Saturday, February 02, 2008

I took the overnight bus from Salavan to Vientiane on a different bus company. Unfortunately, the bus clipped a motorcycle about midnight and it took a few hours to sort everything out. The rider broke his leg and had a lot of scrapes, but fortunately, we were near a city and the hospital sent a truck out to pick him up.

Traffic makes me shudder here. Especially when driving at night - motorcyclists often don't have their headlights on, feeling that it increases gas consumption. And people drive after a night of heavy drinking. I've lost several close friends because of motor vehicle accidents in Thailand and Laos and I always feel furious when I see other people taking risks that can injure not only themselves but other people.

Once I got to Vientiane, I had a breakfast of pancakes, eggs and coffee and then went home to play with the cats and sleep. A friend who just arrived from the US wanted to get together but I just had to sleep. And I've got an event that I have to go to tonight.

Later in the evening update:
COPE, the Cooperative Orthotic and Prosthetic Enterprise, opened a visitor center at the National Rehabilitation Center and showed the film, Bomb Harvest. The building used to be an old store room; I remember once going over there, trying to find some donated equipment that I wondered if we could fix. The building was a mess, falling down, and generally receiving anything that could not be used and which people were afraid to throw out.

The new visitor center is really wonderful - very open and airy with many pictures and stories about people who have been helped by COPE over the years, especially UXO survivors. I'm hoping that we can have an exhibition of our work there.

The movie was interesting. There were several story lines - following one group of graduates from the UXO clearance school, following the story of a bomb that had been found near a school, the story of a group of children who find UXO, and the story of families in the community near the bomb in trying to keep their children safe. Tthough there's a lot that should have been edited out - the drinking scenes were irrelevant, and they went too technical about the different kinds of bombs they were exploding, there was a lot of good information in the film and it really showed the dilemma of developing countries in dealing with ordnance left over from wars. It's a point that's often made but worth repeating - children who come into contact with UXO are dealing with stuff that was dropped long before they were born, even before their parents were born.

Unfortunately, I couldn't stay very long at the party. I met up with the friend of another friend, who has been doing some consulting in Lao but I went off in search of my Hmong friends who just arrived.

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