Monday, December 6, 2010

Amazing day in Laos

My smoking host.
I woke up just before the sun rise in the small village. When there is no electricity, then life is very much linked to the sun rise sun set times. For sure i was the biggest traction in the village and children from the whole village came last evening to see me. My host, old grandfather, was smoking home made tobacco with addition of some home made marijuana from the early morning. No one in the village spoke any word in English, so in the evening we already discussed all the issues by drawing and body language. I received some sticky rice and bananas for a breakfast.

My host was sitting in front of his home.smoking some tobacco and contemplating the surrounding. I joined him in contemplation. On the other side of other side of village there were children sliding from a very small hill on an old tire. They were really good in this. Every ten minutes a motorbike passed by. Someone was going very far, very fast. A pig walked in front of the house. My old men tried to turn on his old radio, it did not work. Probably batteries were too old. So he rolled a new cigarette and spilled through the hole in between the floor. We continue sitting. This was a great experience of "wsi wesola, wsi spokojna" feeling - idealistic calm village feeling. Basically nothing was happening, but at the same time, so many small things were happening. We were sitting like this for a while enjoying the surroundings. After some time my host had to go to his farm, and I jumped on the Lisu and left this quite place behind me.

For a while I thinking to try to teach English some local children. I did not have any experience in language teaching, but i do share certain portion of DNA with my beloved sister that had a natural talent in teaching language. Recently, I also started to study a bit Spanish from the podcast, so based on the way that they are teaching in those podcast i set up plan for my first lesson.

Just when I was thinking about this I come across on my way a secondary school. I approached one of the teacher that was outside the school and we started to chat. He spoke some English. I proposed to him that I could teach English to children. He got very excited and we immediately went to the classroom, where he introduced me as Mr. Miko.

They were around 40 children in the age of 14 and 15 and I had a feeling that most of them did not speak almost any English. Luckily the teacher helped me with some translation into Lao.

My class.
I started to introduce myself to children and I draw the map of the world on the blackboard. I have to admit I am getting better and better with all the shapes, but I am not keeping a scale to any of my map. I always draw Europe much bigger than it is in reality in comparison to the other continents. There is too many countries that i want to show in small Europe.

I showed them where Poland and other European countries were and how I got from Poland to Lao. Than we started to practice short dialogs:
- Hello.
- What is your name?
- My name is...
- Where are you from?
- I come from...
- How old are you?
- I'm ..... years old.
- Where are you going?
And so on.

It took some time for those children to overcome their shyness and to repeat after me, but after 10 minutes they were already doing great job except the part: "my name is..". At the beginning everyone name was Miko. When I asked them to put there their own name there were repeating "MY NAME IS... and then silence in the whole classroom. Finally, I decide to get every single child to say his own name. I went to every single child and I introduced myself, asking for their name and I tried to shake hand with everyone in the classroom. I manage to get know about 60% of children's name, the rest was too shy. Of course I did not force the ones that were even to shy to look on me. We continued our practice and now the part where they were supposed to put their name worked much better. After about one and a half hour the children got a bit tired, and me as well. So I said goodbye to every single child by shaking his hand... and now almost everyone in the classroom was brave enough to shake my hand!!! At the end children were very curious where I am biking from and where I want to get by bicycle. And I got one last question from a very smart girl in a first raw. She did not asked it personally, but she whispered it to the teacher and he translated it to me: "Mr. Miko, what is the best way to learn English". And I did not mention that at this village they did not have electricity and in the whole school they have only few books for studding English...

My school.
After the lesson I talked with a teacher a bit. When I came back to Lisu I noticed that the air pressure in a back wheel is quite low. But I learned my lesson from the Ultimate Jungle experience and the day before I bought my first new air pump. In the meantime everyone from the school came in front of to say goodbye to me.

I moved on. The air was leaking a bit from the back wheel, but it was no problem i could stop and pump every half an hour. I thought that my inner tube was not punctured this time, it was a problem with the small rubber tube on my air vent at the back wheel. I had the spare inner tube... But i had the same problem with other air vent the day before and I did not manage to get the replacement. While I was again pumping my wheel my new Chinese air pump suddenly exploded... In the nearest village I was able to buy new air pump, but i was not able to get new air vent or new rubber tube or whole new inner tube for Lisu. I tried my Mag Gaiver skills to fix the air vent with the chewing gum, but this was also a Chinese chewing gum, so it did not really stick. In the next village i again asked about this small rubber tube to fix my air vent, but everyone around used an auto air vent for their bicycles where the air vent is completely different. I kept on moving forward finally reaching a stage where I was more walking than bicycling. The road also turned into a very hilly one, which would have been very challenging for Lisu. I was counting that there would be a small truck coming that could give me a lift to a next small village or town where I could repair my bicycle. And I was sure that the first truck would stop to give me the lift, the challenge was that there were no truck or no car coming for next 2h. But finally first truck come, and of course they stopped. It was truck with two very pleasant

Lisu on the Police track.
Short clarification. There is a curfew in Laos for all tourists and technically every tourist needs to be checked in official guesthouse before midnight. But this rule is not really reinforce.
Those policemen asked me I was coming from and where I slept the last night, but they were completely fine with my answer in a village.

I got with Lisu on the back of the truck. I could easily stand at the beck of the truck, holding Lisu with one hand and holding my self with the other. Did I tell you that I love riding at the back of the truck? It is great, especially when one is standing at the back and the truck does not go faster then 40kph. Wind in the hair, beautiful view over everyone else.

In a minutes I understood why Lisu was so moody with the leaking air vent. There were too many mountains for Lisu on this way, and somehow Lisu had to know this in advance and with the leaky air vent he convinced me to hitchhike.

Suddenly my truck got also flat tyre. The policemen were in their new uniforms and they did not feel like changing the flat tyre on their own. They simply called the repair team, which arrived in 20 min and fixed the problem. While we were waiting the motorbike came from the opposite direction. It was a guy that I asked for a rubber tube to fix my air vent 3-4h ago. In the meantime he went to town and he brought me the rubber tube on his way back. WOW. I was amazed.

The truck was repaired and finally the policemen gave me a lift to a small town. Unfortunately, changing the air vent tube did not fully solve the problem, so i had to change the inner tube, which was not the problem in this town.

Children at the sun set.
Before the I still wanted to bicycle to the next small town. I knew that it would be difficult to reach my destination before the sunset but I was again on the more busy road (there were cars coming every 5min!). I wanted to hitchhike just before the sun set. The sun set was also amazing that evening. I took my time to appreciate it before I attempt to stop the first car. And as usually with Lisu, the first car that I waived at stopped. The driver was a young 22 years old guy maned Vonydevan, who spoke very good English.

At my host's house.
We talked for 5 minutes and then he invited me to spend night at his parents place where he was just going. Cool. Great. Of I accepted this invitation. His parents lived in a small village 6km from the main road, also without electricity. We ate delicious fish soup. Till that moment I was very skeptical about fish soup. When we were small we were in France for holidays and the traumatic experience was very salty fish soup that our hosts served. My father ended up eating all four portions. Now I change my opinion, fish soup can be very delicious.

At my host's house.
After the dinner there was huge gathering of almost all people from the village in the house of my hosts. Plenty of children around. We chatted a bit and then went to sleep. And despite that in this village they did not have electricity, they had a huge battery. And it happened again, third time in Laos they left the light on for the whole night!!! My mattress was placed just behind the lamp. Later I got know that Lao people are afraid of ghost and this is why they are leaving the light for the night.

At my host's house.
In the morning my host gave me a lift to the main road.
And now I can not really believe that everything happened on one single day.....
This was a great, amaizing day in Laos.

In Luang Probang I found great organization Big Brother Mouse that is developing educational books for Lao children and setting up libraries around the country. I bought few books for learning English from this NGO and sent it to my school with annotation that one book should have been given to this smart girl that asked the question about the best way to study English.
I think that I did not always appreciate the easy access to knowledge that I had and have, and I took it for granted. There are still many people around the world that have to put a lot of afford to have access to education.

1 comment:

  1. it was amazing to read about your AMAZING day in Laos Mikolaj! thank you for sharing this!
    miss you,