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Culture, Community, Calm

blog 9

Our 2nd day at the Luang Prabang Orphanage School has exceeded expectations… we have shopped for ingredients at the local market, cooked a traditional meal (chicken larp with pork & liver infusion accompanied by sticky rice… and a whole lot better than the one I ordered for lunch at the Mekong River restaurant), distributed new sleeping mats, provided a tertiary scholarship, shared more aussie treats, done some general maintenance, been introduced to Andrew’s wife La (and been invited to have dinner with the family Wed night!), played, laughed and conducted a flag ceremony. By all accounts, this has been a wonderful start to our relationship.

The local market is vibrant and pungent, full of a mixture of tools, books, herbs, meats and vegetables. Having pre-ordered our ingredients, this was a quick pick-up and then it was off to the orphanage to begin preparations… we only had 2 hours to get everything ready.

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Preparation for 600 is a bit of a big deal and our head chef was a great director. We used old thongs to start the 5 fire pits (sort of a environmentalists conundrum – reuse Vs pollution) and fuelled by teak off cuts. The herbs were chopped, liver and pork fat sliced, chicken stirred in extra large woks, rice brewed in extra large pots (check out the shovel). All the while the younger children looked through the lattice work or windows, smelling in the flavours and salivating with anticipation. John, James, Alyssa, Rob & Dash were the helpers while Amy, Tiffany and Rebecca went with Andrew to start replacing sleeping mats (plastic as straw ones fester with weevils) in the younger boy’s dorms. Ultimately, everything got tossed together and when the bell rang, they came running…. no one was complaining and our head chef was beaming.

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Just before lunch was served we had a chance to wander amongst the grounds once again where we came across some older boys playing guitar… their tuning strategy was a little random but got close and after Dash helped out we were treated to a song; the self confidence to sing and play for the falangs (tourists) was impressive. When the bell rang and the children streamed from dorms to get their fill, he continued to serenade us; it was beautiful.

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Now it was time for our lunch… Andrew took us via the hotel that he first started and then to the Mekong river front for stunning views and local food. Lao-time is one that is not in a hurry so an hour soon became more before… nice to relax and soak in the surrounds.

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On our return to the orphanage the children sensed we were up to something and they were right. It was time to give out our remaining gifts and they were in for a treat….. chocolates, lollies, balls and learning tools were shared and while the initial giving was ordered, it soon became a fest of enthusiasm and appreciation. It was the younger ones who really enjoyed this as the older ones did not engage; they were happy to wait their turn and if it ran out (which it did) it was a contented ‘bo pen yang’ (no problem). We were also introduced to Andrew’s wife, La who continued the celebrations with icey poles from a local vendor. The joy in their eyes says it all…

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Before we left for the day, it was one more round of sleeping mat replacement, a roof jaunt to clear overhanging branches (if anything breaks in Lao, it just stays broken… repair isn’t part of the culture… thank you Rob.. don’t worry, Dash was there to catch him). And finally, it was time for a flag ceremony to acknowledge our commitment… they now have the indigenous, Torres Strait and anglo aussie versions to remember us by.

time for dinner now and a play in the night market.

LFHS crew feeling good

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