Of course there had been a lot of preparations for their arrival but it was so wonderful to be able to share real experiences with our truly amazing guests. As a short recap, Jennifer Mercer, proprietor of Jenn's Dance It Up Studio, Jennifer Hawthorne who offered to teach English and Ted Amsden our infamous photojournalist from Northumberland Today.
Ted was a real trouper carrying his camera luggage everywhere he went - I seriously doubt that I would have been able to lug it around and still enjoy myself but he did and never complained once. In fact he stated a couple of times that he would love to come back. I asked him to tell us what his greatest memory, good or bad, was and he said the destitute feeling he had when visiting a 10 bed hospital about 25km from Luang Prabang. I think all of us were in shock over that one. We had never experienced anything so bad.
Note that this was the cleanest room of the entire hospital and with no water except when it rained.Being the cleanest room, imagine the birthing room and the examination room - we were told they do surgery there but I think it is more for cuts that require minor stiching after looking at the tools they use. Nothing was clean and everything hazardous is either burned or buried on site in the backyard of the hospital. Needless to say we won't be putting a well there.
In fact nobody complained at all and just went with the flow. Jennfer Hawthorn was game for anything, wanted to experience everything and I believe, enjoyed every single experience. She mentioned that her most joyious moment of her trip was the teaching of English in Pha Yong Village to the school children. I tried my hand at it because there were two classrooms of students to teach and I certainly didn't have the knack that she did - If I sang like she and Jennifer Mercer did I can tell you the kids would have run out of the class howling. I will post a couple of pictures of this once Ted has had a chance to review them.
Jenn Mercer...better known as Diva Jenn. What can I say about her? She was cheerful the entire time and it couldn't have been easy while expecting a child. She was a bit taken back by some of the food that was being offered like a pigs head and wasn't too impressed with the hygiene in the villages but Diva Jen came through with flying colours. Lots of pink to be specific. The kids loved her as you can see below.
Here is a sampling of some of the other highlites and lowlites of their visit.
Having fun with the Governor of Muang Ngoi District during the official opening of Had Chanh School. Wonder who had the most Baci strings?
Obviously Mike - he cheated because he still had the ones on from our previous visit.
What a sight. This is what we saw as we arrived after a 1 1/2 hour trek to the school in Pha Yong Village. New addition to the school looked perfect, water filters for every family and the school and the Canadian Flag flying high. Jen Hawthorn went a little soft when she saw the flag.
This is the new location for the school in Done Lom Village. It is waiting to be checked for bombs and landmines before clearing the land.
In this barren area a school once stood. In fact I received a picture of it back in June and it was in desperate need of help. The school finally succumbed to the rainy season and it had to be taken down completely for safety purposes. The village has borrowed the open aired community centre from the government, seen in the distance.
These pictures are of a secondary and high school for a district located about 20km from Luang Prabang. The left picture shows class being held in a storage unit under the school. We discovered major termite damage. Even some of the beams looked like they were rotting right through. they have only asked us to help them finish off a separate building to hold three classrooms at a cost of about $6,000USD plus there are only 6 toilets for 1300 students.
They not only need classrooms and toilets, they need a new school.
There are so many more pictures I will be sharing with you. In my next entry I will provide pics of the village chiefs and traditional costumes in celebration of their New Year, held early in honour of our visit.