Camping! / by Joshua P Jacks

Camping… when the word passes through an American’s mind, one might think of; tents, fishing, hot dogs, s’mores, campfires, campfire songs, campfire stories, campers with TV’s and maybe even air conditioning!  When that same word goes through a Lao mind… NO TENTS, a ride across the Mekong River to an Island, 60 boxes of take away fried rice, sweet potatoes grilled over the fire, soccer, beach, and Nescafe boiled and enjoyed with the river water (don’t worry it was boiled long enough that it was fun to drink). 

I would say those are two very different pictures.  Now, we did have similarities. We did have a guitar to sing songs. We did have a HUGE fire (thanks to Josiah) and we did actually have marshmallows!  All the way from Thailand (thanks to the Gordon’s).   The day was great.  We all were spread out on this island with beach as far as the eye could see.  We used the shrubs in the middle of the island as the restrooms.  I was informed the left side was for the girls because there were wildflowers growing there. So see even in nature we get the prettier side!  Activities such as football (soccer), cutting watermelon, swimming, singing, playing games similar to tag, and just sitting around and enjoying each other’s company was what consumed our day.  No time, no schedule.  Just 60 of our closest friends coming together to enjoy the day. 

One of my highlights of the day were watching Noah play with Auntie Sheryl.  She made sure he knew how to throw mud in the sand.  Noah loved playing in the river and sand so much I think I will be washing sand off of him for a week (including in the ears!).  It was one of those moments, where we actually had the time to sit and watch all the people that have become friends and family.  Looking across the beach thinking of the many things that we have been able to walk through with each person was great. Also reminded of stories of what others on our team have walked through with them.  It was a joy to see our team and so many Lao people side by side.  Family is the word to be used. 

During our time there, we were able to watch two people go “swimming” and 30 other people who have completed their study to be encouraged to take that study to their friends and loved ones.  We ended the day with a “cast away” experience.  We had to take 3 boats back.  We were the last ones to get on the boat to take us back to land and near our truck.  There were about 20 of us waiting for the boat to drop off part of our group and come and pick us up.  We spent it by taking silly pictures of ourselves lit by flashlights.  Since that was the only light to be seen where we were standing.  I, on the other hand, was trying to keep a very tired Noah from jumping out of my arms so he could run into the river and play... in the complete dark!  This little guy has no fear!  He reminds me a lot of Josiah, Philip, and Caleb.  I can only hope my boy turns out like those kids. 

After getting home and sweeping out the pound of sand we brought into the house with us and giving Noah a bath to get most of the sand off, it was definitely not difficult at all to fall asleep.  There you go my friends. You have been there and back again with my first camping experience… I know we didn’t sleep there.  We chose not to because of having to reschedule it because of rain and having to get back to the grind on Monday.   But, believe me, the whole experience, other than a horrible night’s sleep of making sure Noah didn’t wake up and run into the river and wondering if snakes or bugs were coming to bite me, all of it was a genuine camping experience.  Just glad it ended with me in my bed!