Today, nothing happened – and it was very relaxing, and slightly unsettling for this city-dweller. After sleeping early (i.e. before midnight) I woke some time before seven and wandered around aimlessly for a while. Eventually I made my way down the river bank to the floating restaurant for breakfast, during which one of the owners of the resort (an English man) ran an advanced English language course for half a dozen of the most promising students from the village on the other side of the river. The girls’ (they were all girls) writing was very impressive, as some of them couldn’t have been more than seven or eight years old. The other owner, a Lao man, told me that last year a western woman had taught all of the children in the village and then tested them, and these lucky children were selected for extra weekend classes – I’m not sure that they would have tried so hard had they know the prize. According to the owners, the reason for selecting only the best performing students for these classes is the hope that they will learn quickly and before too long be able to teach the other students, leading to a self-sustaining system for giving English skills to as many young people as possible. If the self-taught adults I’ve met are anything to go by, that won’t take very long.
I spent the rest of the morning talking with the Lao owner, swapping facts about our countries. To my surprise, he expressed concern about the bushfires we suffered in Victoria last summer – I hadn’t expected such news would be heard here. He took great satisfaction in asking me to guess his age, which I failed badly (my guess: 46, his claim: 57!), so you might want to take my estimate of the students’ ages with a grain of salt.
Around mid-day I walked out along the road that brought me to the resort and turned into a side-road that leads to a small village. Interestingly, most of the housing was constructed from rendered bricks, which was more substantial than I expected.
Soon after entering the village, I attracted the attention of a group of children. One young girl in particular was fascinated with my camera and it’s ability to show her friends on its small display at the mere press of a button. We collaborated on a number of shots and I think we were both pleased with the outcome.
After counting to ten in each other’s language (their English being far superior to my Lao), and them making me learn the Lao words for (I think) coconut and corn cob, the boys insisted that I visit the local wat, where I was promptly nearly ended by a falling coconut. Now, I can’t say for sure how the boys triggered this, but their feigned surprise fooled no-one. Suffice it to say, I gave the other trees a wide berth.
After saying good-bye to all the children four times as they followed me out of the village, and walking slowly back to the resort, I was able to count all of the places I had forgotten to put sun-screen – I felt like a slightly painful red and white chess board.