Our first impressions – by Amelie Reiling, Christiane Morlock and Stephanie Schulz
We have enjoyed living here in Vientiane very much right from the beginning. Our Lao adventure started on 13th February in Frankfurt and around 17 hours later we moved into our new home for the next two months: Our little bungalow is situated just a few seconds away from the Lao-German Technical College. Although we really could have used some sleep at that time we could not resist a first glance at the Lao capital and decided to take a walk along the Mekong River right into the center of Vientiane.
After a delicious taste of traditional Lao cuisine we were rewarded with a stunning sunset. We would get the chance to witness this beautiful natural spectacle very often over the next few weeks.
Mr Saythong Insarn and Mr Vaki Wangyeng, Head and Deputy Head of Cooperation, Development, and the IT-Section of the Lao-German Technical College, and Ms Sabine Smolka-Gunsam from the GIZ (German Society for International Cooperation), who was based at the LGTC, made settling in easy for us. Not only did they show us where to buy the best fruit and where to get some Western groceries in case we felt like having a little taste of home, but they were – and still are – always there for us when we need(ed) help, e.g. when we had to transport a whole pick-up full of furniture and kitchen tools from Sabine’s house to our bungalow when she went back to Germany at the end of February.
Shortly after our arrival we also got to know Mouk and Ket, two of the teachers at the college and students in our class. We got to spend a wonderful Sunday with them when they showed us the actual Morning Market (it turned out the place we thought was the Morning Market was just a tenth of it), beautiful traditional Lao fabric (we bought one for our Sinhs), and a stunning Buddhist temple: Wat Si Muang.
As the Lao teachers were still busy with setting exams we spent the first week organizing timetables and teaching material such as books and flashcards at the college, exploring our neighborhood, furnishing our flat, and trying Lao food. Daily fruit and vegetable shopping at our favorite market stand a few streets away quickly became part of our everyday life and still is a highlight for us. It really is a unique experience here: Tasting unknown fruit and laughing together with the market woman – even though our sales conversations mostly consist of body language and a few Lao words we have picked up.
For the three of us teaching English in Laos is an unbelievably affirming experience. Stephanie teaches both of the “Beginners” classes (one of them together with Amelie), Christiane is in charge of the “Technical English” class and Amelie took over the “Elementary” English course.
Never before have we had such motivated students in front of us. They are very grateful for being taught a language they are so eager to learn. It is not seldom that we are flooded with questions about English vocabulary, correlations, and phrases in our lessons. Also, our teacher-students are not too shy to just give it a try when it comes to pronouncing an unknown word, which is a good attitude to have for successful language learning.
Five days a week we teach one hour per class in the afternoon and also offer additional possibilities for English practice such as a “Conversation Club” for the teachers and “Activity Time” for the BHS students. Apart from that we also accompany four of the English teachers twice a week in their English lessons and give them constructive feedback afterwards.
Everything we have experienced so far showed us that we made the right decision taking part in this project. We appreciate this chance very much and we are looking forward to the time ahead.
Text by A. Reiling, C. Morlock and S. Schulz
Photos by A. Reiling