Through the tiny window of Flight No TG574, we, five graduates of English from the University of Education Karlsruhe and our professor, caught our first glimpse of Laos. Dense jungle, the premises of a giant Lao yellow beer company, and the absence of paved roads were our first impressions of Laos after an exhausting 20-hour journey from Germany to this picturesque country. Leaving Germany in crisp October and arriving at 70% humidity in oppressive heat took some getting used to: de-boarding the airplane felt like hitting a wall. Gerlinde Engel, our generous host and co-founder of the Angels for Children foundation, as well as Mr Khamsing Nanthavongdouangsy, General Manager of the three schools supported by the foundation, awaited us at the airport and took us to Ban Sikeud, some 30 km away from the Lao capital Vientiane.
After a 30-minute drive in the cooled van, during which we marveled at the many unknown things we saw by the road, we arrived at Ban Sikeud primary school during lunch time. When we were taken across the road to our new home, we could not believe our eyes: what had been announced as a “villa” turned out to be … a V.I.L.L.A.! Our hosts welcomed us with a wide range of delicious authentic Lao food: Lao rice noodle, Láab, vegetables, and salads prepared by the lovely Bouanguen, aka Linda.
After a first conversation, Ms Engel took us back to the capital Vientiane to watch the traditional annual boat race on Mekong river. Monika and Marion Schellberg as well as Steffi Schädlich, who also work for the foundation, awaited us near the town center to accompany us to the race. Unfortunately, by the time we arrived it was just over. So we took a walk along the riverside to get some first impressions about the Lao way of life. One thing was immediately clear to us as we saw the many food stalls, beer tents, music stages, the many happy faces, and an endless mass of people: the Lao people love to celebrate! They also had a good time “spotting” our Tobias, who with his 2,04 m towered over everybody else (comment by Prof. Martin).
In the evening, we enjoyed a traditional Lao dinner with our lovely hosts in a restaurant by the river, where we had the opportunity to try some of the famous Bear Lao. Marion, Monika, Steffi, and Linda told us about their experiences in Laos, with special regard to English education. We, in return, shared our plans, expectations, hopes, and dreams for our future time here. As you can imagine, after our journey and this first eventful day in Laos with its flood of new impressions we were very tired. We enjoyed our well-needed rest to let everything sink in, and were looking forward to our great Lao/English adventure more than ever!
Text and photos by T. Mayer