I had my first ever snow day here in Laos on Saturday. Well, sort of.
I remember when I was a kid, the ritual of watching the weather forecast the night before, of making guesses at what sort of landscape you’d wake to in the morning. Sometimes, it was a false alarm (weather forecasts are somewhat futile, after all, when it comes to lake-effect). But those magic times when it was just as bad as predicted (or worse!) I’d always wake up extra early to speculate with my mom (“they Have to call it with the roads looking like this!”) and watch the school closings on channel 3, channel 8, channel 13. County by county, they’d roll by on the bottom of the screen… Allegan, Berrien, Branch, Calhoun, Cass, Eaton, Ionia… Kalamazoo! Then all the Christian schools, Kalamazoo Public and Parchment Public (this is looking promising…) and then finally, my favorite words of the day, “Portage Public Schools.”
As an elementary school student, it meant an almost Christmas-like glee — (special breakfast! sledding! baking cookies!) and as I got older, the glee stayed, but it was usually attached to something more like a “get out of jail free card” (an extra day to study for math or write that paper on The Jungle). Even in college when, thanks to the on-campus residency requirements, we never had a snow day, if I heard that the local schools or the schools back home were getting one, I’d be in a good mood. It was never a matter of hating school or not wanting to work, but more just the novelty of the day itself and the idea that any winter morning could be transformed into the drama of anticipation and excitement.
I love snow days.
So this past Saturday, when the power magically went out at 8:55am (class was meant to start at 9) and we saw that there were men climbing the power lines across the road (never a good sign), the bubbling anticipation set in. After 20 minutes of class without power, school policy says we have to let the students go. Saturday mornings are for extensive reading, so I sat with my class as they read, trying not to watch the clock. 5 minutes, then 10, then 15… at 20 past, I walked around to see if other teachers were letting their students go, and I waited a few extra minutes just to be sure and then… SNOW DAY.
And it’s not that I’m not completely smitten with my job and am not happy to do it 6 days a week because I definitely am. But the novelty of it, the fact that a normal Saturday morning was turned into the drama of anticipation and excitement… It was a great start to my weekend.
Sunday was a day of filming (more on that as it develops) and in between the two, I decided to go to China.
China? Yep. China.
I have a break coming up in 3 weeks, and I’m getting a nice paycheck today or tomorrow. The combination of the two, along with the fact that I only have 4 breaks a year and that my other breaks this year are already spoken for, made me want to take a trip somewhere. But the excess of choices combined with the excess of work I’ve been up to lately had gotten me nowhere in terms of planning. But then, as I was watching a film about the Rugby boys in Hong Kong (again, stay tuned), I had the thought “you know, I could go to the Great Wall of China next month, if I wanted to.”
So I’m going to.
Another part of the back story is that I recently finished my “101 things in 1001 days” challenge that I started in 2009. Back then, I had no idea that I’d be living abroad in France, much less Laos (I’m pretty sure it would have taken me a few minutes to locate Laos on a map) and I was still a few months away from meeting Maggie. After I finished the old one (I only got 61, but a lot of that had to do with the huge changes that happened in ’09 and ’10), I immediately made a new one. And if all goes as planned, I should be able to tick off at least 3-4 of my 101 things with this trip.
I’m going alone (don’t worry, Mom, all things considered it’s probably much safer than Cambodia) and I’ll be on a train for over 60 hours of my trip. I’ll be going to Guangzhou, Beijing and Xian in 15 days, visiting all sorts of landmarks in the process. I haven’t quite figured out how I’m going to attempt the Great Wall (a sea of literally millions of tourists at Badaling isn’t really my flavor), but I’m sure something will work out. Most of all, I’m just excited to have an escape from the norm, and to be able to feel that inevitable pull towards “home” in the form of my apartment in Vientiane. It’s good to feel that every once in a while, I think. It keeps a person grateful.
And now, I’m smelling grilled cheese (and watching a random man offer up a glass of restaurant water to the pair of monks in front of me), so I think I’ll go have some lunch.