The Laos Life

I’m sitting on the pool patio, sipping on ice cold water, soaking up the rays through the layer of thick, humid cloud that is concealing the sun. On the other side of the river the builders are blasting Laos pop music at max volume, I can hear the hammering of tools and the occasional outburst of laughter or shouting. The sounds seem to bounce around the hills in the distance, as if we are in a little box of Laos and the hills are the walls.

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Infinity

I’ve found myself back in Laos, this time in Vang Vieng, known for it’s party scene, drunken tubing and half naked tourists wandering confused in the streets after consuming mushroom shakes and taking too many shots at Sakura Bar,in the quest for a free t-shirt, labelled “drink triple, see double, act single”, rules which every bogan backpacker worth their salt will follow on their quest to find themselves in Southeast Asia.

I’m here in the quiet season, and I’m seeing a different side to Vang Vieng. Emphasis is on the beauty of the scenery, the tourists are mostly Korean who cruise down the river in their tubes, occasionally falling out and unable to get back in, they hold onto their tubes and scream with laughter as they bob around, lifejackets and armbands keeping them afloat, all the while holding their phones in waterproof casing and taking selfies with one hand, gripping for dear life with the other.

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Nam Song River 

I’m here for one month, teaching yoga for Yoga in Vang Vieng, based at the Silver Naga Hotel. Myself and my fellow teacher, the lovely Tye from Australia, take turns with our teaching days, me teaching both classes one day, and her the next, which means every second day is a day off! Living the dream? Ahhh yep.

It took a few days for me to settle in here, as I always do. I felt like I had stepped into a dream – after one month of quality, much needed family and recuperation time in the UK, I found myself back in sticky, sweaty southeast Asia with all its lovely sounds and smells and I had to break myself back in to the… different way of living here. My first night here I woke up in the middle of the night to thunder and lightning, very very frightening, and one of the hotel dogs scratching at the door trying to get in for a cuddle. However, I’m not living in a bamboo hut or showering in cold water every day, nor am I getting up at the crack of dawn and teaching all day. I remind myself daily of how incredibly lucky I am to be doing what I love while travelling the world, and I get to live in a beautiful hotel this time, which is the cherry on top.

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The doggy trying to cool his genitals on the floor

I’m up at 6.30am on teaching days, prepping the room and my class, I teach from 7.30-9.00am, have breakfast in the hotel (buffet awesomeness), chill by the pool, hang out in my room, explore the town, get a massage, go for a bike ride, practice my Laos language on the hotel staff (who just laugh at me, shaking their heads like “such a fool, at least she tries), visit a local cafe, plan classes, write my journal, chat to other guests, teach again at 5pm, then go for dinner and chill for the evening. On my days off – same same, except I attend the classes instead of teaching (or sleep in, haha…).

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One of my first days here I visited a cafe in the town for coffee and good internet, and got chatting to the owner, who offered me a job on the spot, “like a homestay! You come here, speak English with us and the customers, help us, eat with us, we speak Laos with you, you drink coffee??”. Obviously I said yes, we shook hands, and every day since I have wandered into Offbeat Cafe, bringing writing notebooks and coloured pens and Laos-English language books and we sit around miming things in attempt to make conversation. They laugh at my attempts at Laos language (my mouth just doesn’t make certain sounds), and they laugh at themselves when they try the English words. They call me their baby Laos, because I sound like a very special baby when I speak Laos, and they also call me “uaey” which means “big sister”, which makes me feel all happy. I call them “nongsau” which means “little sister”. There is Song and Prin, brother and sister who own the cafe, and the three young girls, Tame, Deuy and Daa. They are adorable and all wear their hair in the same high bun and their work t-shirt tied up in a fashionable way.

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Dinner Time!

I’m amazed at how eager they are to learn – when I was in school I don’t think my eyes lit up the way theirs do when the teacher walks into the room. They come running up to me, saying “Jao kin kao ya baw??” which means “have you had lunch??”, and they touch my arm and say “beautiful skin” and I’m like really cos I didn’t moisturise today hahahahaha and they look at me blankly but endearingly, like “she crazy, but we will allow it because she has the knowledge we require”.

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Munchkins.

Mealtimes are interesting. Sometimes I have lunch or dinner with them, and we sit around the table and eat with our hands. The first time I joined them, they put a box of sticky rice, a bowl of vegetables and a plate of meat on the table, pointed to me and said “eat!”. So I sat down, pulled the plate towards me and started to eat, and they started laughing hysterically, “NOOOOOO hhahahahhaah that bowl for EVERYONE!”. Needless to say I felt like a greedy little farang at that moment. Just goes to show that portion sizes in the western world are outrageous, that our normal evening meal would feed a family of four in Asia.

The next time we ate together, Song pulled out a plate of pastey stuff, called “jaeow”, gestured to the sticky rice and said “you eat!”.

Rosie: “what’s this? fish paste?” (It sure tasted fishy.)
Song: “no, no, no fish. Vegetable. And….”
Prin: “Vegetable aaaand…. and…. injection!” *flaps arms wildly*
Rosie: “INJECTION??!” *look of horror*
Prin: “Ahhhh…. Insects!”
Rosie: “mmmmm….”
Prin: *googling furiously…..* “CRICKETS!”

Welll. I ate no more cricket paste that evening, and awoke the next morning with a dubious sensation in the pit of my stomach. My body may not be ready for Laos cuisine in its entirety, but it sure is exciting!

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Green Cookies!

I’m off to swim in the infinity pool. Peace and love from Laos to you all.

La Kon! Goodbye!

p.s. six weeks until our Whole & Happy Retreat in Chanthaburi, Thailand on the 4th of November. Wanna join us? There are still some spaces available. Email me at rosie.moreton@gmail.com to reserve your space, or book online at:

http://wholeandhappyretreat.eventbrite.com

See you there?

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Butt Ugly

Feeling a bit prudish? Avert your eyes. 

In my past week working on a naturist resort in southern Spain (tick that one off the list), I have witnessed many different types of body in their naked prime, and it is safe to say that everybody differs wildly. I mean WILDLY. 

  

 We get very used to our own bodies, we know which bits we like and which bits we would quite like to chop off and flush down the loo never to be seen again. But all these other bodies! My sweet baby Jesus! Saggy old man bottom, thigh hair that you could have , nipples that would poke your eye out if you got too close, terribly awkward tan lines, strangely protruding belly buttons.. The list goes on. So the next time you think that your bottom is too big – it probably is, but at least it doesn’t hang down behind your knee caps. You have that going for you. 

It has, all in all, been a tremendous end to my time in Spain. Bit of cleaning, bit of drinking wine, bit of food prep, bit of dog feeding. Andy, the charming host, spends his life travelling, setting up shop in one place for as long as it feels right then moving on. It’s a constant, ever changing adventure and his welcoming nature makes everyone feel at home. As a volunteer, we get fed and watered as well as the guests, and spend the days preparing for meals, cleaning up, sunbathing nakey by the pool and entertaining the guests with gin & tonic,  yoga and magic tricks (all at the same time).

My last evening we consumed a vast amount of wine, goats cheese, and fancy chicken things, then watched as Andy tied two of the other helpers together with a rope and instructed them to find their way out. Just your standard Monday evening really. I told Andy I was going to relay this event to my mother; “mum, the host of the naked place tied up his female helpers and watched as they tried to untangle themselves, all the while swilling his wine and laughing jovially!” Oh, how we laughed.

   
 I decided that the time was right for a dip in the hot tub, and naturally (haha) our guests wanted a go too, so I found myself bobbing around, butt naked, with an elderly English couple, discussing naturist retreats in New Zealand and whether in fact you really need a place to be naked, or if we should just be able to get our kit off anywhere. I think there is a time and a place, and it is generally not socially acceptable to bare your bottom in the workplace, for example, or in the supermarket, because we only want fresh meat from the deli man, please and thankyou. 

  
We settled in for a while, my bottom would not quite touch the bottom of the pool because I am short in length , so I floated and imagined I was in outer space. Mike spread his arms across the back of the spa pool, and his face was contorted into an expression that I mistook for great pain, so I asked him what was wrong and he said “ah, no, I’m just relaxing”. Let’s not relax too much Mike. 

Janet floated around like a curvaceous pale angel, and her legs kept emerging above the water, and she kept looking down and crying out “ooh go down leg! You naughty thing!” She was a few wines in at this point. She let go of her wine glass and we watched, awestruck, as it floated across the surface of the pool, like an alcohol boat, and then there was a fireball that flew across the sky, and all was good in the world.

  
 I decided to leave Janet and Mike to relax naked together in the hot tub, my time had come, and I sloped off to bed to bask in my last night of nudity and try to ignore the tiny itchy things that nestled into my bosom crevice while I slept.

I awoke this morning, dressed myself, said goodbye to slobbery Dino the Great Dane and Billy the Goat Whisperer. 

   
 
Now I can’t help but look around me at all the other humans on the airplane and idly wonder, “how hairy is HIS back?” , or, “what’s hiding under THOSE fetching brown corduroy trouser legs?”

What have I become! A… Naturist? Or a perve? You decide.

The grand auld cottage life.

And so another Irish summer begins, yet a hot water bottle is necessary every night and my evenings mainly consist of sitting by the fire wrapped in my poncho and pondering my choice of country in which to spend the “sunny season”.  For the third year in a row – when will I learn? Or at least, when will I learn to bring extra pairs of socks and waterproof over-trousers? 

It’s hard to plan for bad weather when you’re in Greece, knee deep in raki and zooming around on scooters in skirts. 

There must be a reason I keep returning. Is it… The sheep? No, although they are pretty adorable. Even when they stop for a suckle at mothers teat in the middle of the main road, and simply expect you to stop and gaze upon them, as if they are what you were cycling furiously up the hill in the driving rain for.

 

 I have to say, my humble abode for this season makes the bad weather more bearable. I come home, wet and bedraggled, like a wee hamster flushed down the toilet, and my cottage welcomes me with open arms. The shower pressure may be more ‘geriatric dribble’ than ‘power shower’, but i have learnt that if you sit awkwardly in the bath tub, fill it to a mid – bum cheek level, then turn on the hand held shower head and hold it over you, sloshing a bit of water around like a naughty baby,  it’s a whole new bathing experience. It’s just a bit awkward when you need to wash your hair, because a girl only has so many hands, and you need at least one to grip the side of the tub to prevent a slippery death..

  

  
The open fire can really make or break a cosy night in. Now, having grown up with log fires, a turf and coal fire is a whole new challenge for me, and one I am so willing to accept. My first time trying to light the beast ended with me retiring to my bed, chilly, with only a hot water bottle and failure to accompany me. I have tried, several times now, but I cannot seem to get the ratio of firelighter: coal: turf correct. My housemate lights a mean fire, so tonight I watched over her shoulder as she lit it. Now I sit, regally, by the roaring fire, casually hiffing chunks of turf on the fire, swirling my red wine, gazing into the flames and remarking out loud to no one in particular, “By Jove! What splendid heat!”

  
In the morning I shall climb on my noble bicycle steed and begin the daily trek to work, come rain or shine, hail or gale. It’s character building stuff. (And I look ridiculously good in high visibility rain gear and men’s overtrousers).

  
Ahh, the Wild West of Ireland. It’s good to be back.  

The Cretan Obesity Centre, and other stories. 

 

 Ahh, sibling fun.

I met Josh at Crete airport and one of the first things he said to me was “we’re not camping.” Having spent a week in our tent aptly named “The Womb”, including one 48 hour period during a storm in the Italian mountains where he could not leave its confines, he was ready for a bed to rest his weary head. He was also pretty ready for some good food, after existing on whiskey and carrots for a little too long.

  
It’s basically been a week of consuming awesome Greek food and alcohol, sunning ourselves on Crete beaches, hooning about on a scooter and seeing some pretty old stuff.

Being in recovery from a savage bout of Turkish Tummy food poisoning, my stomach couldn’t really cope with a lot of food, but I slowly and persistently coaxed it into sampling the local Cretan cuisine. My body was telling me no,  but my mind was telling me “Greek yoghurt, woman!”.

   
   The thing I personally love about Greece is that just when you think you’ve finished your meal, they bring you a small jug of raki and a dessert platter (sometimes two!) and you just feel so fondly towards them that you tell them you will marry their son. Perhaps that’s the raki talking, and perhaps they planned that all along, but if it’s free then who’s complaining? Is he handsome?

  
One particular night in Chania, at a restaurant on the port,  we had consumed some stuffed vegetables, a marvellous Greek salad and slab of moussaka, and we were already pretty satisfied. Then we were brought our nightly nightcap of raki and dessert, consisting of almond cakes and a plate of six glistening donuts. Josh’s inner fat boy jiggled his stomach, moistened his lips, and cried “CHALLENGE ACCEPTED !” 

Sadly all I could do is sit and watch while he hoovered all six of them, which I found both mildly repulsive and strangely fascinating. Needless to say, the next day he experienced a severe food hangover, and could only muster the strength for a light, oil free salad. 

A lesson we learned: you don’t have to to eat ALL THE FOOD. But you do have to drink all the raki. 

We watched some traditional Greek music one night, which was hilarious and deadpan. These four guys sat on little stools with their instruments they have obviously been playing since they were 3 months old, their fingers flying across the strings, making incredible music but staring off into the corner of the room like they were on the toilet and there was no reading material. I loved it.

  

Our favourite day was when we hired a scooter and scooted about the island, visiting beaches and eating Greek salads in all different localities, remarking on the thicker cut of the red onion or the curious addition of parsley in some varieties. We like to think we are now connoisseurs of the Greek salad.

  
I look very good on a scooter, I have decided, and I would quite like one. Some say you should not wear flappy pantaloons and sandals on a scooter, but it’s all the rage really, and I like to feel the wind against my little toes. I clung to Joshua like a koala bear initially, feeling like I was going to topple off down the cliff side and impale myself on an olive tree, but eventually I loosened my vice grip on Joshua’s beard and relaxed.  

  

 We also went to the palace of Knossos just outside Heraklion, which was a fascinating excursion, but naturally we couldn’t enjoy it until we had had a frozen yoghurt and a coffee. Frozen yoghurt is basically every second shop down the street, and I feel like we sampled a good selection of the flavours, a personal favourite being the simple Greek yoghurt with honey. 

   

     
  

There’s a running theme of food, and that’s not a bad thing. We one day came across a building called “The Cretan Obesity Centre”, with some very sorry figures going in and out. I feel like it was a near miss for us. It doesn’t sound like a good place to go.

So now I return to work in Ireland, with slightly snugger (a word?) pants and considerably less money, resigned to the fact that I will be living off meaty slop and taters for the next few months.

  

Joshua is off to spend two weeks walking alone across England, sleeping in The Womb and talking to himself, dreaming of donuts.

  
  

The Cleaning Fairy

Have you ever wondered how your rubbish bin comes to be miraculously empty every morning? How the coffee stains on your desk are just magic-ed away overnight?

IT’S ME GUYS!

I am the cleaning fairy.

My current selection of employment for my money-making summer includes a cafe and specialty foods shop, a catering company and a cleaning franchise. I have my finger in all pies, which guarantees regular income and versatility, which is fabulous for people who get bored easily like myself.

Cleaning is perhaps not the most glamorous of occupations, but it is top notch for those days when you don’t particularly want to talk to people or make an effort with your appearance. I scrape my hair back into a wee alfalfa, pop on my large blue cleaning shirt and black pants, fill my drink bottle, strap on my strap-on vacuum cleaner (yup, I do that), and I’m away!

In general, I find that unappealing situations in life can become far more appealing, when one is willing to laugh at oneself.

For example, when I am down on hands and knees in a kindergarten scraping play dough off the carpet with a piece of lego, with a hefty hoover bumping me on the back of the head, I like to think, “I wonder what I look like from behind right now?”

Or when I am vacuuming in a classroom and the vacuum cleaner lead gets tangled in a chair and the chair falls off the desk which creates a domino effect on all the other chairs in the room, and I rush around trying to put them all up again only to remember I am still wearing the vacuum cleaner, it has been following me, and I have created a labyrinth of vacuum lead which I must retrace or forever remain entangled in its sucky embrace. It would be a horrible end.

Or when I am bent over, hoovering under a desk intently, when the kindergarten parrot begins to sing a serenade, and wolf whistle until I straighten up and give him a reprimanding look, as if to say, “you cheeky parrot, you”. I’ll be honest with you, its the most attention I get these days, and I am beginning to look forward to our meetings. Love you Paz.

I think the worst is when there are ACTUAL HUMANS in the room when these things happen. In general it is just middle-aged women marking school papers, but every now and then the sexual physical education teacher turns up, and I just can’t look him in the eye when I’m wearing a vacuum cleaner backpack with straps around my waist, and a very Rosie-glow sheen in the face.

I have a lot of time to think, so sometimes I entertain fantasies of myself arriving at the school as a teacher, and Mr PE teacher is a cleaner, and the tables are TURNED, and I have the power, and I make him vacuum everywhere while I watch. I’ll show him physical education! Pah!

Sometimes I think I have too much time to think, which is when I start listening to podcasts, about a vast variety of things. Aliens, Murder, Gardening, Films, Politics (But not really cos I just don’t quite care enough), Food (which just makes me hungry and certainly consider taking an apple from the kindergarten fruit bowl), Travel, Things I Didn’t Know Which I Should, Things I Think I Know But Actually I’m Wrong, Superfoods and Why Are They Super (Indeed!)…. The list goes on.

It is a bit of a skill to take work that people may look down upon (quite literally, when I am under the desk), and turn it into an opportunity for humour, education, and a perspective on life from a different standpoint.

Next time you sharpen your pencil onto the floor, take a little moment to thank your cleaning fairies.

We know whats in your rubbish bin. Wink Wink.