librarians being silly

We went to eat Pho today for lunch, and then on the way back the ladies wanted to stop and buy some fruit.  When we got back to the office they took the lychees and bananas they had bought and arranged them as so:


Then they asked me “Do you know what it is?”

“I think so…”

“Have you ever seen one before?”

I said “That’s a secret!”.

my tweet?

Despite what my CV may say, I’m not really that familiar with Twitter, or many of these other “Web 2.0” technologies. Considering I live in Laos and we barely even have an internet connection at the University, it’s surprising I even know what it is.  My director certainly doesn’t.  Yesterday when helping him complete an survey, he asked me to define RSS, Blog, Wiki, Twitter, Second Life, and Social Networking.  However I do try to at least be hip with the lingo, so I know about tweets and podcasts.  So here is my tweet:

Even after one year in Laos I still manage to encounter culinary surprises.  Yesterday I was served embryonic chicken eggs at lunch.

Ok that’s the end of my tweet.  Backing to being overly verbose.  Speaking, the “Electronic Information For Libraries Network” is pretty amazing and I really like the work they are doing.  This includes subsidizing e-resources for libraires in developing countries, such as Laos, and many countries in Africa and Asia. has just negotiated a deal with JSTOR where all the members of LALIC (the 12 libraries mentioned in previous postings…) will get TOTALLY FREE access to all of JSTOR’s holdings, current and archived content, for the next 2 years.  They are also waiving all of the initial membership fees and whatnot, which probably value over $20,000 total. has also negotiated a reduced subscription rate if we want to continue membership after 2011, for ridiculously low access rates.   They coordinate access to many other e-resources and have helped the University Central Library be able to provide AGORA, BioOne, EBSCO, Cambrige University Press, and Oxford Online resources for mostly free !!!  Unfortunately our use of e-resources is still ridiculously low, owing to a number of factors me and my colleagues are exploring in our research project “The Electronic Information Seekhing Behaviour of NUOL Students and Academic Staff”.  I hypothesize that the main issues are language barriers (few people can read and write a foreign language fluently enough to use these academic resources) and a really unreliable and slow internet connection (for example, almost non-existant at the University).  Anyway, I love what is doing! Now if only they would hire me…

sokdee boun bang fie!

Happy Rocket Festival!

So, this is my basic understanding of the Lao Rocket Festival.

At the end of the dry season (May), Lao people build rockets from PVC pipe and bamboo and laundry detegrent and god-knows-what-else to shoots into the sky in order to, essentially, piss off the skies and make them send down rain.

Here are some pictures.

men holding some rockets they have built
men holding some rockets they have built
here you can see the trajectory of a rocket by it's smoky trail
here you can see the trajectory of a rocket by it's smoky trail
a banana and some oranges
a banana and some oranges

This also has something to do with fertility and the whole relationship between the rockets penetrating the skies, the rain penetrating the earth, rain making the rice grow, etc etc.  So there’s a lot of cross dressing and strange phallic symbols happening at the same time.

This Sunday me, my friends Valerie, Tracy, Sack, Luck, Sai, and Kham drove in Valerie’s car to Luck’s brother-in-law Nat’s village, about 2 hours south of Vientiane, where they were having a big rocket festival.  Everyone got drunk on Lao Khao (rice whiskey) and the entire village was celebrating.  They had set up a huge stage and a festival-area around the temple in the centre of the village, and we all danced Lao Lamvong together.  Luck and Sai, along with the village naibon (chief) polished off a litre of the stuff, specially distilled by Nat’s father himself.  When Luck get’s drunk he likes to repeat a phrase he learned somewhere that goes  “You don’t smoke the cigarette, the cigarette smokes you!”; or “You don’t drink it.  It drinks you!” and gestures to the Beerlao.  He also likes to exclaim “What’s up man!” at various intervals and things that sound like this “I know you don’t know but I know, and you know I don’t know but, it’s ok, I know.” .  At this point I usually start repeating my favorite Lao phrase: kee mao (alcoholic).

the rocket launch pad
the rocket launch pad
crickets, beetles, ants, take your pick.
crickets, beetles, ants, take your pick.
Sack and Luck, sitting in a tree...
Sack and Luck, sitting in a tree...
the launch pad at sunset
the launch pad at sunset
see above.
see above.

Another spectacular Lao sunset..

sunsetrocketsValerie let me drive her car back to Vientiane on the way home… terrifying but exciting, and I’m pretty sure totally illegal since I don’t have an international driver’s license… but who cares ?!  It’s been nearly a year since I have driven a car, and the last time I drove one it was the long-haul straight from Montreal to Chicago with a stop in Ann Arbor.  I’m always trying to convince my director to let me drive his car but for some reason he never lets me.  Maybe it’s because I don’t know how to drive a motorcycle they all think I must be completely useless with motorized vehichles.

cooking in laos – fish laap (or larb), traditional lao salad recipe with pictures!

I’ve been spending a lot of time in the kitchen lately!

Lunch at Mr. Somephone's House, A Traditional Lao Meal
Lunch at Mr. Somephone's House, A Traditional Lao Meal
here i am slicing beef for "lao steak"
here i am slicing beef for "lao steak"

Here’s some Lao Recipes:
Fish Laap

1 lb finely chopped pieces of boiled fish (I like tilapia) – let it cool before you try to make laap.
1 stalk of lemon grass, finely sliced
1 bunch of green onions, finely sliced
1 clove garlic, crushed

Combine in a large bowl.

special thanks to mrs. amasavath and the other lady from the cataloguing department
special thanks to mrs. ampasavath and the other lady from the cataloguing department

2 tsp salt
Juice of 1 lime
1 tsp padec (Lao fermented fish paste… or substitute with 2 tbs Thai fish sauce)

essential for lao cooking
essential for lao cooking

2 Red Thai Chilies, finely sliced (or more/less, depending on your tolerance)
You can also add extra, “chili hang (strong)” if you want.  That would be dried chili flakes.

the strong stuff
the strong stuff

1/2 cup Sweet Thai Basil, fresh, whole leaves or coarsely chopped
1/2 cup cilantro/corriander, fresh, whole leaves or coarsely chopped

1 cup fresh mint leaves, whole or coarsely chopped.

fish laap
fish laap

2 tbs of sticky rice powder

How to make sticky rice powder:
On medium heat, grill uncooked sticky rice grains until brown in a dry (no oil, water, etc.) pan.  Let it cool.  Pulverize in food processor and put through a sieve to get rid of the larger pieces that didn’t get ground finely enough.  Grilled sticky rice powder can be stored in a jar for a few months.


Laap should be eaten right away, and served at room temperature.  Don’t let it sit around too long or it will be “bor sep” (not delicious).  Enjoy your meal with sticky rice… sep lai!

Fish Laap is definitely my favorite traditional dish from Laos… though I love papaya salad as well.  You can substitute tofu or beef or chicken or anything you like for the fish.

Oh, and I went bowling with my students too.


I scored a 101, not bad considering I hadn’t picked up a bowling ball in over 2 years.  That was almost the highest score, beat only by Dao, on my right, who scored a 110.  Most of the rest of the class were around 50 pt area… but we had fun and that’s the point!  I taught them key English vocabulary including “strike”, “spare”, and “turkey”.

living in laos?

Unfortunately I can’t seem to find a good forum or website for foreigners living in Laos that would help me find a dentist or something.  However my friend Olivier just created this website:

and I thought I would recommend it.  If you know any such sites/online communities/forums, let me know.

Speaking of subject guides for web resources, I’ll be posting one for finding jobs in international organizations and library science since I’ve been looking anyway.  I would also like to post some tips and advice for people moving to Vientiane.  In the meantime, if you have any questions, just e-mail me.

OH YEAH – and if you are living in Laos, I am having a massive huge BASCI SOKDEE GOOD LUCK FAREWELL ceremony/party/Beerlao Addicts Support Group meeting on SUNDAY 14 JUNE 2009.  Koi hak chau, Vientiane.

developing information literacy education for developing countries

I think I have discovered how to upload my teaching materials.

Attached you should find the 3 powerpoint presentations I used at Can Tho University.

CTU Information Literacy Workshop 1 – Part 1 of the workshop, introducing basic concepts, overview, and importance of information Literacy.
CTU IL Workshop Part 2 – Part 2 of the workshop, dealing with IL in the electronic environment, searching the internet, etc.

CTU IL Workshop Part 3 – Part 3 of the workshop, an overview of the Big6 skills with some examples for each step.  Normally should be accompanied by handouts I created… that may be posted sometime in the near future.

Please let me know if you find any of these useful.  I stole a lot of images off the internet and didn’t bother to cite them due to time constraints.  Sorry for breaking one of the cardinal rules of librarianship!!!

I am in the process of compiling a subject guide for IL related web-resources, particulary ones I have used to help me develop my trainings.  I am also in the process of developing a new workshop that will train library staff in developing information literacy education (ILE) programmes that I will post online when completed.  We have recieved some funding from The Asia Foundation to support this training and it will be held June 8th – 12th… MY LAST WEEK AT THE CENTRAL LIBRARY!!

I’m feeling a little sad already.

vientiane… home sweet home!

Sorry for not having written in so long.  Since I came back from Vietnam I have been incredibly busy, not only getting ready to go back home, but also visiting libraries around Vientiane.

When I first arrived back, Dr. Aree and some other experts from Thailand were here giving a UNESCO supported workshop on Information Literacy for library staff.  My friend, Mrs. Sypha, was one of the facilitators of the workshop, so even though it was all in Lao and Thai, I observed several of the sessions and discussed with Areee and Sypha the methods they were usuing and evaluation tools.  For those who are interested, they focused on the Big6 Skills and a new model I had never heard of, the “Empowering 8.”  Speaking of which, that reminds me I would like to make my powerpoints available that I prepared for the workshops I conducted in Vietnam, which I think are actually really good.  I also relied heavily on the Big6 Model, as well as another model I found called “Reflect Learn Connect” developed by Seattle Community College libraries or something.  Dr. Aree’s workshop was longer and therefore more detailled than mine, and it seems like most of the participants “got it”, more or less.

I went to visit my friend Pachoua’s village last weekend.  She is Lao Hmong and from a town about 2 hours North of Vientiane, near Ban Keun.  We took the bus to her house on Saturday afternoon, arriving at her parents farm about 2pm.  We spent the afternoon having lunch of Ping Pa (grilled fish) over looking their pond, and then her brothers and I went to the Nam Ngun Resevoir.  This is the resevoir that was created by the construction of the Nam Ngun Dam about 20 years ago.  The dam supplies electricity for most of Laos and even enough to sell to Thailand.  When the Nam Ngun river was dammed, the entire river valley was flooded, creating a huge lake about 10km wide, full of little islands that used to be the tops of small mountains.  The river valley lies in the Phou Kwai (Buffalo Horn) Mountains protected area.  It’s stunningly beautiful.

The Nam Ngun Dam
The Nam Ngun Dam
The resevoir and Phou Kwai Mountains in the background
The resevoir and Phou Kwai Mountains in the background


Pachoua and her brothers overlooking the resevoir.  The water is a bit low due to it being the end of the dry season.

After visiting the resevoir, we went swimming in the river below the dam, and then back to Pachuoua’s house for dinner.


The following morning we woke up early, had breakfast, and then Pachoua and her mother dressed me up in Hmong Traditional clothing.

Pusao Hmong!
Pusao Hmong!

We hung around her house and farm for the rest of the morning, and then in the afternoon me and Pachoua and her 2 brothers got back on the bus and headed back to Vientiane.

On Tuesday we started the LALIC (Laos Library and Information Consortium) tour – a whirlwind visit to 12 libraries in 3 days.

1.) NUOL Faculty of Engineering Library (Sokpaluang Campus)

2.) NUOL Faculty of Political Science and Law Library (near Sokpaluang somehwere)

3.) Laos Institute of Public Administration Library (next to Wat Sisaket, downtown)

4.) National Library of Laos (downtown, next to Nam Phou)

5.) National Science and Technology Documentation Centre (near Patuxay)

6.) University of Health Sciences Library (near Patuxay)

7.) NUOL Faculty of Agriculture Library (Nangbong campus… about 30 km from downtown)

8.) NUOL Faculty of Forestry Library (Dong Dok Campus)

9.) NUOL Lao-Japan Center Library (Dong Dok Campus)

10.) NUOL Faculty of Management and Economic Library (Dong Dok Campus)

11.) NUOL Faculty of Architecture Library (Dong Dok Campus)

I guess if you include the Central Library that makes the 12 members of LALIC.  In the past weeks I have also visited the Vientiane Internation School Library, and the Lycee Hoffet Library, the Lao-American College Library, the US Embassy Public Information Unit Library, as well as the French Language Centre Library.

I’m still planning visits to the Room to Read Library, and the Vientiane Capital Public Library.  And I will probably go back to VIS this week because the librarian there invited me to see what she is doing to celebrate “Library Week”.

Of course, I took photos and detailed notes on all of the visits and will be posting my commentary soon.

This past week I also had a few small parties in my home, including a birthday party for my friend Nang and a dinner for some other friends.  I also met up with Sack, my friend who’s about to move to Ireland and get married, and we went to the disco this past Saturday with about 10 other people.  Lots of celebrating and enjoying Laos in my final month here!!

can tho (pronounced “can tuh”) and phu quoc island

Well, I am back in Can Tho after leaving Hanoi, flying down here, teaching a workshop, then taking some buses and boats to Phu Quoc Island.  It’s been an exhausting whirl-wind trip, but exciting, and amazing.  I’ve been taking notes in my travels that include comments like “the guy sitting next to me has a giant cock on his lap.  it just pissed on him.  i hate chickens, they’re such nuisances, clucking and crowing at ungodly hours.  i would sooner kill, pluck, and bbq that chicken before i would ever carry it into a bus and let it piss on me.”

and “all the men i see are chain smoking, and the vast majority have some kind of visible motorcycle accident scar.  in 24 hours in hanoi i saw  3 accidents. ”

“Halong Bay… what a pity such a beautiful place has to be turned into such a mindless, kitschy, tourist-mill experiences?  are there any truly awesome places left in the world that haven’t been completely exploited for every last dollar yet?  even the cave was fake!”

“people making out… everywhere!”

“i walked around town this afternoon.  it’s pretty awful here (Rach Gia).  everyone just stared at me.  it felt really uncomfortable.  now i’m in a shitty hotel over looking a noisy street and falling asleep to a chorus of horn-honking.  the opposite of what i wanted out of my holiday.  right now i’m watching some Vietnamese documentary about karen carpenter.  i think this is possibly one of the least visitor-friendly places i have ever been. ”

“well, i’m on the boat.   i still doubt i will actually have my beach holiday, but i’m trying.  they’re playing a really loud DVD that’s like vietnamese La Bouche.  this is so terrible.  the song is called “flames of love”.  last night on MTV i also saw a video for this really horrifically bad song by some german guy called “brother oh brother”.  i didn’t think they made music that bad in the developed world anymore.  oh my god i can’t wait until this boat starts moving.  in vietnam the second you get off the beaten tourist track people stare at you like you’re an alien.  it probably doesn’t help that i can barely speak 4 words of vietnamese and i’m a girl traveling alone. ”

“it’s a miracle!  i’m actually lying in a hammock on the beach!! sipping a beer sai gon! only to remember that i dont really like swimming in the ocean.  again, my preference for not interacting with the ocean. i much prefer observing the ocean to interacting with it.  since i’ll never forget my terrible experience in grand popo.

there’s lots of plastic washed up on the shore.  the poor oceans of the world.  i should really stop eating seafood.  and meat.  it’s sunny, but it’s raining… maybe i’ll see a rainbow.

HOLY SHIT! most beautiful sunset ever over the pacific ocean.. gulf of thailand?

phu quoc sunset
phu quoc sunset


More highlights coming soon.  I have to get up at 5:30am so now it’s bedtime!  This is my last chance to take advantage of the super-fast Wi-Fi in Vietnam so I should download some pirated movies or something now.

Oh and I posted more pictures in the “Vietnam” album.