Hello From Luang Prabang
I am always delighted when a student expresses interest in sharing his or her experiences with others. On Sunday, following the community service excursion to an orphanage in the countryside, where many children suffer with HIV, one of our students was so moved by her visit that she wanted to describe the experience firsthand. I feel it is so important to see the world through the eyes of our students. They provide a unique perspective that I’m sure we can all appreciate. Jolina, our journal writer today has captured the events and experiences of the past week below. As always, I encourage you to check out Vidigami for photos and videos of our students in action. Please feel free to reach out to me or anyone of our teachers. Given the time zones, we are currently 12 hours ahead of you but always happy to connect. Typically, our best availability is early morning or late afternoon and evening, but calls can always be scheduled in advance.
Head of School
We are currently in Siem Reap, Cambodia and as I reflect on my experiences from this past week I will share with you significant events and excursions which I have had the pleasure to be a part of.
Waking up around 4:30 am on Tuesday may not have been one of my favourite moments, but after knowing what lay ahead of us that day, the sacrifice was worthwhile. At dawn, we arrived at our destination, Angkor Wat, the largest temple in the world. We felt goosebumps gazing upon the stunning entrance, moat and bridge of this beautiful site. As we strolled along the famous Angkor Wat Avenue, the sun began to slowly rise. We stood and watched the sun creep over the lotus flowers and slowly felt our sweat as the temperature increased. We then dragged ourselves up the steepest stairs I have ever seen to the upper level where we were rewarded with the breathtaking panoramic view of Angkor Wat. After lunch, we visited two other temples in Angkor. Some had trees growing from the roofs with the largest roots I have ever seen.
Although we were tired and sweaty, once we got back to the hotel we returned to class and continued lessons for another four hours. The next two days consisted of studying, tests, and assignments which were connected in many ways, to our location, Siem Reap.
On Saturday, we visited a landmine museum and then returned for lunch at the hotel before we took another bus back to the countryside to visit an elementary school. After a 45 min drive, we arrived at a local school with 450 kids from grades 1-6. Many of us had brought school supplies to give to the students which were very significant to them. More specifically, Ryan brought a blue notebook with a football on the cover and gave it to a young boy who could not stop smiling out of joy and hugged it with both arms for the rest of our stay. During our visit we sang, played hopscotch, broken telephone, and soccer. Once it was time for us to depart there were many sad faces, not only because we had to leave the sweet kids behind but because a few of our own students got attached to a stray puppy which we would have loved to take back with us. After we got back to the hotel, math students continued studying for their calculus test which had been scheduled to take place before dinner. During this time, other students used their free time to go to the local market or to visit the laundry ladies.
Personally, the most memorable excursion so far has been the community service excursion on Sunday. A group of students, including me, went to an orphanage to help construct a floor for the orphans which would be used as a nap room. Prior to our visit, the floor of the room was the same as the ground outside, nothing more than dirt. On our way to the orphanage, we made a pit stop at the local supermarket to buy treats for the children to share. As soon as we arrived, we met the seemingly shy children who took our snack with some hesitation, but gratefulness. Later, we moved toward the building site where we carried buckets of sand and dumped these eagerly onto the floor. Building the floor consisted of several steps: there were two layers of sand, two layers of broken bricks and two layers of concrete. Soon after we began working, the children from the orphanage pitched in to help us. They started to place the bricks into the buckets and lift one side of the bucket while we carried these to the building site.
Once in a while, we took water breaks and some of the little girls would pick flowers and make flower crowns for the female students to wear. After playing with the children on the colourful monkey bars, we ate rice and noodles for lunch, which a few of us had helped to prepare. Once we finished eating with the children we got back to work. We were almost finished when it started to rain. Although we all looked wet from sweat, the rain made it seem as though our reason for being wet wasn’t sweat but just rainwater. The moment when we had to say goodbye to the children was sad. It was relieved by a funny moment on our way home. As we drove down a narrow dirt road, our bus encountered a fully grown elephant walking straight towards us. All our jaws dropped while we stared mesmerized as the elephant walked past our bus and continued down the street.
That evening, as we had a flight the next day to Laos, packing up our luggage was on the agenda. During our short and relaxed flight from Siem Reap, we enjoyed a beautiful view of the Laotian mountain range with a colourful sunset in the background.
Upon arrival in Luang Parang, we encountered a little language barrier before our rooms finally got sorted out but the hotel in Luang Prabang was beautiful and ready for us to explore. Each hotel room here has a spacious floor plan and is equipped with a balcony overlooking the pool area which is in the centre of the hotel.
The next morning, we woke up for a walking tour of the city and visited two temples in Luang Prabang. We ate lunch at a quaint local café that served French baked goods and international dishes.
The rest of the day consisted of class time, swimming in the hotel pool and going to dinner at Buobang, a unique and innovative Laotian restaurant. We look forward to the rest of our time in Laos.