22 May 2007


How much?
One of the challenges here is working out how to answer questions about how much you pay for things. Eg. how much was it to stay at the guesthouse, how much rent is your house, how much was your camera, how much are your language lessons. I just don't want to admit how expensive our lifestyles are compare to the locals. It seems that if possible, the volunteers I know will avoid the question by changing the subject or giving a vague response such as 'expensive' or 'not expensive'. When closer work friends try to ask you or are persistent, you are pressured to give an answer. I have tried halving the real price, but the person said it was still expensive, so I felt bad. I've heard responding that the cost was 'reasonable' seems to stop further questions. When asked several times how much her camera was by a close colleague, my friend replied 'more than your motorbike'. I think this was a good response because it made it relative but still did not give an upper end of what the camera was worth! In reality, her camera was worth 7 motorbikes of the cheap Chinese variety.

Earthquake in Laos!
Last week there was an earthquake in Laos. How did I hear about it? A's dad messaged him. I did see a headline in the Vientiane Times the next day, but I couldn't read the full online article because I haven't subscribed and this newspaper is not readily available. I cannot name a single shop in my neighbourhood that sells it. It did not make front page news so I assumed it was minor and didn't bother looking it up. I actually managed to look it up in the news yesterday and found out it was over 6 on the Richter scale. It happened in the north of Laos in the Bokeo Province on the border of Thailand. It was felt quite strongly in Bangkok and in some of the larger hotels in Vientiane. I've only heard of one person feeling it in Laos, my friend's colleague who thought she was dizzy so she had something to eat. In the paper I read that a Lao official said that Laos does not have any seismographs, but will be getting two from China. He said that to find out the scale of the earthquake he only had to go on the internet to find out. Actually many of the government departments do not have internet access which must be challenging at times.

I thought I would try to learn about Communism this year, seeing as I'm living in a Communist country. Eg how do the concepts of socialism and communism relate? I will start by listing all the Communist countries in the world.

  • Cuba
  • North Korea
  • Laos
  • Vietnam
  • China

Vietnam is Laos' best friend probably due to them both being socialist, even though Laos is more similar to Thailand in language and culture. I'm certainly not one to know anything about political economy, or history for that matter, so hopefully being here will help me learn and retain some new stuff.

Students in Australia
A colleague of mine studied in Australia on an Ausaid scholarship. Like other students on Ausaid scholarships the must not return to Australia for two years after they have finished studying in Australia. It is not a bad idea to return the students home so that they will apply their new skills to their home country. On the individual student level it does seem harsh as they probably cannot see their new found Australia friends for at least two years. I think the Australian government likes it when the graduands go back home to work for the government. In Laos this would mean accepting $30 US per month, when in Australia they probably had a job that would pay that in one, 3-4 hour shift. The other alternative is working for an international NGO which probably pay several times more than the government. I suppose the government would look upon this as ok because at least the country would benefit. If the person went to work overseas then the Australian government would not be so happy but you couldn't blame them for doing so!

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