My 30th birthday may just be the best birthday I’ve ever had. Here’s how it went..
By accident I got my 30th birthday (5-Aug-2012) off to an amazing start. The night before I went to a café so I could call my parents through the internet. But the speed was too slow to talk. So on the way home I stopped at a bakery called “The Scandinavian Bakery.”
I loved Swedish kanelbulles (cinnamon rolls), and Danish kanelsnegls were pretty good too. I had to buy something to justify sitting down and using their wifi, so I picked up this cinnamon roll for breakfast the next morning.
Off To Veuntaen
It was a bumpy ride to Veuntaen, but only the last few kilometers were unpaved. We had to cross the river on a makeshift ferry to get to the village. It was a pleasant ride.
Just before getting on the ferry a big butterfly appeared. It was beautiful! And check out the shoes the Lao teacher was wearing 🙂
Village / Didi’s house
The village was similar to the ones I visited in Latin America. There were the same challenges with poverty, yet the same smiles and positive attitudes.
There are 120 families in the village. Each live in a house, usually on stilts since the river floods during rainy season (right now).
There is also an island just across from the river that the organization I volunteered with owns. There is a house there and one of the teachers spent the week meditating there.
The school I’m volunteering at doubles as a home for the Ananda Marga nuns and volunteers. When I arrived, I’m not sure how to explain it, but it felt perfect.
You’ll see the pictures below and I doubt many of you will think of the accommodations as perfect. But I so desperately wanted to get out to the countryside in Southeast Asia and this was it. I think it brought back positive memories from my time in the countryside of Latin America and brought back the awesome feeling of being in nature.
There is a farm onsite that they are trying to improve day by day. There are some more “normal” fruits growing like mango and papaya, but they also have custard apples, jackfruits, noni, and some hairy fruit I never identified.
Oh, and there were kittens! Who doesn’t like kittens? Yes, just a month old, barely able to meow. When I first arrived they wouldn’t get near me at all, but by the end of the day I was petting them and bonding 🙂
Planting New Trees
There is a path through the farm and they have been trying to decorate it for some time now. With extra hands available, there was no time like the present!
So we got a shovel and set out planting bushes along the path. I thought it was wonderful. I hope to come back on a future birthday to see how much both the bushes I was planting and I have grown in the years since 2012.
Boat Ride On The River For Sunset
The villagers decided a sunset on the Sunshine School Yacht was only appropriate given that it’s my birthday. Though there wasn’t much of a sunset due to the clouds and trees, the atmosphere was great. Lots of laughter, smiles, and positivity.
Dessert – Raspadilla
After the boat ride we walked back to the school to make dinner. But along the way was the dessert house. This house provides iced coffee, which I definitely indulged in while in the village, as well as what would be called raspadillas in Peru and minutos in Central America – shaved ice with a flavored syrup.
But the raspadilla here is version 2.0. Not only do they add flavored syrup, they add condensed milk for additional sweetness, little gummy bear type things for chewiness, and the ice itself is crushed in a small machine instead of shaved by hand like in Peru.
Dinner & The Moon
For dinner we had bamboo shoot soup and papaya salad. It was a very Laotian meal and I feel privileged to have had it!
The bamboo was procured from the farm. You just find a mature shoot, break it off, take the bark off, and you have what you need for the soup.
We also walked around the garden and plucked tons of leaves and vines to throw in the soup – all having some kind of medicinal property.
We all sat down to eat and it was great. Again, lots of laughs, lots of fun, etc.
After dinner the kids all sang songs with the nun. You can see I visited them, but was quickly told to put away the camera 🙂 They also sung the Happy Birthday song for me, which was nice.
Me And A Kitten
I don’t think I really conveyed how much I enjoyed this day in this post. It’s hard to capture a feeling present for a whole day. But this day was truly perfect for me and a wonderful departure from past birthdays where things often seem to go wrong.
But today.. it was perfect. I think you can see how much I enjoyed the day given my smile below, but I think the kitten’s face says it all.. “HOLY MOLEY TODAY WAS AWESOME!”