in their hands and return it back to the homeland from once it came.

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Laos: Culture, Conservation, Service, Summer 2011

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Metallic Rain

Victor Yu,Laos: Culture, Conservation, Service, Summer 2011

Description

Day 11 in Laos and today the sun decided to take a break from roasting us alive just long enough to visit some amazing NGOs like RISE, and MAG, who respectivly are great, but one NGO really stuck out to me, and that was Peace Bombs. Peace Bombs was born after the United States dropped […]

Posted On

07/8/11

Author

Victor Yu

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Hi Family and Friends,

This is a quick and dry Yak to let you know that we just hopped off a long skinny boat after five hours of floating down the Mekong. We are on our way from west to east in northern Laos, headed to a town called Phonsavanh. There we will embark on a trek/ service learning project in some remote villages deep in the Plain of Jars. We're sure there will be lots of pics posted about the experience so please stay tuned. I'm sorry this has to be short but there is a bus out side with its engine on and we still have about 8 hours of road ahead of us. We love all of you back home, and please know that we are having the adventure of our lives, safe, laughing, and soaking in a lot of new flavors.

Much Love, we'll post a longer one in the next day or two,

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Laos: Culture, Conservation, Service, Summer 2011

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Muddy Waters of the Mekong

Brett, Som, Emily, Mandy,Laos: Culture, Conservation, Service, Summer 2011

Description

Hi Family and Friends, This is a quick and dry Yak to let you know that we just hopped off a long skinny boat after five hours of floating down the Mekong. We are on our way from west to east in northern Laos, headed to a town called Phonsavanh. There we will embark on […]

Posted On

07/7/11

Author

Brett, Som, Emily, Mandy

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    [post_content] => Yesterday we began our two day trek through the jungles of Laos. It was absolutley beautiful. The nature was amazing and the sights were so stunning. As i was looking around all i could see was miles of green vegitiation with the sound of the river in the background. It was very hot and challenging to us, but our leader told us that the farmers from the surrounding villages hike up and down the trail five times a day. And this is of course done in sandals. After three hours and a couple leech bites we made it to camp. One of the first things we did was wash up as best we could. We went down to the river, swam around, and caught fish. Our camp was a very simple hut. We slept on the floor and had a dinner that was made from surrounding plants, sticky rice, and meat. Everything was layed out on banana leafs. The first day was so spectacular and everyone was so excited for the second day. 
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Laos: Culture, Conservation, Service, Summer 2011

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Jungle Trek

Desiree Samler,Laos: Culture, Conservation, Service, Summer 2011

Description

Yesterday we began our two day trek through the jungles of Laos. It was absolutley beautiful. The nature was amazing and the sights were so stunning. As i was looking around all i could see was miles of green vegitiation with the sound of the river in the background. It was very hot and challenging […]

Posted On

07/4/11

Author

Desiree Samler

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