December 16 - Friday
We had a quick breakfast this morning before we left. We loaded all of our luggage into the pickup truck. We left Savannakhet in the direction of Pakse at 8:15 am. After three hours of driving, we arrived just in time to catch our flights. Jackie, Victoria and Colin registered their luggage for their return flight to Canada with several layovers, including one at Siam Reap. As for us, Ken and I got our ticket back to Vientiane. Our one-hour flight departed thirty minutes later.
In Vientiane, we had the pleasure to meet Sengkeo, Setha and Lili at the Douang Deuane Hotel. In the late afternoon, we visited Ken's family, his brother Khampoun, his wife, their daughter Phaly and her 1-month newborn Nam. We then attended a ceremony commemorating Ken's late uncle. We were able to revisit family members, chatting while eating a traditional meal with a variety of meats, vegetables, soup and desserts. By 9 pm, we returned to the hotel for a good night’s sleep.
December 17 - Saturday
This morning, entrepreneur and jeweler Mr. Phouvong, one of our major local donors, invited us for breakfast. He came by car and picked us up at the hotel at 8pm. Sengkeo, Ken and I felt very comfortable in his new and luxurious car. At his office, Mr. Phouvong told us about his great recreational park project, a place of relaxation, located thirty minutes from Vientiane. He expects to complete it in 2017. After an unexpected invitation, we met Mr. Viraphon, Deputy Minister in the Department of Energy and Mines in Laos. We had an interesting conversation on several topical subjects.
We got back at the hotel by 12:30 noon and had a small lunch with Phaly, her husband and daughter Nam. Later in the afternoon we attended a family friend’s traditional wedding ceremony with Phaly, her sister and her parents. While waiting for the village chief, we had a good Laotian meal, with laap, fried fish, duck, salads, tangerine and longan. Upon the arrival of the village chief, we participated in a baci ceremony. The couple was radiant with happiness in their beautiful traditional Lao clothes. We returned to the hotel around 9pm.
December 18 - Sunday
We had breakfast at around 8:00 am at the hotel. Setha and Lili left today for Vang Vieng, a charming town in the northern region of Laos. Ken and I flew to a new destination: Oudomxay northwest of Luang Prabang. After two hours of driving, we visited some schools in villages of the region. International organizations in Korea and Vietnam have also built schools there in the recent years. We observe that the number of students in clustered villages seems to be increasing. Some villages seem to fit SKL’s criteria; but it is still too early to decide. After yet another good soup, we headed to the Souvanly Hotel to rest. We will continue to visit other villages tomorrow with Mr. Som Khit.