December 21 - Wednesday
Yesterday evening Sengkeo and I bought beautiful Lao scarves at the night market near the Mekong. These items will go on sale during our spring meal in Winnipeg next Spring.
Today, after breakfast at the hotel, we devoted the whole morning to phone calls to find villages near Vientiane that would need a school. Upon evaluating the routes, our first choice was Ban Pakchanh.
We left around 12:30 and arrived at the village almost two hours later. The road along the Mekong is in excellent condition and allows us to admire the landscapes of Laos and Thailand.
The small poor village of Pakchanh obtained a primary school thanks to the Japanese organization Jica in 2010. For years, the people of the village have been wanting a secondary school. Currently, children have to travel about 20 kilometers to reach the nearest school. The existence of a secondary school would also be beneficial for neighboring villages that would send their children there. At the moment, more than 125 students from Pakchanh would benefit.
The potential site for a school was shown to us by the village chief. Work is underway to lower and level the ground. This possible location offers a magnificent view of the Mekong. A project like this would have a real impact on the community in the region. However, many steps must be taken. We exchanged our contact information in order to communicate in the near future.
Back in Vientiane at 5 pm, we were invited by Mr. Phouvong, a famous businessman and jeweler in Laos. He celebrated his 33 career anniversary in the field. For the occasion, we visited the Pheuang Fa Hotel at 6.30 pm to attend a memorable banquet with hundreds of customers and employees of Phouvong Jeweler. We were able to enjoy a delicious meal, honored by the company of Phouvong and his wife at our table.
To the sound of Laotian and English songs, we saw a few meters from us a spectacle, under the eyes of a dozen cameras and photographers, talented dancers and acrobats. Then, a young singer extremely popular seduced the public who rushed to him to listen to him while encircling him.
An elegant fashion show followed suit featuring luxurious jewelry created by Mr. Phouvong's company, and featured by renowned models, including Miss Laos. Then a dynamic prize draw took place rewarding gold coins to customers and employee members.
The evening, ended with traditional Laotian dances in which the audience of all ages participated with pleasure. We sincerely thank Phouvong. We went back to bed at the hotel shortly after midnight.
December 22 - Thursday
Setha and Lili left early this morning in the direction of Houayxay, a province belonging to the famous Golden Triangle (Burma, Laos and Thailand). They will spend one night in one of the houses perched in the trees (Tree house) in the national park of the region of Bokeo. They will stay there a few days before going to Louang Prabang by bus to end their holidays.
As for us, after having lunch, we went to visit the village of Ban Nalao, about 90 minutes from Vientiane. On the way, we received pictures from another school, Ban Namai. Even if this school, created by a Korean organization, seems worn out by time, it appears solid and far from being in a pitiful state. It does not require a visit.
Arriving in Ban Nalao, we were surprised by the quantity of school buildings (12 to 14 for primary and secondary - serving nearly 3,000 young people). Several humanitarian organizations (from Korea, Japan, etc.) have collaborated. A single structure for primary school children is in a semi-permanent state. After talking with the principal, we found that this village is among the favored. Our assistance would not really be appropriate compared to the others we have seen.
After lunch, we decided to go back to the village of Pakchanh to explain our rationale and our criteria to the village officials and teachers. About fifteen people listened attentively and clearly expressed their gratitude for our second visit. They are willing to contribute as much as they can.
For now, SKL will consult its board of directors in January. For his part, Pakchanh will make an official request for a secondary school at the Ministry of Education. The land under consideration will be prepared by March, regardless of its future use. We will receive photos to document this potential candidate. This discussion was perceived to be very beneficial. We took the contact information of the persons concerned before returning to Vientiane.
Tonight, as we walked down the streets of downtown, we were tempted by a small Korean restaurant with an authentic character (frequented by Koreans). On the menu: rice, sushi, beef dumplings, pork chops. The whole thing turned out to be very good and cheap. When we returned to the hotel, we allowed ourselves to buy and nibble some small sweet fries for sale at the corner of the streets. Another day ends. The end of our stay in Laos is fast approaching.