Sunday I rode my bike a whole 4kms to town and had breakfast at Croisaant D’or. I had a reasonable brekky with scrambled eggs, small sausages, bread, fruit and coffee for 23 000 kip ($3 AUD). It is very similar to the breakfast at Vista Café. It was quite enjoyable to sit inside and read my Lao language notes. I went to have a massage on the main road in town which is really ripped up at the moment, affecting business in that area.
I went to the big liquor store with a large range of wine from
I found a really nice salon at That Dam and got my haircut. The hairdressers usually give a good head massage which I like. I had a lady boy cut my hair. She had good hair and was wearing cutoff jeans, as I’ve noticed a few lady boys do. I like the cut she gave me- she had the vision to cut all the faded bits off and the confidence to hack off much of the volume. She did take lot of care. I’m glad I didn’t end up with a mullet- one of the hair magazines I looked at had a disturbing number of them. A haircut costs $10US and this is probably the most you’d pay in Lao. I'm sure the locals would wonder why anyone would pay so much for a haircut.
There was an environment day concert on at the cultural centre on Sunday night. My housemate and I managed to catch a public bus for the first time just randomly. It costs less than 30c for a trip the city. Lao style, it was quite old with a cracked windscreen. To open the door, the driver pulled on a dodgy looking rope that is attached to the door handle. I wonder whether Lao buses are buses retired from
The concert was held inside the hall, even thought I thought it would be outside. People barged into the hall even though the police tried to let just a few people into the hall at a time. They simply ducked under the policeman’s arm as he was holding the door open. After getting some dinner, we did manage to get into the packed hall and was standing on the side aisle. The Lao people seemed to be really enjoying it. We saw a play in Lao that featured a battle between evil tree fellers and environmentalists. Eventually the environmentalists end up stabbing the tree fellers. Some big Lao acts played that nigh- the Cells, Overdance, LOG, Modern Dance and Princess. One of them did a metal version of Cyndi Lauper’s ‘Time after time’… bizarre.
Work is good. It is a similar level of difficulty to the stuff I was doing back at home. The difference is that we seem to be under more scrutiny here. Sometimes at home there can be a general tendency for monitoring and evaluation to be a little too relaxed- we don’t want to make the pollies look bad if something doesn’t succeed! The funding agencies want to know whether what we’re doing has worked which is fair enough. Also the government wants to know exactly what we’re doing. Some little things require a little more patience eg starting a new job, the language barrier, working in a new sector, figuring out bad, lazy English from native English speakers to make it useable for Lao people, people occasionally smoking in the office- (office falangs are big offenders).
Generally people seem friendlier and easier to work with than at home. If something goes a bit wrong, they are pretty cool with it, so there is little pressure there. The other perspective is that foreigners in the office are more concerned if something goes wrong and it can be challenging to explain why we are so bothered by something we think needs to be done! The hours are reasonable and it only takes me 15 minutes to get there. I can go home for lunch if I like too. It is flexible so if you need to leave an hour early to go to the bank or catch a bus you can. In Lao it is also generally acceptable to take a day off to look after your family if you so had to. I think these little things make a lot of difference!