And sometimes even your best-laid plans go awry. Though I have been packed for southern India since the end of June, I am currently switching gears to depart for Laos in less than a week. After several denied work visa applications, and 2 months of attempts at remedying the situation, there was still no progress. As the school year was quickly passing by, it was decided that I would be placed somewhere else. Much to my delight and surprise, I’ve been welcomed as an English teacher next term, beginning in October, at Vientiane College, in the capital city of Lao PDR. I’ll be leaving next week, and will have awhile to settle in to my new home before work begins.
In the meantime, as I’ve been waiting for these plans to fall into place, I’ve been continuing to explore and appreciate what’s in my own backyard. The late summer days have been great for spending outdoors, and I finally got to visit Crabtree Falls, a nice hike in the George Washington Forest, and the highest waterfall east of the Mississippi, with some friends on an August weekend. On the way back, we refueled from hiking on smoked barbecue from Blue Ridge Pig, a very unassuming-looking stopoff in Nellysfod, that serves up mouth-watering sandwiches, acclaimed by decades worth of yellowing business cards and newspaper clippings inside. To wash down the barbecue, we swung by Ciderworks, one of only two hard cider breweries in Virginia, where we got to sample the four current ciders on tap.
Another peculiar Virginia site I visited for an afternoon was Yogaville, which made me feel like I had ventured to an entirely different country for a few hours, with a barefoot vegan lunch, and the unreal-looking Lotus Temple. Truly hard to believe this place exists in central Virginia. Venturing further, I visited Richmond and DC several times as well as the Hudson Valley, at the foot of the Catskills, in upstate New York. Highlights of this trip included a long scenic stroll along the Walkway Over the Hudson, and a visit to the Woodstock Museum, which is at the original site of the 1969 music festival, and was truly excellent (recommended both for those who remember Woodstock, and those who, like me, only wish we had been alive to be able to attend).
So instead of Tamil, I’ll be learning Lao, instead of paneer and aloo gobi, I’ll be feasting on sticky rice and tam som. I’m confident that my travels will take me to India sometime in the future, so instead of this being a setback, I see it more as an unexpected opportunity. The unpredictability of the summer has certainly been frustrating, but has perhaps served as a lesson in patience, which will serve me well once I begin experiencing the much slowed-down pace of life in southeast Asia. I’m incredibly excited to be touching down in one of the chillest countries on earth, the “Land of a Million Elephants,” in a matter of days.