Monday, 22 February 2016

Exploring Luang Prabang

PROJECT: Nursing – Griffith University
WRITTEN BY: Laura Boulogne

Day Six or 'Down by the riverside': 
Today we packed up the trucks and after a visit to the military hospital, we drove five hours to our host village, down the mountains and along the river. We had such a beautiful welcome, and all of us were covered with flowers bouquets made by the school kids as we listened to the Chief's welcome. They humbly received us and thanked us for choosing to come to Laos and to stay in their village for a week.

It was after we had settled in that we heard the news, there was bonfire on tonight that we would get to dance at. All of the kids had gathered around the fire by the time we arrived and were playing with our team. Soon, we were all mixing and enjoying the night with many traditional dances and a few Aussie ones too. Two hours later, we finished the night all jumping around and dancing to Pink's 'So What?' We were all tired but so content, we had big smiles on our faces as we headed to bed.

Day Seven or 'Teaching how to brush your teeth by the river': 
The clinic opened in one of the poorest villages yet, as we struggled to get tables and benches . Here, people have simple houses and are all farmers in the mountains. As the education sessions start, some of us headed towards the river with the sixty village children to start teaching them how to wash their hands and brush their teeth. The kids were so beautiful and loved the soap so much that they started washing their bodies and faces in the river.  The clinic went really well and Ella led the dance. The village has 230 residents and we treated around 120 patients with many disorders. Sadly, the main disorders where due to dehydration or labor muscle pain from working long hours. As we packed up, the sun was high and we all planned to swim in the river back to our host village.

Day Eight or 'A shooting star': 
Today, we saw 150 patients go through triage as we set up our clinic in our home village. Fatemeh was team leader and she did her best to distract all the cute babies whilst directing us all, we all did an awesome job. By the time four o'clock rung, we were all packed and waiting to receive our half-way feedback. Everything seemed positive and on the way to accomplishment. I couldn't believe that we are already midway. What a journey! At diner, we all debriefed and chatted about our day, the interesting cases we had and what to plan for tomorrow's clinic. It is very interesting to realise how much we had all bonded and how we were a team working towards the same goal, helping the Laos community. After dinner, we grabbed torches and sweaters to walk down the river and observe the stars in the night. The sky was so clear we could all see Mars, the big and small saucepans, parts of the Milky Way as well as the North Pole star.

Day Nine or 'The night of the thousand blessings': 
As we woke up and went to breakfast, we could feel that something was in the air in the village. It was only after the clinic that we realised that we were going to have a beautiful ceremony tonight. The clinic went well and we treated 79 patients under Kayla's leadership. This village showed interesting cases such as presumed tuberculosis, emphysema, ear and chest infections. As we got home, we all spent some time with our families before going from house to house to have blessing ceremonies and receive cotton bracelets. It was very touching and we all felt warmth in our hearts and tears in our eyes as the village said their goodbyes to our group. Back home after the ceremonies, we exchanged gifts and talked about Australia and our lives.

Day Ten or 'Cooking and rafting it is':
Today the whole village was awake and busy as the first rays of sun shone. A big meeting was set in the village's community centre as we all packed our bags, ready to head back to Luang Prabang. After breakfast, we headed to four villager's houses to learn to cook different meals that we would all share for lunch. My group headed to my home stay to cook chicken salad with banana flowers, garlic, dill, coriander and mint. We all gathered and tried each others meals as we were prepared to raft down the Suang River. Rafting was a new experience and we split into groups of three to travel down to the next village with. The river sides were beautiful and the kids waved at us as we left our home village.

Off in the trucks we went for a weekend of exploring or relaxation in Luang Prabang.

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