Sokdee Pii Mai!

Hey!  It’s almost Pi Mai Lao – Lao New Year.  That means it’s time for everyone to set their calendars from the year 2551 to 2552.

I have been very busy.  Some things I have been up to:  I went and visited the Vientiane International School Library.  The Vientiane International School is the best (and most expensive – $11,000 a year) primary and secondary school in Laos.  All of the teachers are foreigners.  The library has a yearly acquisitions budget of $16,000 a year. The entire school has about 300 students.

On the other hand, the Central Library serves about 25,000 students at the National University of Laos, and do you know what our acquisitions budget is?


It was strange to be in such a well equipped library for the first time in nearly a year.  One that actually had materials that weren’t just donations.  And it’s just for kids!!

Anyway, it completely slipped my mind that I should have taken some pictures, so I didn’t.  But I feel like a learned a really valuable lesson from visiting VIS.  I never want to work in an “international school”.  I think it’s total BS that all the rich people send their kids to these expensive private schools with excellent teachers and excellent materials, and that the poor kids don’t get anything but the relaly low quality public school education.  Teachers in public schools make less than $75 a month.  Even though it’s probably a great job, and well paid, being a teacher or librarian at a really nice international school, I could never do it.  It’s not fair.

Today I went and had lunch at Mrs. Bounsalong’s home with Mr. Somephone, Mrs. Mai, and Mrs. Phaiwaddy.  It was fun.  I hadn’t eaten very much, and I got up to wash my hands, and Mr. Somephone said “Nicole!  You have to eat more, or Mrs. Bounsalong will cry!”.  And then Mrs. Bounsalong said “Why didn’t you eat very much?  You have to eat more!  I am very angry!”  So I made a huge show of refilling my plate with second helpings of everything and then asking Mrs Bounsalong “Sep Lai!!” (delicious)

Last night I went to a Lao aerobics class… and I think the instructor was a ladyboy.  It was really funny.  First we jumped around really intensely for about 30 minutes, then we did about 30 minutes of stretching and sit ups and stuff.  The weights they supplied us with were actually just full bottles of dirty water; but they worked! The funniest part, besides the crazy instructor who would just kind of scream out this high pitched “Hai!” ever few minutes to let us know some kind of change was coming to our exercise, was the music.  There was a techno remix of “Auld Lang Xane” or whatever the song is they play at midnight on New Years, and a techno remix of “The Wind Beneath My Wings”, among other awesome jams.

Anyway, today my entire body hurts.

I also went and got my Vietnamese visa for my trip to Hanoi and Can Tho, and submitted my powerpoint presentation.  I’m still preparing my presentation for Can Tho, but I have a few more days.  I also had to grade all of my students’ exams and submit the grades to the school, not that it matters.  Even if they get every question wrong, they will still pass to the next class.  It’s more a business than a school, really.  A business of getting people certificates that say “I passed all 6 levels of English at the Australian Centre for Language” as quickly as possible.

Time to prepare my lesson for teaching tomorrow!  And work on my presentation for Can Tho!  And help my colleague write her Master’s thesis!  And help the library director type some e-mails!  And go to the post office and send some letters!  And go teach from 5pm to 7 pm!  And go eat dinner at my friend’s house!  And then maybe go home and relax for a minute.


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