Getting back from a couple of nights in vang Vieng, it was time to get into the nitty and gritty of what I was doing in Laos. Teaching English. To be honest I expected to get into the Volunteering a lot earlier than expected, not to say that culture week in week one was not an educating and an enjoyable experience, it was. I just expected to be teaching English to the locals a tad earlier into the program.
The days from Monday through to Friday, were pretty much similar, the old Groundhog Day you could say. Wake up, have breakfast, teach the monks for a couple of hours, a three-hour lunch, teaching kids in the afternoon, followed by a little volleyball, dinner and downtime in the evening.
Not that the days were not rewarding, it was and much more. The whole program was an experience that I will never forget and forever cherish. It was the life of a Green Lion volunteer and teaching English was the sole reason I came to visit Laos, so let’s get into it.
The Monks by the morning
In the morning, we taught the Monks. We would visit the Vat Pana Khoun temple, where the monks from as young as fourteen to an elderly age, meditate, eat, sleep and live. The exact same place where we do our best to teach them English. I say do our best because teaching anyone who barely understands the English alphabet was a challenge. A rewarding challenge I must admit.
The monks desire to learn is strong, even if it is a struggle for both student and teacher. We are helped through our classes with a translator, but still it doesn’t always help erase the confused looks on the students faces. But the monks have a great sense of humour, they are witty and beyond their deep beliefs, they show how human they really are.
The monks made my week, and no disrespect the kids I taught in the afternoon, they were my favourite part of the volunteering experience. To be in their presence was an honour and it was a privilege to teach. And now I have about twenty more Facebook friends. Yes, the monks have Facebook and use it a lot.
The kids in the afternoon
Walking into the primary school in the afternoons makes us feel like rock stars. The kids run up to you, smile at you, wave to you, or in other instances looking at you with odd “you are strange to me” look. Naturally, they are looking upto you, we are about 3-feet taller, but in this case, you are almost idolised.
Each day we are sent to a different class, which makes it hard to fully teach the students or get any proper rhythm going. But the school’s principals are doing their best to share the volunteers around while they have us and of course we understand that, because volunteers are not always available.
Teaching English to the kids is a little bit more challenging. It is hard to keep their attention, they lose focus as any kids do while in school and time in class is spent teaching, singing songs that I have long forgotten and playing games to the best of our ability, where student and teacher try their best to understand each other.
Chilling and downtime
The Green Lion household in Laos, is quite far away from anything really, so getting out and about is quite difficult. Around the facilities, there are a few restaurants, markets and shops but besides that any entertainment value is difficult to find.
Most afternoons are made up with a few of the volunteers grabbing a chocolate shake from the market, playing cards, talking about random stuff and a real intense game of volleyball, which is usually against the French volunteers. Besides that, downtime is a given in the house and boredom can sink in.
Nonetheless, the experience was worthwhile and one that will never be forgotten. While it was the hardest thing to be without my family for two weeks, I am glad I came to Laos for what truly was a worthwhile cause. I can only recommend to anyone that is interested in volunteering, whether it is construction, animal care or teaching English, to do it. Memories are made and so are friendships.