Scholarships in the North

I thought I might start this post off on a funny note. So, I have these neighbors behind my window that like cock fighting. Wait… that’s not funny at all. Okay, after I get past this quick introduction I’ll give a funny picture. Okay, starting the pictures off on a funny note. I’ve watched one, but it’s awful. I’ve never seen roosters attack each other before this. Apparently they do their cockadoodle thing to attract other roosters to fight them. Some people here will bring out a male rooster into the forest to attract other to fight and then shoot them. These neighbors took out some roosters and had them fight each other right as I happen to look out the window. It’s awful because they attack each other so slowly. I imagine it’s somewhat like putting two sloths into a death ring. They aren’t agile at all and only slightly hurt each other with each peck. I’m not sure how these animals made it passed the survival of the fittest period of humanity before humans realized they tasted so good and kept them in cages. I looked out again in the morning and saw one of the men sleeping on his porch, except he had his head through the raining using the bottom part as a pillow. I had to take a picture.

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This week was quite an interesting one. Over the past three weeks, our scholarship team has been distributing school fees and supplies to students who we’ve targeted as needy. The first week of distribution was to collect registration information, pretty straightforward. During that week, I was in the office working with the WASH team to translate instructions from English to Laos. The only person available to me at the time didn’t speak very good English, so it was quite a challenge. I was also doing other various things around the office, as is the nature of my position. The second week of distribution for he scholarship team was much more complicated. They had to take the registration information they received the first visit and create a document or file of each student for our measurement and evaluation team. That way we can keep track of our impact as a whole and with each individual student as they progress through school. So, the second visit consisted of collecting more specific information, assigning the student a generated number, and taking a picture of them with that number in the picture. I got to go on a few of these visits to help out. It was great to see the team in action and even help them behind the scenes a little bit. All along this time I’ve been informally teaching English to my colleagues and at the same time planning to formally teach classes along with the other intern, Caroline. Since their English isn’t necessary for their jobs (except for he English teacher training team) our task is to also make the lesson into a professional development training.

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Here’s a picture some of my colleagues got on one of their scholarship visits to a small village. first off, I didn’t even know there were elephants here other then at the zoo. I guess they had to get them there somehow. Second, I thought Asian elephants look different. Is that racist? But really, I thought they looked different from the African elephants, but this isn’t doing it for me.

Last week we had some special guests over and were having a small party for them. As we’re drinking beer, with ice in it, and eating good Lao finger foods. They bring out some food that is a little off the beaten path for me, even living in Ghana for some time. They brought out fried insects. The only ones I could identify were the saccades and grass hoppers. I grew up in a family where our rule with food was to try everything at least once and then if I didn’t like it I didn’t have to again. Well there goes my first try with insects. They’re fried with lemongrass and some other oils, so they are delicious. I actually can’t stop eating them. I think maybe the best bar food, if people can get over the eating a bug part. Then they brought out little eggs. They called them quail eggs in English, but who knows what a terrible translation that is. I go for an egg and peel off the shell. I nearly gag as I get the shell off because the fetus is partially developed inside and I can make out something that attempted to live. I’ve seen this on shows where they try food in China, but I didn’t think I’d be this close. I quickly got it down and probably won’t reach for that one again. The insects are much tastier and much less creepy.

 

Anyway, the scholarship team just finished their third week and final stage of the distribution this past week. That consisted of handing out name tags for all those who all ready received materials and catching up with any who missed any of the past visits. My Monday and Tuesday were spent preparing for this event, especially for the team heading up to the schools in the far North. It’s about a three hour drive and they leave Wednesday, coming back Saturday. On Tuesday, Andrea asked if I wanted to go with the team up North to see the furthest Northern territory that PoP has reached. With out even hesitation I immediately say yes.

 

Wednesday I get to the office early in the morning to get a few things done before leaving and then around 9:30 we leave the office. We pack our big van with the materials and eight of our staff, including the driver. Two more drove their motorcycles the whole way. In the afternoon of the same day we go to a school and distribute the name tags and everything else for those who didn’t make any of the last visits. We also hand out a package of sports materials to those schools who we made it through the whole process with.  Both Wednesday and Thursday we attended a part thrown for us by the schools, thanking us for everything we did. Thursday morning, the owners of our guest house made us all breakfast. They has soup with little fish in it and some thick fish stew that we used sticky rice as a spoon to eat. It was so amazingly fresh, it really blew me away. I’d have to say that was one of my top meals since being here in Laos. It doesn’t sound like much, but the combination of the thoughtfulness and taste was a winner for me.  That night at the school celebration they served us more insects, except a much wider variety then I had before. I had a lot of fun picking through and asking my colleagues what kind it was before chomping down.

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The last scholarship distribution was a long drive through a windy road on the side of a mountain. We finally got to the school atop the edge of a giant cliff overlooking a huge area of Laos and other mountains in the distance. It was really beautiful and something I decided a picture would only cheat, sorry. That school was probably the easiest of them all and we left to head back home. We stopped at a market and picked up food for dinner. We got tons of sticky rice and a few different options of food to go with. They got snails too, another food adventure. I’ve never eaten any kind of snail before and this was much different from the French stuff. This was literally the whole snail still in the shell. I grabbed one and sucked on the whole until it popped out. It was pretty good, but nothing like the insects.

 

Being off in this rural area for a week just reinforced how much I love Laos, the food, the people, and PoP. We got back Saturday and met a Lanoy at the office. She got a big truck for PoP from Vientiene and got me a brand new bike to ride to work. Lanoy amazes me all the time with how thoughtful and caring she is toward our staff. She’s our country director, but a big sister to all of us at the same time. Ridding the bike home really saved some time and will make my commute much better in the future.

 

At home I go busily to work studying my Lao the rest of the day. I study all the way through on Sunday and finish the day with a make up lesson from missing some, going on the trip. My Lao progress is really coming along now. I can read about 98% of the signs I see around. It takes me some time to sound out each syllable, but I can get through it. The only problem now is actually understanding what I’m reading. I also a making progress with speaking as well. I wanted to focus my efforts in the beginning on learning he sounds and letters, to better aid my pronunciation and identification with the new words I’ll be using. I think I’ve passed that point now and I’m ready to start learning how to speak. The many tones and rules are a bit daunting, but it’s convenient that my office colleagues are almost all Lao and all willing to team me and correct me as I go. I can’t make any promises as to how far I will get in this six months, but I do know I’ll be much further then I got with Twi in the 10 months I was in Ghana.

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Here’s a picture of one of the school’s students lining up to get their school supplies.

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