An Independent School • Grades 5-12

by Bonnie Y. '21

This month, Lakeside Upper School students are at six locations around the world, developing their understanding of and respect for different countries and cultures, as well as the common issues that face us globally. Read their blogs for their thoughts, and learn more about our Global Service Learning program.

The day of our arrival, in addition to the day we leave the village, may be some of the most significant of our trip. The morning began like yesterday’s, same hotel breakfast, but today anticipation charged the air. We packed our belongings and divided among two vans for the ride to the village. As we continued up the mountain, the paved roads became coated with red dust, a shade I later found would cover everything at the village.

Absorbed by my book and games of “Contact,” I didn’t notice the view outside until we were completely surrounded by lush, forested mountaintops. We flew past occasional buildings and crop fields, winding our way up the hillside. I and the others in my van ran through the phrases in our Lahu dictionary, and I found myself suddenly uncertain, even…afraid. The dictionary only amplified my feeling of unpreparedness. I wasn’t alone; my friend beside me leaned over to say, “I’m scared.” Minutes later, we arrived at the village.

We stopped on a hill, on the main road running through the village. A little further up the red-coated slope was the house of Ja-Lo, the village leader, where we were meeting to be introduced to our host families. I imagine we’ll soon become very familiar with climbing these hills, since, as we soon learned, the only flat spot in the village is a small clearing often used for ceremonial purposes, with a raised altar at the center. At Ja-Lo’s house, we were paired off with our families, mostly host moms, who had been waiting on the sides of porch. I was the very last to be paired with my host mom, who was accompanied by her two-year-old daughter, who ran from me the instant we were back on the road.

I followed her down the hill to the house; as most of the houses are, it's on stilts, with bamboo walls and floor and a metal roof. After a quick tour, we reconvened at Ja-Lo’s for lunch, which included stir fried dishes and the sweetest banana I’ve ever tried, and a tour of the village, including the sites we would be building bathrooms and the ones constructed by Lakeside students in years before. In the excitement of all that was happening, it was a reminder of the actual purpose of our visit.

So far on this trip, I’ve learned to let go of any expectations. Every experience so far has been new and unpredictable. I’m excited but still uncertain. I can’t wait for the village to feel like home.