Luang Prabang, Laos 2/6/16

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Journal:

The flight was only an hour.  The airline did NOT feed us scorpions – fish in a hot sauce with coconut like yogurt.  The staff was friendly.  As we came in to land the view was breath-taking.  Jungle on the mountains with the Mekong River cutting through them.  I’ve seen these mountains before in my childhood home – the pillow cases my parents had.  And they hung paintings of Laos on the walls of our trailer.

I hadn’t hit the ground yet but I was already in love with the place.  Grabbed a cab with several other foreigners – we all agreed we had been totally ripped off on the fare price.  The cab was a beat up minivan.

The driver took us to Backpackers hostel and I offered the other half of my reservation to a french girl who is also doing the Thai Circus and lost all her money in Chiang Mai (Thailand).  The hostel was full so we were escorted by the owner’s daughter to another one and shown our room.

I locked up my bag and went for a run while there was still daylight.  I jogged the craggy streets along the Mekong river and magically found the hostel again after 30 minutes.

I introduced myself to a couple playing cards and asked to borrow their phone to text home.  It was really funny because the phone was in Swedish and kept autocorrecting the english to indecipherable hilarity.  We laughed hard and I said goodbye as they headed out.  Then a shower. (Little did I know it would be my LAST hot shower for a month).

Not quite hungry yet I ventured out to find a towel and dinner.  Came across a massage parlor and was totally drawn in.  I received a massage similar to what i give and tipped the lady 25% which was around $1-$2 Us.

After the massage my bones were a bit chilled so a fire drew me in and I joined a small group.  We chatted for some time and the older gentleman offered me a beer and I sampled it.  They suggested I call my clubs a religious thing to avoid having them confiscated by customs.

The market was going to close so dinner was a chicken on a stick and a strange but delicious pancake.  I will elaborate more on Lao in the morning… for now the boys wish to sleep.

The two french gentlemen are appalled by the temperature 70 degrees!

Additional Notes:

The cab ride was supposed to be 50,000Kip per 3 people but we each paid 50,000.  (That’s about the equivalent of $5 – much cheaper than a taxi would’ve cost back home.)

That first night I got lost trying to find the hostel again.  Somehow I got turned around after the massage. Thankfully I had a map, however I failed to get the name of the hostel before leaving it so I ended up combing the streets until I figured out where I was (lack of road signs) and from there headed to where the majority of the hostels were located.

When I initially arrived at the Bangkok airport they searched my bags and confiscated the small scissors from my sewing kit and inquired about the juggling clubs.  I have learned since that it’s kind of amazing to have travelled with so much Kevlar.  Most airport customs won’t allow it into the country (or so I heard) but, I had hand stitched wick covers for the clubs before leaving.

Total number of wicks travelled with: 7   – Contact Staff (2) – Poi (2) – Clubs (3)

All of them were covered.

The return trip seemed even more risky though because they’d been soaked in some pretty intense Lao Lamp Oil and smelled like a gas station.  Thankfully there were no “Lamp Oil” sniffing dogs at any of the airports and all the tools have made it back safely to the States.

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Chicago, IL 2/3/16 O’Hare Airport

Written Journal Entry:

The airport is a lawless place of the highest respectability.  Children and the elderly are most noble – juggling and even dropping entertains all for a few seconds as they pass.

International travel is not a small accomplishment.  Each person on this side of the gate has either earned or been given this experience.

Thoughts and ears wander through foreign sounds of conversation – communication.  How do we all communicate?  What things tie us together? Our most simple desires: work that is fulfilling, a creative outlet, a sense of self-confidence, to be loved, to express oneself, to dream and spirituality.

How do we universally convey these messages and meanings?  Through art, dance, gesture, money, numbers.  Some things are the same – the way we count, the ways we can move and the ways we can create visual and audio art.

No need for fancy education to understand one another.  Though common courtesy may not always be common it’s always appreciated.

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Additional Notes

Some things are naturally “known” through communication by all.  Numbers are the same everywhere, even if we don’t say them the same.  Everyone appreciates a decent tip – as I have come to understand tipping in Thailand is not the same as back home.  In the US a standard %20 is customary for all services, from waiters and massage therapists to hair dressers and cab drivers.  In Thailand if they were decent its normal to tip pocket change. Pocket change is in the amounts of 1, 2, 5 or 10 Bhat.  35 Bhat (B35) is equivalent to $1 US.  Doing the math, a regular tip is less than a dollar.  If you really enjoyed the service 10% seemed to bring a smile. 20% made me a new friend who would then open up speaking english and asking all kinds of questions.

Cost for a 60 Minute Thai Massage B200 = $5.71 us with a B20 tip = $.57

A cup of coffee in Thailand from a hostel was about B50 – $1.42 which is about the same for gas station coffee in the US.

Breakfast ranged from B45 – eggs, toast (spread with mustard/mayo), ham slice, coffee and water

to B100 for a cashew/strawberry/raisin/honey crepe

They do “dutch” or “english” style breakfast very well even though the bread is super fluffy and tastes like a sugary cake.

Gratitude is also understood by all, even though we don’t say it the same, it is quite easy to learn.  On the trip I learned how to say Thank you in Thai, Lao, German, Japanese and Philippines. Cop Coon Ca, Cop Jai La Lai, Danke, Arigato and Salamon.

Also “Meow” is understood by people of different nations and languages.  Most usually bringing a questioning look and a smile after.

The asian languages are sing-song like and I’m missing hearing it already.  The emphasis is on inflection and raising or lowering of pitch.  It took some time but a wonderful thai lady was teaching me the difference between beautiful and bad – “Soi” or “Soy”  they sound almost identical but she kept explaining.  I strained my ears to hear the very subtle difference and it was in the facial expression and very slight inflection.  The little bit of Thai I picked up only made me want to learn more.