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Dalama Adventures Tale of two corporate types ditching their jobs and traveling the world for 14 months... check out all photos, blogs & interesting tid bits at http://www.dalama.net

Give Education, Not Sweets... Learning With the Locals

LAOS | Saturday, 16 June 2007 | Views [818]

Today we went to visit the Pak Ou Caves (just on the outskirts of Luang Prabang), where hundreds of Buddha relics sit, stand and lurk from all sorts of holes and shelves inside the caves.  It was a little over an hours drive by sawngthaew.  Clearly one of the few "tourist attractions" in this out of the way area, the locals were ready and waiting to sell their wares every step of the way to the caves.  Through the village, at the boat dock, and up the steps of the caves, they were ready for us, with their well organized tables and stalls displaying their finest, dusted off and shined up craft.  We ran into a bunch of children with all their polished rocks neatly laid out and displayed for sale.  One thing we've noticed about Laos, in all the markets, every sales person has such attention to detail with the way they display and merchandise their product- no matter what the product.  These kids were starting at an early age, having observed and learned from their parents.  Some sold river rocks, others sold plumeria flowers strung together in a necklace, bags of wild mushrooms, and the most creative money making idea - the big black live beetle and rat on leashes.  Clearly they were all hoping for a sale when they saw the four of us walk up.  As you walk past, they stare at you with their beautiful faces, and big dark eyes, wide smiles, making you want to buy even a river rock to help them out.  Some of their feet are covered in scrapes and infections, and they own nothing but the tattered clothing on their backs.  Rather than shelling out candy or toys, we decided to sit down and teach them some English words to aid them with their selling process to English speaking westerners.  They grabbed onto the activity like a big game, pointing to objects and saying the English word... like playing the "Memory" card game with kids at home.  They were all so eager and excited.  The little girl with the bug on a leash was so classic.  By the end, we had her going up to tourists and practicing her new lines... when they asked her what she had, she promptly replied "my pet bug" with a huge proud smile.  She tested it out on Darrin, and so he asked her to take a picture, and she politely told him it would cost him for a picture of she and "her pet bug" and he gave her 1,000 kip for the photo.  The middle-aged woman with the pet rat was a bit harder to sell to tourists, but with her ability to communicate that it was her domesticated pet, she was a little less frightening or intimidating to westerners.  Their smiles, and confidence grew as they tested out their new phrases on the tourists, and it was a fun time had by all...  definitely the highlight of our trip to the caves.

Back in town, over dinner, we chatted with a local waiter about Laos and he began telling us about how they "Laos" have strong opinions about their government and the way they feel about how the country is being run, and how their personal freedoms are limited.  He felt the country should change to incorporate freedoms that a democracy has, but that no one in Laos will speak out and help to make change happen due to fear of reprisal.  He says they've watched others be imprisoned for speaking their minds, and no one dares to risk their own lives when they feel their voices won't change a thing.  A sobering reminder of the freedoms we enjoy at home, and the price those in our country have paid to maintain and protect those freedoms.  A subtle reinforcer for when we go home, to be active, and participate in elections, community activities and causes for which we feel a passion around - not to just take for granted our freedoms, but to actively participate and contribute.

Tags: Culture

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