Friday, January 30, 2009


moon n venus

I tried a bunch of moon shots after work, by leaning against the car door. This was the least blurred. It's amazing to see the artistry of the Moon and Venus together.

sunset 23 jan 09

This was the sunset over the Mekong last week. I don't know that the man in the boat realized that he was crossing a molten highway in the water.

Sikerd school

Earlier this week, I attended a school health conference and on Wednesday, we visiting some model schools which are teaching the curriculum. This school is really a model for maintenance and cleanliness. I wish every school here were like this one, especially in the remote areas.

Oh, and the clear sky was beautiful too.

This is my contribution to Skywatch Friday, whose members post pictures of the skies around the world.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

ABC Wednesday: B for Bricks


There always seems to be construction going on around Vientiane. Even when people have finished building their houses, they rip out a wall to make a porch or an open air kitchen. The people next to my office just tore down a dilapidated building and are putting something else up. The bricks, which are made from local clay, are wood fired and are interesting structures when stacked up.

This is my contribution for ABC Wednesday, a bit late this week!

PS After looking at Photodito's entry, I realized that a few banana shots would go down well. The fruit that we buy in SE Asia is amazing compared to the bland relatives in US or Europe.


My landlady gave me these bananas, freshly cut off the tree.

Real bananas look like this:


The soil in southern Laos is excellent for growing delicious fruit, so the bananas are transported all over the region. These bananas are going to Vientiane.

bananas from Salavan

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Morning Market in my World

Day 12 countdown

In December, Laos is hosting the SE Asian games, with a variety of sports being offered all around the country. This clock is at the corner by the Morning Market in downtown Vientiane, counting off the days until the start of the games.

Just showing off a part of my world. For other places, go to That's My World!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Camera Critters

nice place to sleep

Thought I'd add a picture to this group. I took this picture at the end of December, while I was in Phonsavanh, Xieng Khouang Province. I cracked up when I saw the dog sleeping among the fishing nets, and on top of a fishing net. These nets are made of nylon and hand woven; people will work on the nets while sitting near the fire after dinner while telling stories.

For pictures of other critters around the world, check out Camera Critters.

Shadow Shot Sunday

abandoned flower

This flower is growing out of the wall of an abandoned building, and the shadow seems to grow out of the surface as well. This is my contribution to Shadow Shot Sunday, which beautiful view of interesting shadows around the world.

Friday, January 23, 2009

SWF - 23 Jan 09


salavan rice fields

On Wednesday morning, we drove from Salavan to Pakse. It's the dry and cool season now - most rice fields in Salavan province look like this - brown with stubby shafts of the old rice. There are a few areas which have irrigation systems but not in most of the more remote areas.

Champa palace

This was the view this morning as I went off for my morning run - Champa Palace Hotel. It used to be the residence of a Lao prince but now is a beautiful old hotel. It looks very mysterious in the morning mist.

entrance to Chinese temple

On Thursday afternoon, I walked to the Chinese temple on the other side of the Xedon River. It has an amazing view up and down the Mekong River.

View of Mekong from Chinese temple

This morning, I took the picture below, which shows the temple on the other side of the river.

View of Chinese temple in early morning

This is my contribution to Skywatch Friday, whose members post pictures of the skies around the world.

Thursday, January 22, 2009


monks on bridge

I think this is my favorite picture of the day. I walked to the Chinese temple, crossing over the Xedon River on this bridge. Many groups of monks were returning from school where they have been studying English. I showed these monks their picture and had a few strained moments of trying to communicate in English before we started to speak Lao.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

ABC Wednesday: Another Round starting with A's

I travel a lot by plane to Xieng Khouang. So these two pictures illustrate 'airborne':


When the wheels descend, that means that we're getting close to landing.

View of rice fields, Sept 2008:


I'm always amazed by the way Lao people drive. When I see accidents like this, I wonder how they managed to collide. Did the driver of the truck turn in front of the motorcyclist? And if so, how did the back of the motorcycle end up stuck on the back fender of the truck? No one seemed to be seriously injured - I saw a group of people at the street corner, one of them with his motorcycle helmet under his arm, arguing and making big arm motions. I hoped the police got there on time.


This was taken behind a Chinese shopping center. Both Lao kids and the children of Chinese vendors in the shopping center seem to have a good time.


This Round #4 of ABC Wednesday. This round I intend to get all the way through to Z. I think I stopped around H last time around.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Change 20 - no change

tree and shade

After a long debate about whether we would continue to keep our office and staff house at the same location, we check available houses for rent. Nothing much out there, so we're staying in the same place for now. I don't like it much, but I don't have to live there so I'm going along with what my staff want to do.

It does have a few positive points - a nice yard and strange fish pond.

This is my contribution to That's My World - a site of great pictures from all over the place!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Mellow Yellow Monday #1

bouncy castle

There are ceremonies in January/ February for Pra Thawaet, the last incarnation of the Buddha before he was born in Lumphini Park, Nepal to become the Buddha. The day is spent in making merit, going to the temple with members of the community, and enjoyment. So a company sets up a bouncy castle so the kids are entertained.

Unfortunately, I couldn't attend the actual ceremonies but I did take pictures of the temple fair at my local temple.

This is the bouncy castle at night:

Bouncy castle at night

This is my contribution to Mellow Yellow Monday. There's an icon on the sidebar for viewing other forms of yellow around the world.

Mystery object

mystery object

I'm learning how to use my camera - by reading the instruction book (radical idea, isn't it?). This illustrates the use of the digital zoom. Can anyone guess what this is?

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Highlights from our trip

It usually takes about 11 hours to drive to Salavan, and we got off late this morning (sad reason - had to stop by a funeral first)

So there was no time to stop for photos, even though the sky and light were so beautiful. I did what I could by snapping photos through the window. These are some of the best.


Temples in the south of Laos are very much open air. The mountains are the western reaches of the Annamites, which form the border between Lao and Vietnam.

drying grasses

I loved the way people lie the grasses they collected on their front yards so the grass can dry before the seeds are pounded out of them so they can be made into brooms.

tam maktoua

Where we stopped for dinner. The town of Khongxedon is famous for grilled chicken and homemade rice whiskey. Well, we enjoyed the chicken but skipped the whiskey.

ping gai
This week has been too labor intensive. I'm running out of the house right now to go to a funeral before we hit the road to drive down to Pakse for a week of work planning.

My SWF pix from this week will show up eventually. Stay tuned!

Addendum on 19 Jan - I've posted other entries and although they are stored on the site and I can view them, they're not showing up on the blog. I'm not sure if it's a problem with the cache or what (I checked the date, and it's 2009). I'm not on my regular computer right now, so I guess I'll see if they appear.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Change 10

I found my old camera (and equally as important, the charger). I took this picture while on a long run this morning:


I love these flowers, which start to bloom in January. The seasons are such a change from the other side of the world, where everyone is getting snowed in. Just look at these flowers and know that there is spring elsewhere in the world!

Friday, January 09, 2009

Sky Watch Friday and Change 9


Change of plans: We originally planned to fly back to Vientiane but the airline called me and said that the flight had been canceled. I guess not enough people on the plane.

It's easy enough to drive to Vientiane now, though it takes eight hours. However, it's eight hours through incredible scenery, especially during this time of the year when the skies and clear and the late afternoon light is so beautiful.


The tall grasses glow in the sunlight. People cut these grasses and pound the seeds out of them before tying them up to make brooms.


Closeup with moon.


Grass in the sunlight.

distant mountains

Mountains in the distance.

plum tree

Last view of the plum tree before we left for Vientiane. I imagine that by the time I return to Xieng Khouang, I will have missed the final stage of the blossoms - when they fall off and cover the ground with pink. I tell my friends that this is Xieng Khouang pink snow.

This is my contribution to Skywatch Friday, whose members post pictures of the skies around the world.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Change 8

One thing which is not changing fast enough is the clearance of unexploded ordnance left over from the war. During the Vietnam War, fighting spilled over into Laos. Although there were ground battles in Xieng Khouang and Huaphan, as a result of a civil war between the Pathet Lao and the Royal Lao Government, Lao was supposed to be neutral, not a part of the US vs. Vietnam effort. However, the US provided support to the Royalist side and to the Hmong supporting them, in air support.

Bombing raids also targeted the 'Ho Chi Minh Trail' in the south of the country. Most people have the image of a superhighway running along the eastern side of the country, but in fact, the supply chain ran along already existing roads and footpaths. Carpet bombing did little to cut the route because people would use detours. While some supplies were transported by trucks during the night, most of the supplies were carried on bicycle pushed along the road. I have seen an example of one of these bicycles - with extensions on the handlebars so it could be steered, loaded up with 300 kgs. of rice, medical supplies, weapons and artillery shells.

Altogether, between two to three million tons of ordnance was dropped on Laos. 10 - 30% didn't explode at the time, and we often see displays like this around Phonsavanh:


There are many more examples of unexploded ordnance under the ground throughout the country.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Change 7

I've been in Laos for 12 years, and have seen a lot of changes here. The roads in Phonsavanh, the capital city of Xieng Khouang, are all paved now. We have 24 hour electricity, and a municipal water system which pipes water into houses.

There's also a different mindset. Laos is more in the world, while at the same time, preserving its cultural base. More children are going to school, especially girls. This will have a big impact on the country in the future.

I cracked up when I saw these heavily leaden tuk-tuk. Inside, there were ten young women, all high school students on their way home at the end of the day. It's difficult to see in the photo, but the four girls in the back were eating sour fruits dipped in a mixture of sugar and chile peppers.

girls in tuk tuk.jpg

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Change 6

My change for today - no camera. As I get older, I get more easily distracted and forgetful when stressed. Yesterday, as I was preparing to run off to the airport, my staff besieged me with problems and questions. As I sat down in the plane, I suddenly realized I had no camera case. With the engines starting to rev up, there was no way I could run off the plane to look for it.

When I got on the ground, I called them. The camera is not in the office and they looked around the airport too. There are worse things to happen - but I find myself seeing an image I want to capture and reaching for my camera. I finally borrowed our project camera from one of the staff. It will do for now!

plum tree n house.jpg

We accompanied a TV crew making a documentary on UXO survivors, to the house of one of the people we've helped. This is the cow pen, with a beautifully blooming plum tree in front of it.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Change 5

The change in weather between Xieng Khouang and Vientiane is always surprising. Phonsavanh, the capital city in the province, sits at an elevation of 4,000 feet. Rice fields surround the city, and mountains stand around it so it's a mountain zone rather than a tropical rain forest.

Even though I warned the people who went up with me, they still gave a gasp of surprise at the temperature and the wind as we got off the plane.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Change 4

Today's change was very sad. I went over to my landlady's house and found her daughter-in-law and another relative helping her to sit in a chair. Mae Thao's face was blank and slack and she couldn't move her legs. What happened?

Mae Thao has always been an active person, talking to herself while she sweeps the yard in the morning, and riding off to the market on her clanky one-gear bicycle. In the early mornings, she goes early to the Wat by our compound of houses. When she returns, she pours water, which has been blessed by the Buddhist chanting in the Wat, on one of the flower bushes in the yard. She always hassles me about my cats, but she takes good care of them, feeding them while she sits in the sun at a table.

So this isn't the Mae Thao I know. Mae Waew explained that she had a tooth ache so they brought her to the dentist. He injected medicine before pulling the tooth and they're convinced that the medicine traveled through her nerves throughout her whole body, paralyzing her. The place where the tooth was also got infected and she developed a big abscess in her jaw; after ten days in the hospital where they gave her IV antibiotics, they released her home. Now, she's very week and can't walk. Poor woman.

I'm not sure about the sequences of events so I'm not sure if the dentist might have injected the lidocaine into a vein, which can cause heart problems. Or whether she had some reaction to the medicine or the time in bed made her week. She's so old, about 80 now, and a serious illness can really affect older people.

I've had this dread of some day returning from the field and not finding her at her home - well, it's happened before where I was afraid to ask... and turned out she was sleeping in her fruit garden so she could plant new trees and prune the old ones.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Change 3 and wisdom

I was born not knowing and have had only a little time to change that here and there., Richard Feynman

A humble quote from a famous physicist and educator.

I was listening to BBC, which had an interview with Andrew Zuckerman who has put together a book and exhibit entitled "Wisdom." The web site is amazing. The fifty people interviewed share their wisdom on wisdom, which is, as one person puts it, is more of a question rather than an answer.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Skywatch Friday - 2 January 2009 - a season of change


The skies are so changeable. In one day, so clear and a moment later, cold and overcast.

hut in field 2 jan

I told this on my walk and jog this morning.

Peaking at the sky through the branches of my plum tree:

plum tree 2jan

This is my contribution to Skywatch Friday, whose members post pictures of the skies around the world.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Change 1


2009. Like most people, I can't believe it. Change seems to come faster and faster, one year blurring into the next.

Up here in Xieng Khouang, there's always change in the wind. We say that there are three seasons during the day - the mornings are often misty or drizzly, the afternoons warm up and the nights are freezing. There's often a strong wind during the cold season that makes the clouds race over the landscape.

I took this picture while I was walking this afternoon. I had to walk fast because it was so cold but decided to climb a nearby hill. The sight of the clouds and hills glowing in the sunset was exciting.