[Note: The following statement from ELIC President, Tim Davis, was originally posted to the ELIC website on June 4, 2020.]
- Grilled bananas are yummy! As is true in many Asian countries, roadside food vendors are plentiful in Laos. One of our favorite stalls was one that sold roasted sweet potatoes, corn, and bananas. A small, short variety of banana is peeled and roasted over coals until the outside is brown and chewy and the inside is warm and soft.
- “The Vietnamese plant the rice, the Cambodians tend it, and the Lao listen to it grow.” This observation, which is attributed to the French who colonized the area known as French Indochina, pretty well sums up the attitude and lifestyle of the Lao people. One young woman in an English class that we had the opportunity to teach unashamedly revealed that she had been studying English in this language center for six years, but had only advanced to the second level! This laid back approach to life pervades all of Lao culture.
- The world is huge! After more than 20 years of living and traveling overseas, it’s easy to start feeling fairly smug about one’s understanding of the “outside” world and its various cultures. Then you go to Laos! We were once again stunned by the beauty in both nature and culture.
- Ice is civilization. The Lao people have an intense love affair with ice! That’s not too surprising in a climate where the yearly average high temperature is 88F/31C and it seldom dips below 60F/16C. Ice delivery trucks are a common sight, and iced drinks, especially coffee and tea, are the norm. Chests filled with ice are a fixture in most restaurants, and Lao patrons will even pour their locally produced Beerlao beer over ice!
- A smile goes much farther than a snarl. Upon our arrival in Laos we were given an orientation to the country and its culture. One thing we were told is that Lao people don’t like discord and conflict—who does? So the best way to get a lower price when bargaining is to laugh and smile and keep a light atmosphere. We may not have gotten the greatest deals, but we sure did learn to laugh and smile while we were getting taken!
Do you feel like you’ve lived a whole two years in the past month? While this season has come with its challenges, I’ve also experienced interesting moments that probably would never have happened outside of these circumstances. Here is one of my favorites:
A couple of weeks ago we had to make a run to the border to change and extend our visa. We came into Cambodia on tourist visas, which are only good for 30 days. We needed to leave Cambodia and re-enter in order to change to a business visa that could be renewed with no limits. We went on quite an adventure.
I moved to China in August to teach English and build relationships with my students and those in my community there. In late January, I left China to attend my sending organization’s annual conference for professional development and rest in Thailand. Once there, I learned that my return flight to China for the semester had been cancelled, and I was instructed not to rebook.
You always set out to pack light, but then life happens. What if you need that extra dress or that fourth pair of pants this weekend? Suddenly, that bottle of your favorite shampoo seems essential. It adds up and you find yourself sitting on your suitcase, trying desperately to close it without breaking the zipper. This is not going to work!
The trick is to focus on what you need — and you need less than you think.