First day at Saelao

Posted: January 14, 2012 in Laos
Tags: , ,

I know, i know, we’re horrible. We promised you more pics of the super cute piglets, then disappeared. But we’re back and we’ve uploaded the pics. We were moving farms last Sunday and our ride came a bit earlier than expected. As we’ve moved to a more remote place internet is more difficult to acces for us, but luckily we’ve prepared you a weeks worth of posts.

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First day at Saelao

On sunday the 8th we moved from the organic  farm to Saelao, a sister project 7 km from Vieng Vang in the mountains. When we got there, we were informed that we would not be allowed to do noisy work for the first two days, as the village this project falls under was celebrating its annual 4-day holiday. Apparently, every community does this on a diferent set of days so that family members from different villages have the chance to go party at each other’s villages.

imageThis automatically meant that the kind of tasks we could do was limited to low noise activities, so we spent the monday repairing fences and making an inventarisation of the state of the electrical grid. The latter can only be described as deplorable, but that was what we expected. The English classes do continue. Even though we weren’t planning on teaching Devie has taken over the task of teaching two of the more advanced students every evening, using some of the donated books.

Other volunteers that are here -two Canadians and a Frenchman- spent the most of the day treading mud as if they were mashing grapes for wine, and then smearing it on the walls of the community center in progress.

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Getting to Saelao involved a ride in the bed of a pickup truck, a first for Devie. The ride through the countryside was really beautiful, if somewhat strenuous on the body from the state of the road. Apart from it being a unpaved dirt road, long stretches of it can only be driven at walking pace because the surface is completely rutted, as in 30cm deep trenches across the road, due to the rapids caused by the rains. The 7 km ride to Saelao takes about a half an hour, through small villages and fields, al with the gorgeous mountains as a backdrop.

Cold showers.

As the place we’re staying in the middle of nowhere, amenities are minimal: bamboo cabins, woodfires to cook on and cold showers with the pressure of a leaking roof, making it similar to a chinese dripping water torture. Even though cold showers sound great after a day of work at 30 Celsius, they come across as chilly because you are feeling so hot yourself, and the drip thing does not help. The alternative is diving into the ‘blue lagoon’, a pond down the road that attracts the backpackingdrinkingpartying crowd that infests the region here, but we have not had the time to try that one yet. There is an admission fee (which we, as volunteers are exempt from)  which is collected by a set of families on a rotating basis, giving all of them some income.

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When we got to Saelao there was a couple of kids hanging around that usually follow English classes around here. They were singing the alphabet song, and were delighted to see more books with nice pictures and letters: “Z is for zebra!”. We spent the rest of the evening reading to them. Though they can’t read yet they know most of the alphabet and have a great animal vocabulary including elephants, goats and sheep. Penguins were a bit difficult to explain, but we managed. The books are certainly going to come in handy here, they will be used in the English classes and to set up a library. Thanks again to all the lovely people that donated them, they are greatly appreciated.

We discussed sending books over by mail from Europe, but got told that if you actually want to receive mail here, you have to pay off the mailman. The argument the mailman uses is that the postage that got paid to send it was to get the package to his post office, and the receiving end has to pay for delivery. As he’s holding on to the mail, you don’t really have an option but pay up. This way, sending mail to Laos is a bit too expensive on the receiving end to really be a possibility.

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