Monthly Archives: March 2017

Living More Bravely


#sol17- Day 24/31- March 24, 2017

In choosing “brave” as my word for 2017 I knew I would be uncomfortable at times, but I felt I needed to push myself. These last five days have been an example of me trying to live more bravely. I wanted to travel over break and had no ready travel companion, so I did it alone. It is hard to believe, but at my age, this was the longest time I have been on vacation alone, ever. I love exploring new cities, but I tend toward lazy, so I also knew that alone I might not see and do as much as I should. Traveling back to KL today I feel a bit proud. Of course, I could have done and seen more, but I did push myself outside my usual comfort zone and it was okay! In fact, I am confident that I can do a solo trip again.

Choosing brave is a good reminder to me that there is always a choice and sometimes I need to remember that I can do more alone. Here’s to a peaceful few days ahead getting things done at home, with more brave ideas already swirling in my head.

Lao Cooking School


#sol17- Day 23/31- March 23, 2017

Several times while traveling I have taken a cooking course and I enjoy them as a way to learn more about local culture and cuisine, but also to meet fellow travelers.

Today I signed up to attend class at Bamboo Tree, a restaurant I had eaten at earlier in the week. There were 6 of us- a couple from Spain traveling indefinitely, a young man from Brazil, and a couple my age visiting from the UK. Our bonding experience was that we had to agree on the five dishes that we would cook for our meal.

We had many choices but with some compromises, we settled on: fried spring rolls, chicken in coconut milk soup, stuffed lemon grass, ginger fish, and banana and pineapple in coconut cream. Before we started cooking we went for a visit to a market (further outside town than the one I had explored on my own and much bigger).


While there I bought myself a bamboo basket and cover for steaming sticky rice (a long process I learned, as you have to soak the sticky rice for about 5 hours before steaming. The rice does not get cooked in water but is steamed over boiling water. I also bought two serving baskets to keep the rice from drying out. It remains to be seen if I will actually do all this work, but nice souvenirs.


We then returned to the restaurant to chop, slice, dice, and prepare our meal. The chef, Linda, was our instructor, and she taught us the basics of Lao cooking.

A few hours later as we ate our creations we were impressed with our efforts, but questioned what we would make on our own again, but I know that I have more chance, as the ingredients are easy for me to locate.


Aside from full tummies we got a cookbook and a certificate to take away to remind us of our attempt as Lao chefs. Another fun day in Luang Prabang.


Add Luang Prabang to Your Travel List!


#sol17- Day 22/31- March 22, 2017

 I am in love with this city! I woke up early (by chance, not on purpose), so caught the morning almsgiving routine by looking out from the balcony of my room. Locals (and tourists) give sticky rice and other food to the monks who are on their way to their temple for the day.


I later headed out to the morning market nearby. I was amazed at the variety of food available, as well as the other services offered (including manicures).


Alive, and leaping about. 



This poor guy was alive, but bound. 








On the street manicure. 


From there I headed to the royal palace to get some history in (no pictures allowed).

As I walked back toward my hotel I ran into the woman, Angela,  I had met on the van shuttle to my hotel the first day. She and a new acquaintance were heading to the waterfalls for the afternoon, so I quickly booked myself in too. Being there you realize how small the city really is as we saw people we recognized from walking around for a few days.




After a lovely afternoon Angela and I dropped by a French bakery for a quick snack and then she was off to do a cooking course (I will likely do another one tomorrow- we shall see).

Now it is time to look for a place for dinner. I could get used to this!

A Literacy Lover in Lao!


#sol17- Day 21/31- March 21, 2017

Anyone who knows me at all, knows I am a literacy freak! Imagine my delight in discovering that on my visit to Luang Prabang, Lao, I could also encourage literacy! Big Brother Mouse is a Lao-owned, Lao-based organization promoting literacy here. I hope you will take the time to explore the website!

My hotel is right around the corner from the local office and twice each day they offer an English drop-in center, where from 9-11 and again from 5-7 volunteers talk with locals who want to practice their English. This morning after breakfast I headed over to see it for myself. I ended up talking to three young men- two high school students and a college student. The conversation was easy- we learned about each other and felt comfortable asking questions to learn more. I learned lots about the educational system here (not free) and the sacrifices families must make to ensure their children have an education. The college student has been living with a cousin since he finished primary school so that he could continue his education (he comes from a mountain region and there was no school nearby for him). He has not seen his parents in years and as there is not phone reception in his home area he has not heard from them often. He says he knows that education is the way forward for him, but that his friends tease him for being English crazy. He is studying finance and wants to work in a bank. I learned lots more about Lao than I would have learned on my own. Our topics ranged from food, to hobbies, and more.

We had fun in our exchange and I was happy to help them pronounce words they had read and clarify meanings. We talked about how hard it is to get books in Lao. I then showed my Kindle and they were impressed with how they could read on it. One of them had heard of the Kindle app, so I demonstrated how they could use the dictionary feature, highlight, and more. I told them that there are sites where they can download books for free and they were amazed. They all had phones, so maybe they will be able to use this.

As I sat down later to write notes in my notebook I reflected on how lucky I am. I am lucky to have both time and money to travel. I knew one man wanted to get to Australia, another to China, and the third to see a friend in Colorado. The high school students said school takes up most of their time because they have to get good exam results to continue (or pay to resit exams). The college student says he pays his fees himself, earning money by helping out in his cousin’s restaurant when he has time. Here at Big Brother Mouse snippets of the world come to them- they meet visitors from all over the world, but know that at least for now, this is how they will see the world. I felt lucky that an organization like this exists to allow me to donate a small part of my break to teach English and I know I got so much more out of those two hours than they did.

I plan to return to the center again and will also donate money toward a book party. I visited the local library and made a donation there too to their “Library Book Boat”.

The Scattering


#sol17- Day 20/31- March 20, 2017

There is a phenomenon at international schools where the vast majority of people scatter once break starts (truth be told, some students usually disappear a day or more early and may return late as well, but we teachers generally keep to the calendared dates).

There are a few kinds of travelers- the end to end travelers- those who leave as soon as school ends and return the night before school starts again are the most hard core. There are those who travel for most of the break, and then there are the cushioners, those who like to have a few days “at home” on either end to cushion the back to school frenzy.

We travel so much because we are not “home”, so we have no extended family we need to catch up with. We know that our time in our present location is not unlimited, so we travel so that we will leave with no travel regrets.

This morning my taxi picked me up at 4:15 AM to take me to the airport. Mr. Y. is an unofficial school driver- the one many call to take them on the long rides to or from the airport. He knows lots about the general goings on at school and was “casually” asking questions about various people. He then commented that this break not as many people as usual left on Friday or Saturday. After taking me to the airport he had 3 or 4 more teachers to take later in the day. To me this kind of cushioning makes sense- nobody wants to go back to work feeling exhausted from traveling, even those who are trying to squeeze in as much travel as possible.

My Facebook feed shows that many of my colleagues are settled in their holiday spot. Those that are not traveling have friends/family visiting or have family situations that make travel more challenging (newborns, a spouse who does not have time off, etc.)

One week from today the last of the scattered will return to Kuala Lumpur to gather again in this place we call home for now. As for me, I have thoroughly enjoyed my first day in Luang Prabang and look forward to sleeping past 3:30 tomorrow in my “home” for the next 4 days.

Travel Prep- My to Do List…


#sol17- Day 19/31- March 19, 2017

Tomorrow I travel, so today I prepare. This is what I have done so far today:

  1. Woke up late (7 is late for me)
  2. Arranged to meet friends for breakfast at 9.
  3. Fixed the internet- it keeps going out and has to be restarted often.
  4. Commented on the newbie crew I am the “welcome wagon” for.
  5. Read my Facebook feed. Wished one friend a happy birthday.
  6. Started to look at #tcrwp tweets from yesterday’s Saturday reunion.
  7. Glanced at the clock to see it was 8:25 and I still needed to shower, dress, and get to the restaurant.
  8. Made it on time and had a nice breakfast.
  9. Tried to run into the pet store on the way home to get cat litter, but it was not open.
  10. Got home and read lots of tweets about the reunion.
  11. Went to Starbucks to plan ELA for the week after break.
  12. Started some marking.
  13. Ran errands for trip- sunscreen, mini toothpaste, body lotion, snacks, US dollars (for visa on arrival in Laos).
  14. Made it home just before thunder and lightning precedes the afternoon thunderstorm.
  15. Set alarm for tomorrow morning- flight leaves at 6:45, must leave apartment at 4:15AM!
  16. Now it is 2:30 and I have to get this post done, so I can continue my to do list (which eventually includes packing).

Tomorrow I travel, so all is well today!

How to Get in Break Mode


#sol17- Day 18/31- March 18, 2017

Nothing says relaxation to me more than a massage. Luckily for me, I now live in a land of cheap massages!

Today was the start of our “Spring Break” and the only thing on my agenda was to get my first massage of break- where to go? My old standby is cheap and cheerful (less than $20 for 90 minutes), but this was break- time for a little splurge (truth be told last Saturday I also treated myself to a fancier massage to celebrate conferences being over, but, shh!). I narrowed it down to two choices- the spa at the Mandarin Oriental (where I have a voucher for 50% off) or another lovely spot where a friend had gifted me a massage that I had not yet redeemed. I went with the latter because I knew I could show up whenever I wanted.

I chose a Thai massage with scented coconut oil and settled in for 90 minutes of kneading and stretching- just what I needed! I always feel like I disappoint masseuses, as they can never get my shoulder muscles to relax, but she sure gave it a try.

I am already trying to figure out how many more massages I can fit in before in before break ends. A colleague has told me about a nice spot just down the road from where I will be staying Monday-Friday in Luang Prabang, Laos, so my future looks promising. Then there is the “get ready to go back to school” treat I will likely book at the Mandarin. I have downloaded a few new books on my Kindle, bought a new notebook and pens, so after some school work tomorrow (I decided I would rather do it the first Sunday of break than the last) I will be in full on vacation mode. Ahhhhh!