Saturday, May 27, 2006

Pra That Luang
A Look At Lao Culture

Pha That Luang is the most important monument in Laos. It is located in Vientiane at the top of a hill at end of a road named after the monument. It is a popular tourist destination and serves as a national symbol of sovereignty and as a Buddhist symbol.

Pra That Luang is a stupa, which means it is a monument that holds some kind of relic. According to legend, the relic in this stupa is a piece of the breastbone of the Buddha which was brought to Laos in the early 3rd century BC by a Buddhist missionary from India.

The stupa has three levels which culminate in a large four-sided spire designed to look like a lotus leaf. In Buddhism, lotus flowers are often used to represent humans because they grow out of the muddy river bottom but blossom into a beautiful flower.

Much of Pra That Luang is covered in gold leaf.

Every November, there is a multi-day national celebration which is a mixture of religion, nationalism and commercialism at the site of the stupa.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Erik Gets a Red Belt!
Today Erik got his red belt in Tae Kwon Do from Master Phouvieng.

Conrad has been taking Tae Kwon Do longer than Erik and already had his red belt.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Conrad Sings in a Musical

Last night was Conrad's big performance of "Eggheads," a story about a junior high genius (or "egghead") and how rumors of her future get more and more outlandish as they pass from person to person. Each person in the chain solemnly swears to tell the truth to the next people in the chain but instead it gets more and more distorted.

Conrad and his best friend Petrus sang two duets.

Part of the exercise of putting on a musical for his class was taking blocks of text from the play "Eggheads" and setting it to music.

Conrad's class did a really good job!

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Our Weekend in Phialat

Recently, we spent the weekend with some MCC volunteers,
Heidi and Micah,
who live in a bamboo house on stilts
in a village called Phialat
(pronounced almost like "pee-a-laat").
Phialat is less than 2 hours from Vientiane.

Heidi is a community health worker
and is working with an MCC health project based in Phialat.
Their house is on the hospital grounds.

Micah is an agriculturalist
and has started a project working
with integrated pest management
and sustainable methods of crop production.
Part of the project involves model gardens,
one of which is right by their house.
This (below) is lemon grass
which is consumed in soups and sauces
but in the garden serves as pest control
and helps to reduce erosion.

Friday, May 05, 2006

One of the homes from the floating village of Chong Kneas, near Siem Reap, Cambodia. The village floats around in the lake depending on the season.