Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Blood, sweat and tears

One day recently we arrived for our usual lessons at the Monk school, full of enthusiasm for the day ahead, only to find that the school grounds had been transformed into a scene from the TV show MASH.

Stretchers had been arranged and Red Cross personnel were busy lining up volunteers from among the novice Monks for a blood drive. There were novices filling out forms while glancing nervously at others who already had needles in their arms and rapidly filling plastic bags at their sides. At a table sat other novice monks, looks of satisfaction and relief on their faces as they ate the supplied cookies and drank coke.

School was cancelled for the morning but we were not to escape too lightly. Red Cross eyes lit up as we sat and began to fill out the forms. A group of amused novices gathered around a set of bathroom scales when a nurse didn't believe my stated weight of 105 kg and decided to double check. Sure enough, I was twice the weight of any of the novices and became the subject of much amused discussion.

The preliminaries done I was taken to a folding bed and quickly and efficiently punctured. Looking up I had a surreal moment of realising that I was laying on a bed, in the grounds of a Buddhist monastery, donating blood, all under the smiling gaze of dozens of novice Monks. It was a situation that could only have happened in Laos and only on this project.

Sitting at the table a short time later, cookie in one hand and coke in the other, I was presented with a T-shirt in thanks of my donation. I still have no idea what the shirt actually says, it is in Lao after all, but I am sure that it is going to be one of my treasured souvenirs and a reminder of the true wonders and surprises that can happen here any day.