31 January 2016

On the other side

I arrived back in Luang Prabang, Laos over one month ago and what a month it has been. From meeting new volunteers at the airport to playing Scrabble against a novice at his temple, the first month has been extremely busy. It very much feels as though I have come back to my second home. I have been welcomed with such warm smiles and the amount of students that have remembered me has been incredibly humbling.

For those unaware, I have been fortunate enough to join the GVI Laos field staff team. GVI was the organisation that I spent three months volunteering with in India, Thailand and Laos last year. It is an international organisation that focuses on inclusive bottom up approaches to conversation and community development. Currently, there are 17 hubs in 11 countries that welcome volunteers from around the world.

Less than a day after I arrived I was thrown straight back into teaching at a beautiful temple that I didn't get a chance to visit last time. Nonetheless, it was wonderful to get stuck into teaching and getting used to being back at the front of an attentive class. Its been very bizarre having volunteers ask me for extra classroom activity ideas and to check over their lesson plans when only a few months ago I was in their situation.

There has been a lot to learn regarding the admin side of the job but slowly and surely I am getting there (I won't bore you with the details as that is what I don't want this blog to become). I have already started learning a little bit Lao and I am having weekly lessons with one of the ex-novices that works alongside us in the classroom, Sing, who is a fantastic Aa Jaan (teacher).

After four weeks, I have begun to feel comfortable with my various staff duties and surprisingly the only challenging factor was the weather. I never thought that I would be able to see my own breath in Asia but god damn it was cold! At some points it was colder here than it was in England and without any insulation or indoor heating it was just like sleeping outside. Luckily we weren't, but out of all the weeks, this was the week that the Novices had Vipassana Kammatthana, insight mediation, practise. Vipassana is a seven to ten day meditation retreat, where novices experience and practise meditation in it's purest form. Novices have to sleep outside on the ground and meditate for over 18 hours a day. Luckily this year the Novices were allowed to sleep inside tents. I will post my GVI blog containing a lot more detail surrounding Vipassana on this blog soon.
I feel so lucky to be back in Luang Prabang, as I finally have a chance to do everything I never got to do the first time round. Yesterday Leyla and I spent the day cycling round and there was so much of Luang Prabang that I missed and didn't explore.

I will try and post as much as I can on this blog but due to time constraints they may be few and far apart. Nevertheless, to find more information about the project as a whole feel free to follow GVI Laos' Facebook page or our Twitter page, both of which I now maintain, one of my many varied staff duties.

Luke T.

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