Interestingly Lao people have a bank holiday for teachers – “Teachers’ Day”. The Teachers’ Day, celebrated each year in October, is to honour the work that has been done by the teachers in education and in the community during the year. Western observers will be surprised to find that, prior to this day, most of the children and their parents are occupied with looking for presents for their teachers. Common presents are sweets but also clothing or baskets filled with various gifts. The celebration of Teachers’ Day is cheerful and colourful through the many festive acts and performances.
Our Teachers’ Day started on the evening before (6 October). Besides all the teachers of the Lao-German Technical College (LGTC) and us two volunteers, the directors of other Vocational Colleges were invited to dinner at “Monkey House”, a restaurant closeby the LGTC. Director Mr Somlith Virivong of the LGTC welcomed everybody and gave a speech in which he thanked the entire staff of the LGTC for their great work. We felt very honoured when he also mentioned us in his speech, highlighting the good cooperation between Germany and Laos at the LGTC. In his words: “A College that wants to achieve international standards can only improve if people from different parts of the world work together and exchange their knowledge, as it is the case at the LGTC where German and Lao people are working together hand in hand.”
On the next day – “Teachers’ Day”, 7 October – we were invited to join the teachers’ outing to the stadium of Vientiane to watch a football match hosted by several schools of Vientiane.
Lucky us, we did not have to play, as we found even sitting and cheering quite exhausting at 35 degrees with high humidity. To open the matches, a speech was delivered by the Deputy of the Minister of Education. Some very colourful traditional Lao dancing was performed as well as singing before the sports event started.
As we have discovered so far, things just end as spontaneously as they have started before you even realize it. So we went back home before we actually had our go in the tug-of-war in which we should have been participating – but bo pen jang, as they say: Never mind!
Another surprise came after the event: Teachers’ Day is not a tradition special to Laos at all. It is celebrated internationally every year and took root in the 20th century. To our even greater surprise, there is a Teachers’ Day in Germany. Prof. Martin stumbled across this fact on 5 October in a Newsletter by a German publisher. We really did not know because none of us teachers ever experienced being celebrated back home – well: bo pen jang! We got “double-lucky” here.
This is why we would now like to seize the chance to send out a big “Thank You!” to all the teachers around the world, especially to our teachers at the LGTC, the teachers of the Secondary and Primary School Phang Heng, the teachers of the Primary School Sikeud, and the ones of the Sunshine School Vientiane.
Text by L. Wink & D. Burkhardt
Photos by D. Burkhardt