Tag Archives: Laos

An old woman walks 1km to buy pain medicine.

Young Lao Photographers Document Their World With Donated Cameras

It’s hard to believe that it’s already been three months since I visited Luang Prabang, Laos to work alongside the dedicated people who run The Language Project.

Fanny Odermatt, a Swiss volunteer at Language Project’s @ My Library center sent me a message yesterday with a brief update on one of their projects: The Young Lao Photographer’s Gallery. If you’re in need of a bit of “virtual traveling” (or if you participated in the Help In Your Own Way Giveaway), I thought this would be a nice middle-of-the-week treat for you!

Students use donated cameras to document their daily lives and, in image after image, you can see both the beauty and the challenges of life in the Lao Republic. Soon, you’ll be able to buy these images directly from the website and the proceeds will be shared by the library and the photographers.

As part of the run-up to a book project called “Laos Through Our Own Eyes”, the @My Library center has also sponsored a Portrait Contest for its students. There are some really lovely, affecting shots here — especially remarkable given how young these photographers are. While you’re there, be sure to check out the other galleries as well!

This is a link post – You can visit the site mentioned by clicking the main link above (or just click here).

A thank you to all those who made the “Help In Your Own Way” Giveaway a trememdous success!

Village Science's New Microscope Receives a Blessing During A Lao "Baci" Ceremony.

Before any momentous occasion in Laos, there is usually a traditional ceremony called “Baci” — and the day before I left Luang Prabang, some Lao students invited me to a Baci in order to bless their new microscope (and to wish me a safe journey home).

According to Lao custom, a Baci gathers and reintegrates the many vital forces which make up your soul. During the ceremony, a village elder chants to call those vital forces (called kwan) back to you. One after another, small white strings are tied around your wrist by everyone in the room. Each serves as a reminder that you are part of a greater community — but it’s also a person-to-person wish for your good luck and happiness.1

And when it’s over, you share a feast! If you’re looking for a singular experience that represents the unique, beating heart of Lao culture — in all of its warmth, graciousness, and love of good food — it’s probably this one.

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  1. By the end of the ceremony, the dozens of strings around each wrist make it look like you’re wearing white terry-cloth wristbands from the 1970’s or, in my case due to prodigious arm hair, like a golden retriever is being held hostage. []

In Laos, opening up a usable connection to the wider world takes money — and patience!

A Fistful of Kip: "You should have seen how big the stack would've been before they started printing larger bills", Carol said.

Here’s a quick “Help In Your Own Way” story… the one that started the whole project!

When Lauren and I first visited the @My Library last June, we noticed two things right away: That the students loved using computers — and that their shared internet speed was slow… painfully, glacially slow! When one student named Morthor asked us to sit with her and help fix her web email, we couldn’t even get through to the website. Our connection was so bad that, essentially, it was refused.

“How much does faster internet cost?”, I asked Carol.

“A lot — especially when adjusted for the cost of living here.” After I left, she sent me the exact figure: $1900 per year for a connection speed which, in the United States, would cost 1/10th that price.

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