Seize the day; a special day at Kajsiab Shelter
Hi Kajsiab friends......welcome at Daauw Home.....
These special times.....
Welcome on a day in our Shelter.....an ordinary day.....a special day.....
When you hear the first child laughing and running around around 6 am, all the 46 people in Kajsiab Shelter have long been enjoying the chickens and cocks crowing and fighting, with the calming temple gongs in the background.
The sun comes up to welcome us all for another calming day. Or hectic day. You never know in advance here at Kajsiab.
In the back there are two houses, 5 rooms with in each room a family or a small group of teenagers around the same age.
In the front is also the restaurant that is used during the day to gather and talk, work on embroideries, watch the children and enjoy the meals. In the evening this area has some cozy music and a campfire and travelers and volunteers gather here to have dinner and some beers.
The house is very old. Worn out. Falling apart and put together with bits and pieces by the very creative Hmong people who live in the shelter. There are almost no beds. There is 1 small table for 46 people to eat and 4 chairs. There used to be a lot of chairs. More tables. But they all broke or disappeared and in Corona times there are no ways to get new ones, even not for the very creative minds here. Because creative you become, if you have no means in the way the western world has.
After 18 years living in Laos it still amazes me every single time how the people here know how to enjoy the small things. Sharing one small bag of apples with 23 children. Having mango the boys went to get in the forest. Being so truly happy if suddenly there is one shower that has hot water. Or even the fact that in that room is a shower and not only a bucket.
The small children run and fight, laugh and cry, while some of the women already put the fire on to cook rice. Here all you do is a slow process. If you can not be in the here and now it would be annoying and many volunteers come across this mindset within a few days being here. Realizing their mind is set on quick quick all has to happen quick so we can accomplish today 2 more activities.
Then when I talk with them they find out……being here is not about being quick and showing you can accomplish so much. Being here is about sharing life. Connecting…….together…….and learning about each others way of life and culture.
Once the fire is strong enough the women put a huge pan on the fire for the rice. The pan is larger then the 4 year old children here.
The women start the cooking process which means they gather and sit down around the fire and talk, while watching the children and breastfeeding. The men stand also in the warm fire area and talk about the day. Will they collect firewood today or better go to the forest and catch some fish? Or maybe today is a day to do some repairs on the house? Some of the boys can go to the organic farm and help out there?
During Corona times some of the women usually go to different villages to collect vegetables or to help out and get some fruits in return. Some of the women go to the farm or to the market to sell vegetables. The others stay at the shelter, do embroidery work and watch the children.
One of the children is crying. He is so angry with his brother because his brother hit him. The other brother is very angry and said his brother stole his toy. The women smile and make them calm again.
Here the people all watch all children as if they are their own. It is one big family and the children always get attention. They get hugs and love and care and are never pushed away. If the mother has no time for them another person naturally picks that up in the energy and takes the child.
An hour or so later the rice is almost ready. It is time to cut the vegetables. Today there is no oil so they cook them. The women start talking about the days it was full of volunteers here and there was always enough oil. They start talking about this lovely volunteer who always helped to cut vegetables. More and more stories are told……beautiful memories of all the contacts with beautiful people.
When the food is ready the teenagers and children who need to go to school eat first. They all stand around the table and eat, talk and laugh. The whole sky is filled with this teenage energy of young hearts discovering who they are and what they want, learning about life and …..love.
They make jokes about boyfriends and tease each other about girlfriends. The smaller children listen carefully to the stories that sound so interesting and vague.
Then it is time to bring the children to school. The older teenagers and the young men who live at the Shelter bring them with the motorbike. There is only one bike left……so they take as many kids as possible on the bike and ride two or three times to the school and back.
After the women have eaten, they all go their own way, to the market or villages, or, up to the restaurant to relax with the children and to do some embroidery work. All girls learn from very young age to sew. It is an old traditional work that goes back far in history and the symbols each have their own meaning.
Today Ning, a double widowed woman with 4 children, is going to sell some of her own products. Ning has been here many years and, in the beginning, she worked only at the Kajsiab Shelter and restaurant. Now she is back on her feet, but for now she wants to stay at the Shelter. She helps the others now at the Shelter and in her free time she sells natural toiletries and cosmetics.
Mia Au has been here since she married one of the teenagers at the Shelter and they are a teenage family who still need lots of support and guidance. Because her husband works with chickens at the farm, they live some of the time at the Organic Farm house.
Waa has been at the shelter many years ago. He needed to stay for a while due to his home situation. He worked and saved as much as possible to go to university.
One of the volunteers who had his own company helped Waa to study after his time at Kajsiab for 4 years until he graduated to become a teacher. Unfortunately, Waa got ill and did not heal properly. As a result, he now has problems with hearing properly and can only talk softly. He can not become a teacher anymore.
Waa decided to come back to Kajsiab and he is helping the teenagers and children with homework. He became a teacher after all! He also helps Zjong a lot when the place is filled with travelers and volunteers because he knows English very well.
Kajsiab people are a family sharing life, love, laughter and pain. They work very well together and when some women made rice in the morning, other pick it up in the afternoon and evening.
The teenagers help out in the evenings too. The boys grill fish and help out with cutting firewood and making the fire in the pizza oven. The girls help with the cutting vegetables and cooking.
Sometimes there is special food. Meat or bamboo or fish…..or snales……or frogs when the boys have been searching them in the night. Then all the boys and the men gather at the fireplace and they do the cooking. The women sit around the fire holding their babies and when such a feast meal is coming up the air is filled with laughter and happiness.
The sun is long gone and warming up around the fire enjoying each other’s company and the delicious foods……capturing this moment…….the ending of another beautiful day….