Thursday, August 31, 2006

Heading back north

It's been a gorgeous day here, and we've gotten a lot accomplished. The training in Salavan is going well, just had a good meeting with the Champassak Dept of Health. Seems like the sun is shining everywhere...

Except I just talked to my boss in Vientiane. He said that it's been raining like crazy up north, and in Louang Prabang, the Mekong has risen 3 meters and looks like it might go over the levee in Vientiane. Groan. Some of the areas that the bus will have to go through tonight are low so I hope the road is not flooded.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Salavan update

It's been a good week so far. We've started our first project management workshop. My staff have been doing the workshop pretty much on their own. The Deputy Director of the Dept. of Health stopped by for a while and we ended up talking in the back of the room. He said he was pretty impressed by the content and the confidence of my staff (especially the female staff) in running the workshop.

Most of the hospital and health dept. folks are ethnic minorities. Salavan province has about 30 ethnic groups and the common language is Lao (fortunately). I've been spending time at the workshop, talking to everyone so they can get used to my strangely accented Lao. In fact, because Lao is a second language, we tend to talk more clearly and use fewer slang words so I can understand them pretty well and they can understand me.

Last thing - it's the end of the rainy season but the rains still come down heavy and for long periods of time. Tried to go for a run at the old airport this afternoon, and got soaked.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

In Ruins

In Ruins

Seeing the tombs for the first time, feeling that surprise of discovery, could never be repeated. Marlene felt changed as she walked out of the forest, the sounds of birds and insects silence by the fog cover. The ground sloped towards the ancient courtyard, partially obscured by the mist until a breeze swept it away.

Marlene breathed, filling her lungs with moisture and decay. The tombs had been asleep for centuries, hiding secrets within their vaults. She would not be able to explore them for long, but even knowing the futility of her desire, she entered.

The carefully manicured path led her through a cherry orchard and around a lake. She knew that each view had been chosen carefully to illustrate both the beauty and impermanence of nature. The fog returned, swallowing the sounds of her footsteps, leaving her alone with her thoughts. She felt alien to herself, to be in this land, without reference.

Her watched chimed, reminding her to return to the entrance. "Tee-shirt, mister?" The skinny youth stood at the gate, carrying a closet's worth of clothing on his arms. She tried to recapture the silence of her walk but the motorcycle-taxi drivers gunned their engines and she breathed in exhaust.

She found her driver and sat on the back of the motorcycle. They passed through the kaleidoscope of vendors selling soft drinks and posters along the road. Marlene left the park, and the descendants of the emperors who had built these ruins.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

I'm still kicking around Laos. Our project was renewed for two more years and we'll be working in the southern provinces of Laos - Salavan and Champassak. At the same time, we're still providing medical funding and follow-up support for people injured by unexploded ordnance in Xieng Khouang and Salavan. I'm still running back and forth between the provinces of the north and south. Yesterday, we drove from Xieng Khouang to Vientiane. Have a day to rest and write reports before continuing down to Salavan on Monday.