Teacher Kelly


I am writing this post from my favorite cafe in Luang Prabang, Saffron. It has amazing coffee along with riverside seating. As I take some time to reflect on my time here in Luang Prabang as a teacher I think it’s only fitting that I do it from my favorite viewpoint with a strong Americano in hand.

It’s hard to believe that five weeks ago I was beginning my teaching adventure with orientation and yesterday I had my last class in the classroom. The past five weeks have been some of the most rewarding weeks of my life. We took pictures yesterday and I wish I could post a picture of their sweet faces and wonderful smiles. For privacy reasons I am not allowed to post pictures of students’ faces so you’ll just have to believe me!

My weeks have been busy between lesson planning, travel time, and teaching. Despite the long days I went to bed every night feeling happy and content.

Lots of cafes in Luang Prabang but this was my favorite cafe to work from. They had an outdoor balcony on the second floor. Great views of palm trees and the Nam Khan.
Pops of saffron as novices and monks walk by the cafe. A common site with all the temples that are in Luang Prabang.

My mornings were spent on a buffalo farm teaching three young women around 18-19 years old. They have an internship on the farm helping in the kitchen and eventually the cafe when it opens. They help make mozzarella, ricotta, and blue cheese along with ice cream and yogurt from the buffalo milk. My time focused on helping them with vocabulary as it related to working in a kitchen and cafe. Some of the grammar focused on understanding prepositions (on, in, under, behind, etc.) and single/plural sentences using the verbs is/are. For example the coffee is on the table and the eggs are in the refrigerator. The girls loved to sing! So we often had fun breaking out into song. The Beatles Here Comes the Sun, James Taylor’s You’ve Got a Friend, and Justin Bieber’s Baby Baby were on repeat! Saying goodbye to them may have brought a few tears to my eyes!

Lots to see when the classroom is a farm!

I had a more traditional teaching assignment in the afternoon. Students would come to an English learning center after their regular school day.

English learning center

The students came in everyday saying “Hello, Teacher” and smiling. They were engaging, polite, and eager to practice their English. Class started every day with the students standing up and saying, “Good afternoon, teacher, how are you today?” I would respond and proceed to ask each individual student how they were. Common responses included “I am very happy” or “I am very tired” or “I am very sad”. My response back was “why are you happy/tired/sad?” They were usually happy because they got to study English or see Teacher. They were usually tired because they had to ride their bicycle long distances or if it was a Thursday afternoon they were often tired because they spend Thursday afternoon’s cleaning the classrooms and bathrooms at their school. Yes, the students are responsible for cleaning the school each week. This past Friday a couple of students said they were sad because it was Teacher’s last day. Indeed it was sad for me, too.

On any given day I would have 2 – 7 students in my afternoon class. Friday was usually the lightest of the days. Most of the students I worked with lived away from their families. Their families were still in their home villages but they had moved to Luang Prabang to have access to education. Some of the girls live with family members i.e. a sibling or distant relative that had moved to Luang Prabang while other girls live on their own in a dormitory/guesthouse. As a result, many students traveled home to their villages on Friday afternoons.

Class ended with the students standing and saying, “Thank you, Teacher, for your teaching. See you tomorrow.” This was typically followed with hugs and high fives as the students left the classroom. I had six female students and one male student who had a sister studying English at the same time. The students ranged in age from 13 – 17.

We spent a lot of time on subject and object pronouns. While the Lao language has subject pronouns it does not have object pronouns so this grammar lesson extended for a couple of weeks using different activities.

Since the students always said “see you tomorrow” at the end of every class the song Tomorrow from the movie Annie always played in my head. Since the students enjoy singing my last class with them was learning the words to the song and singing it together. The students love reading and learning new words. We spent time going over the words and adding them to their ever growing vocabulary list. I quickly learned that miming and acting were handy tools when trying to explain vocabulary. My acting skills have really improved and I would be a great charades partner at the moment!

Female Health Workshop

My afternoon English class was followed by a female health workshop. The goal of the workshop was to inform and empower Lao girls to know more about what’s going on with their bodies as females. Many females in Lao do not have access to menstrual health knowledge and/or sanitation materials especially in remote villages. The organization I am volunteering with has set up a partnership with the organization Days for Girls. Days for Girls partners with organizations across the globe in order to bring sustainable menstrual health kits and knowledge to girls and women in remote areas. The ultimate goal of the evening workshop is to have these young women be the ones to deliver the presentation instead of strictly translating the material from a westerner.

The exciting news is that some of the menstrual health kits and presentations are happening my last week in Lao. I have been invited to join a small group of people who will travel to five remote villages in Northern Lao over the course of next week to assist in the presentation and help hand out the menstrual health kits to girls and women.

I will dedicate an entire post to this project and trip so more to come.

Menstrual Health Kits. Each girl and women will receive one of these colorful bags with a kit inside.

This is my last full weekend in Luang Prabang. We leave early Monday morning for the villages. We return Friday or Saturday, and I leave Sunday. Here are a few other pictures from my time here as a teacher.

Buffalo cows on the farm. The farm rents the cows from local farmers. This helps provide an income for the farmers. The farm is owned by a couple of American and Australian friends who employ locals to work on the farm and in the kitchen. Using the buffalo for their dairy is a new practice for many of the locals. Most buffalo are used for labor or meat.
The farm added a female pig and her seven piglets!
Baby buffalo!


The drive out to the farm was pretty bumpy and curvy.
We had to go over several one lane bridges like this one.
We passed several temples on our drive.
Children go home for lunch during the school day. We always passed by lots of children walking or riding their bikes back to school after lunch.
One of my favorite views from the drive.
Lots of motorbikes and it’s very common to see more than one person on a bike.
A family on a motorbike. I’ve seen as many as four or five kids on a motorbike with an adult.
View of the parking lot before students arrive at the English learning center.
View of the parking lot after students arrive.
View of the parking lot as students leave. One needs to be heads up when leaving at night!
View of sunset from the classroom window.

Elephant Adventure


The second weekend in Luang Prabang was filled with adventure. A couple of volunteers and I signed up for an elephant walk. We spent our second Saturday in Luang Prabang with elephants – feeding, bathing, and walking along side of them. We were not interested in a facility that offered elephant riding or mahout training. After doing some research we selected Mandalao. They are a more recent elephant program in Luang Prabang and it was interesting to learn about their different projects and goals when it comes to elephants. They do not offer riding tours or mahout trainings and their mahouts on staff do not use any physical commends with the elephants. Some of their projects include reducing the number of elephant camps that offer riding and mahout training tours, finding ways to reduce poaching, along with developing a DNA database of elephants that would prohibit poachers from being able to move elephants to other countries. They were very passionate about providing a happy, healthy environment for their elephants especially since the elephants led a hard life prior to coming to Mandalao.

It was a truly magical day hanging out with these massive and majestic animals. In addition to spending time with the elephants it was nice spending time in the country side. Not only does Mandalao provide opportunities for the elephants, they also incorporate the local village into their project. What follows are pictures of the day. Enjoy!

Mandalao – area outside their restaurant
We had to wear special boots since we would be going into the river when bathing the elephants. Part of our trekking also included some water crossings.
We had a quick boat ride over to the other side. This view is looking back at the welcoming area and restaurant.
First up – feeding the elephants some bananas! It was important to keep the bananas behind our back because given the choice the elephants would rather go for a bunch of bananas rather than a single banana!
Elephant feeding! I will admit this was outside my comfort zone. The elephants were pretty funny. They had no problem putting one banana away after another. It was amusing watching their trunks take banana after banana after banana…
Bath time was next!
We dipped buckets into the river in order to splash water on the elephants.
After some time in the water it was trekking time. We walked with the elephants for a couple of hours in the woods. Sometimes we walked next to the elephants…
…sometimes they walked behind us…
…and sometimes we walked behind them!
The elephants were beautiful and it was amazing watching these animals maneuver through the woods.
Half way through our trek we stopped for another round of bananas. I love the expression on the face of this elephant. It was clear after spending time with these creatures that they are amazing animals with feelings and emotions. I hope programs like Mandalao continue to do the important work of advocating for the health, safety, and rights of elephants.
This is one of my favorite pictures of the day. It was hard not to feel the connection between my friend Liz and this elephant.

After two hours of trekking with these beautiful creatures it was time to say goodbye. It was really nice spending some time outdoors. In addition to the elephants we saw some amazing and beautiful wildlife.

Our trek took us through teak groves.
Can’t remember the name of this plant will need to do research to find the name but saw these throughout our trek.
Aren’t these beetles amazing!
Such beauty and color in nature. Another thing I discovered on the trek that I need to find the name of.
Another fun find!
A farm in the village. Mandalao supports farmers in the village by purchasing their crop yields as food for the elephants.

When we got back to our starting point we had a lovely lunch that included traditional Lao food. The trek with the elephants will definitely be a highlight for me.

A terrific experience and I encourage others to spend time with elephants, too, but ask that you keep in mind how you spend time with them and how the company you use cares for them.

A Saturday in Luang Prabang


My first free weekend in Luang Prabang was a busy one. On Saturday I managed to fit in a river cruise up the Mekong River to Ban Xiang Hai, aka Whisky Village, and Pak Ou Buddha Caves in the morning and a drive out to Kuang Si waterfall in the afternoon. Here are a few pictures from the excursion.

Boarding the boat

The boat left from Luang Prabang in the morning around 9am. I went with three other volunteers who started the program at the same time. We spent an hour and a half on the boat heading up river. Our first stop was Ban Xang Hai, the so-called “Whiskey Village”.

Tasting the local whiskey with new friends!
We opted for the ones without any critters in it!

The area we saw was a bit touristy but it was still fun walking around the village and seeing how they make their rice wine and whiskey.

The whisky was good enough to buy a little bottle and enjoy back at the guesthouse!
Our boat on the Mekong River

After our stop at Whiskey Village we continued to travel up the Mekong to limestone cliffs around Pak Ou – the confluence of the Mekong and Nam Ou rivers.

I loved being on the water. It was a nice way to spend a Saturday morning and a great way to take in the local scenery.
It’s so green here! I love all the banana, coconut, and palm trees.
View approaching the caves
Confluence of the Mekong and Nam Ou Rivers
Entrance to the lower cave, Tham Thing

Pak Ou caves are limestone cliffs above the Mekong and Nam Ou Rivers. There are two caves, the lower Tham Thing cave and the upper Tham Phum cave. They are referred to as the “Buddha Caves” because of their collection of Buddha statues dating back to the 16th century.

Buddha statues 
More Buddha statues
And more Buddha statues! 

After our visit to the caves we traveled back to Luang Prabang.

The boat ride was my favorite part of the trip. I loved the color blocking of the brown river, green mountains, and blue sky. 


When we got back into town we had lunch before our drive out to Kuang Si waterfall.

Kuang Si waterfall


So many stunning view points. 

It was a pretty busy day but we managed to keep it going with dinner at Dyen Sabai, a restaurant on the other side of the Nam Khan. In the dry season there is a bamboo bridge that people can use to cross the river.

Bamboo Bridge at night looking back at Luang Prabang old city. They light the bridge up at night making it a bit easier to cross. 
The bamboo craftsmanship in Laos is amazing and this bridge is no exception. There is a small fee to cross this bridge. The money collected is used to build a new bridge every year after the rain season. 
Bamboo bridge during the day from Luang Prabang old city side. This is one of my favorite views in town. I pass this bridge every time I walk into old city.