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Photo by Sampor Burke, Mekong Semester.

Don Donh Diaries- Part III

Hello hello hello everyone and once again welcome to Don Donh Diaries, the official record of our antics on the beautiful island of Don Donh. Over the past twelve days we have lived and laughed with the amazingly kind and generous people of this small community and have enough stories to last us a lifetime. BUT like anyone else, we are prone to forgetting so of the smaller moments so we are sharing them here, with all who are reading this, now. As before there are no dates but there are names and times to give a little context. So without further ado…

8:37 pm~ For the eleventh night in a row my little host sister has just crawled into my bed and presented me with a cicada. As much as I would rather not have wildlife in the place that I sleep, I do really appreciate the gesture. I am going to miss her a lot. ~Sarah

12:47 pm~ I was eating lunch with my host grandma and little sister when a cow wandered in to my family’s outdoor seating area. As my grandma called out for it to go away, the cow, now anxious and embarrassed it was somewhere it shouldn’t be, tried to escape. It walked into a hammock, backing up and moving forward repeatedly, confused why it couldn’t proceed, while my grandma and I looked on in hysterical laughter. Eventually the cow turned around and ran the other way. ~ Kelsey

6:12 pm~ We are all at our farewell party, just beginning the dance party when the music cuts out and Boom Boom starts playing. Surprised by the sudden jam session I turn around and see my host mom, who is one of the quietest people on the planet smiling mischievously and dancing with other host moms. ~Josie

5:51 pm~ The circle of life has just played out before my eyes. My host sister, before going into the shower, placed a cricket next to me to look after. I was thoroughly enjoying my new friend or that is until the cat came and ate it. I’m still trying to figure out how I’m going to tell my sister. ~Lina

1:11 pm~ Host dad had been teaching me how to drive the family tractor and it had been going fairly well. Or that is until I faltered for a second and nearly drove the tractor off the road. All is well although my host brother did almost fall out and I’m not sure how much my dad trusts my driving skills now. ~Westby

12:14 am~ I have made a horrible mistake in accepting a late night energy drink from Westby’s host dad. It has been hours and I am still very much awake. I am hoping this wears off soon and I can get to sleep. Needs some prayers. ~ Myles

2:52 pm ~ My host brother, Alak, received a gigantic bag of Peanut M&Ms from a visiting relative a few days ago, and he has been furtively munching on M&Ms ever since. Sometimes, he’ll launch a half-eaten M&M my way, a slimy peanut with the chocolate melted off — I’ve politely declined the offer, or tried to. This afternoon, I’m sitting in the hammock after a delicious lunch, and Alak is playing with the nearby kids, running, laughing, shrieking delightfully at each other. Alak comes by the hammock, reaches a dirty finger into a small pocket on the front of his t-shirt, and offers me a sandy, melted blue M&M with an earnest look. I accept. The M&M is only slightly crunchier than it should be, but, having been offered with such love, much sweeter. ~ Angelica

I’m not sure exactly what this series of moments I’ve been recording mean. Maybe that we as a group have a habit of finding ourselves in ridiculous situations. Maybe that taking risks with someone always pays off. Maybe theres no meaning at all and life is just funny and unpredictable, but in hearing these tales from my friends, I was reminded of something I wrote in my journal our second day on course, way back in the mangroves. As I watched the mist disappear from the water’s surface, and the first glimmer of sun bring in a new day, I quickly jotted down how I was struck by the peace around me and the simplicity in it all. Before leaving my thought for breakfast, I wrote, “Maybe that is a theme here, peace in simplicity.” I’ve pondered this line many times since its creation, often wondering what the heck I meant by it, but now, over halfway through our course, I think I might have some idea.

These brief, hilarious, awkward, moments that we have shared are all simple- they weren’t forced or planned or expected- but they were ours. Now, I’m not saying that hitting livestock or insects in beds is peaceful, just that it is part of life. That when you settle down into what’s around you and just live, there is a real peace that comes with it.

When I asked my friends for these stories, they told them to me with huge smiles and so much enthusiasm, emphasizing the parts they themselves found to be the funniest or most unbelievable (“No Josie, it was just a towel.” ~ Sarah) because these are our life stories now too. I (and I would assume everyone else as well) am so grateful to have lived on the island and for the people who so graciously shared their homes with us. They welcomed us in like long lost family, fed us more than we could eat, and gave us immense amounts of love. But most importantly they shared their lives with us, every part of them, and that is where the peace it is. It is the comfort of having a home to return to at the end of the day and someone to call “mae”. It is in the constant humm of cicadas harmonizing with the music of Thai soap operas. It is in life, and it’s simple joys