May 2007


I have not been up to anything exciting over the past week but I thought I would right down what has been happening.

My housemate has tonsillitis and can’t speak at the moment. It’s been interesting having conversations with her because she has to write everything down.

My other housemate thinks his counterpart at work is gay. The evidence is his counterpart has had 10 shirts tailor made with the exact same design but with different materials. I said that Einstein’s wardrobe was full of copies of the same style of clothing that he wore everyday, so maybe it was evidence that his counterpart was a genius. He retorted that perhaps it was evidence that Einstein was gay.

There was a volunteer dinner a few days ago where I heard a most outrageous rumour, even by Lao standards. Apparently the Chinese have agreed to build a stadium complex for the Asian Games 2009, to be held in Laos. This will probably be the biggest international even the country has ever held. Rumour has it that in exchange for building the stadium, Laos will have to accept 1 million Chinese immigrants living in the surrounding area. The population of the Vientiane is less than 1 million as far as I’m aware of, making this rumour seem incredibly absurd.

Last night’s dinner was takeaway from a Chinese dumpling shop. I am now scared to go back there after finding out from another volunteer that he saw they stored their seaweed in their bathroom. So far I do not think I have gotten sick from eating there, and as long as I don’t order the seaweed anymore things should be okay.

I will be heading to Singapore in about two weeks which should be a contrast and reprieve from living in Vientiane, Laos.

Here is a list of restaurants in Vientiane I have visited and would recommend: The Chinese Dumpling Shop, Guanzhaou Chinese Restaurant, Sticky Fingers, La Spliga, Moon the Night, PVO, Tum Zaap, Fujiwaras, JoMas, La Terasse, European Steak House, Anna Restaurant, Swedish Bakery Pizza House, Scandanavian Bakery, Korean BBQ on Soukpaluang, Centerpoint Juice station,

Here are some good bars: Don Chans, Romeos, Muzaik,

Here are places I would like to visit: Chicago Bar, Samlo Bar

Today I gave my first IT tutorial lesson to the staff at my work. I started with what I thought was a simple question, “What would you like to know?”. There was much discussion in Lao, before the response, “We would like you to teach us basic IT skills”. I tried to nail them down on the specifics on what they wanted to know but was hindered by the language barrier. I’ve tried to teach them about the benefits of using google and wikipedia.

Our house is considering getting a goat to eat our lawn so our gardener doesn’t have to hand cut it. Other possibilities are the purchase of a cow, water buffalo or ducks. It is quite common to see unleashed animals randomly walking along the streets of the city. Stray dogs and cats are quite common.

One volunteer has a Korean friend that works as an IT expert in a Lao Mushroom factory 30 minutes bike ride from Vientiane. He had a stray dog at work that he would talk to and tell his feelings to. Sadly the dog was run over last week. His Lao colleagues told him that he shouldn’t worry as they would make use of the dog and cook it.

Eating dog is not a long held Lao tradition but something that has been adopted from Chinese and Vietnamese influences. One Lao man I met told me that his family no longer keeps dogs as his mother became too upset from them being continually stolen, almost certainly to be placed on someone’s dinner table. Dog meat is thought to have special properties that make you strong.

An Australian volunteer was given a Lao femme mullet after a visit to the hairdresser. The hairdresser is the most famous and expensive in all of Laos ($15 AUD). She didn’t ask for a femme mullet but just a trim in the style that he hair previously was. Her hair had to be repaired later at home with a self-haircut in the mirror.

I thought it unusual that she ended up with a femme mullet as I haven’t seen anyone else here with one. Almost all women have long hair. Mullets are most popular on young boys aged 6 or under. I have seen the occasional thai-popstar style mullet floating around on highschool/university aged boys.

Here’s a link to the World Bank’s website containing a good summary of Laos’ economy and the direction it is heading.

Today’s front page of the Vientiane Times, the nation’s biggest newspaper, contains a large colour photo of an elephant corpse. It’s quite grisly, and not the kind of thing you want to eat breakfast with. The land of a million elephants now has one less.

There are two essential ingredients in any Lao training session:

  1. Singing
  2. A group photograph

Right now underneath my office a training session is taking place and I can hear that the singing has started. Quite a few Australian volunteers have faced pressure from their Lao counterparts to sing at social functions. So far I’ve haven’t been asked, but should the need arise I’ve been trying to memorise the lyrics of Khe Sahn.

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