My next round of visitors to Laos are close friends of mine - Sammy and Kate. Sammy owns Bualai Taste of Thai Restaurant in Port Hope and Kate works with her. Sammy's restaurant continues to be the busiest restaurant in town and it is no wonder. Reasonable prices, amazing food and a bubbly personality that never forgets a name or a face.
They are just here for a couple of days while they continue their tour in southeast Asia and to Sammy's village, located about 2 1/2 hours south of Udon Thani (the Thai border at Vientiane). I didn't waste anytime in getting them into the villages though. It just happened to be the coldest night of the winter though. The temperature hovered around 12 C. I know it is not like our Canadian winters but certainly uncomfortable with only light jackets.
Rotarian Lisa McCoy had been itching to get into the villages as well, to spec out a possible site location for a 'Muskoka' School that she hopes to raise funds for through the summer months.
So the four of us and an interpreter travelled up to Nong Khiaw, hitched a boat ride to Muang Ngoi and other than a stroll through the village, we just took it easy for the rest of the day. Quite frankly I think we were all happy to go to bed early just to get warm under the covers.
Today though we rented a private boat and headed to Done Lom Village first. I had received their proposal and although incomplete and missing critical information, it had already been approved by the Department of Education. We spoke with the chief to bring him up to date with where we were in the process and hope to begin construction in the next few weeks. I still have to line up the head of construction and get a signature from the Governor but the way has pretty much been cleared for us. We then took a tour of the site for the new school. The area had been cleared by the bomb squad and the trees had been felled but there is still a lot of work to do to prepare the land. They agreed to have a village meeting tonight and everyone will be pitching in to make sure the land is ready in time. Right now is the perfect time because their field work won't begin for another few weeks. After that, most will be out in the fields. Here is a picture of the land for the future school - lots of manual labour to be done yet before construction can begin.
Shortly afterwards we continued up the river to Hat Kham Village. This is the village with no school and they currently have a few tables set up in the village meeting place...a concrete floor, tin roof and low walls - certainly unsuitable during inclemement weather, not to mention that it is borrowed from the government. Some of you will recall from an earlier blog entry that the old school was destroyed by the last rainy season. Here are a couple of more pictures.
This is also the location that I have been wanting to bring Lisa McCoy to. We all got to meet the children, the parents, elders, all of whom got very excited with our visit. In fact they insisted in celebrating Bacci, yes another one.Not exactly one of my more glamorous pictures.....
Lisa is now in her final two days with me and she will be sorely missed. Sharing our stories, someone to bounce ideas off of and someone to share my experiences with. And what a wonderful cook!!!! It is amazing how she can make something out of nothing. It sure is going to be quiet around here, although my real work is just beginning.
Next week we start the water source project in Huep Han village followed immediately by Ban Done Lom with their new school. Quite frankly I am looking forward to getting started on those projects but wish Lisa were staying.