boring work-related post

Well, I guess I am settling into things here and getting used to the idea of living in Laos, now, after 3 months.  The reason I know this is because I feel like I don’t really have any exciting news to post about.

I am still working on the library website.  I created this list of academic electronic resources for the library.  I think it could actually be quite useful in any context, not just the National University of Laos.  I am working on trying to organize it better, and also to organize it by subject, and title of the resource, and possibly make it search-able.  Unfortunately, I just don’t have the computer technical skills at this point to do that sort of thing.

I have also been helping the director write a proposal to The Asia Foundation to purchase a electronic-gate for the library.  I thought that an electronic gate was a little unnecessary, in my experiences the Lao don’t seem like potential library-book thieves.  But, according to the director, and other people I have spoken to, this I am incorrect.  Since books are quite rare in Laos, and the library has a lot of unique materials, and materials from the USA and Thailand and other countries, people are very tempted to steal them.  The director also showed me some kind of list of “missing items” that were checked out and never returned, and we can’t get a hold of the borrowers.

So, for the time being, I am drafting a fax to send to 3M Thailand to solicit quotations for library detection systems.  They are surprisingly expensive.  Like $20,000 for the lowest-end model.  Damn!

awww

It’s so cute I had to post it.

at the central library
at the central library

This guy is the youngest son of one of the ladies I work with.  We like to say that he is my brother, since we like to say that his mother is my mother.  Don’t try to steal any books from the library – or you will have to answer to him.

my encounters with the lao police

I haven’t actually had any run-in’s with the law here (except one when a police man told me not to ride my bike the wrong way down a one way street), but I did have two funny experiences Sunday night.

As I was on my way to meet a friend, I biked past the Lao Bank for Exterior Commerce.  There was a police man standing outside, who said “Sabadee!” as I approached.  I responded “Sabadee!”, and then he called out “Boom boom ? ” as I went by.  “Boom boom” is the universal South-East Asian term for “Wanna do it?”.

I said “Bow kop chai” and kept on going.

A few hours later, as I was on my way home, around 9 pm, I approached a 3-way intersection where the light had just turned red.  There were two police officers sitting on motorcycles on one corner of the intersection.  A large SUV approached, slowed down a little, and then just drove straight through the red light.  The police officers did not even bother to get up, move, or look at the SUV.

Maybe I don’t understand the traffic rules and regulations of Vientiane, but that seemed strange to me.

I was reading an article in the New Yorker today about police departments in the US using “non-lethal weapons” to try to avoid crisis.  The article was interesting because I realized that subconsciously, as I read the article, I started to believe that the police were the good guys, and who ever they were using these weapons against were obviously the bad guys.  I wanted the police to win in any of these encounters with criminals as I read this article.

Somehow, perhaps due to the intensive training in critical thinking I have subjected my brain to over the years, I had a realization whilst reading this article.  The author documented several different types of non-lethal weapons that are all extremely painful in most cases, but probably won’t kill you. The idea that the author was suggesting that these weapons were perfectly safe in the hands of policemen all over the country was a subtle one that I only perceived when I realized how frightening some of these weapons sounded.  As a rule, I don’t trust cops, and I certainly wouldn’t trust my safely at their hands with any of the devices mentioned in the article.  It brought to my mind the incident in Vancouver, where a Polish man was tased to death at the airport when he became disorientated and agitated.

Anyway, enough disturbing thoughts about law enforcement and that “thin blue line” we like to imagine separates us from total chaos and anarchy.  I should write more about sandwiches and wats.

more photographs

A picture is worth 1,000 words, right?

From Thailand, and Laos.

choreorgraphed dancing at the mall in udon thani
choreographed dancing at the mall in udon thani

This one is also from Thailand:

at the bus station in maha sarakham
at the bus station in maha sarakham

And a few from Vientiane:

my bus station sandwich man...
my bus station sandwich man...

He told me he loved me… (Koi Hak Chau!)

back from thailand

I have to say, I was happy to get back to Vientiane last night.  Even though ethnically and culturally Isan (North Eastern Thailand) is very similar to Laos, I really felt like I was coming “home” when I crossed the Friendship Bridge last night.

Here is a map showing the geography of the places I am talking about:

I had such a wonderful time in Thailand!  The meeting was very interesting and I was able to network and “liaise” with a lot of librarians from South East Asia.

I’ve uploaded some pictures from the conference here.

It was quite a wonderful and amazing experience.

Staying with Dr. Surithong was great!  She and her husband are so nice!  Now I have a Thai family too!  I’m sending her the link to this blog so I have to say great things about her – but I mean it!  I hope have the chance to come back and visit again soon.  Maha Sarakham is a really nice town.  I visited the Sirindhorn Isan Infommation Centre, part of the library that Dr. Surthong is the director of, and learned a lot about Northeastern Thailand.  I also visited the Medicinal Mushroom Museum of Maha Sarakham University, and learned about the 2,000 differnt varieties of mushrooms found in NE Thailand.

phouvieng, surithong, and me!
phouvieng, surithong, and me!

On Saturday I went with Salvacion Arlante, the head of the Philippine University Libraries, to visit the “Isan Jurassic Park”, a really awesome dinosaur museum in NE Thailand, near Kalasin.  It blew my mind how great this museum was.  It was located on the site of a hill where archeologists had found the complete skeletons of 3 large dinosaurs from the cenozoic era or something.

The director of the Philipine University Libraries also suggested I submit a paper for the CONSAL conference in March in Hanoi:

Call for papers

From 20-23 April 2009, the National Library of Vietnam in cooperation with the Library Department and Vietnamese Library Association will be hosting the XIV Congress of Southeast Asian Librarians (CONSAL XIV) at the Melia Hanoi Hotel, Hanoi, Vietnam. The theme of the conference is

TOWARDS DYNAMIC LIBRARIES AND

INFORMATION SERVICES IN SOUTHEAST ASIAN COUNTRIES

Which I plan to do, and then hopefully can get invited to Vietnam in March!

I also met the president of the Thai Library Association, who suggested possibly arranging a workshop for the members of the association in Information Literacy in Bangkok, with myself as the invited resource person.

So, I met a lot of wonderful people, saw a lot of amazing things, ate a lot of delicious food, and learned a lot of interesting things.  Which I think overall makes a trip very nice, huh?