Two weeks ago, I went on a hiking trip to a mountaint village called Ban Phakeo. It is famous for the adjacent jar site 52 in the middle of a lush jungle. A Hmong tour guide named Vang accompanied me on my “undercover trip” – officially, I was doing the trip to do research for a new project connected to CBT, Community-based tourism which involves homestays of tourists in poor rural villages to generate better incomes. It might sound a bit like tourists visiting the villages like an attraction or a zoo, others see it as an opportunity for the villagers to get a glimpse into the world out there. Most of them never get out of their province, like many Lao people don’t get the chance to travel abroad. Many of the older villagers have met American soldiers during the Secret War, so all foreigners are Americans for them (or long-noses).
The short time I stayed in the village left a really strong impression on me – the people were so happy living their simple lives, far away from all the temptations of “civilization”! I felt so sad to leave this haven of communal life the next morning. Unfortunately, my battery died right when we entered the village, but still I managed to take a few pictures. The rest is in my head, many good memories to last a lifetime.
The question is: will improved income really improve their lives? Are our lives “better” because we have all the comforts of a developed society? Other problems would soon arise replacing those solved with money. Stress, depression, burn-out vs. difficult access to education, food and water? I asked my guide about his definition of poverty. He answered: when my neighbour has a motorcycle and I cannot afford to buy one. Ah!
Haha, so funny! Especially the parts about weddings and vegetarian orders! Thanks T. for showing me this! 😀
After 62 days of non-stop traveling, there is nothing better than to plunge into the cold waters of a new work environment with a bunch of new colleagues, places, and start working non-stop for 5 days! After T. introduced me shortly to a zillion new things, we had a true marathon of concept-making, measuring, making drawings, model-building and presenting our ideas. The work here is incredibly fun and inspiring with all the new surroundings, people, stories, cultures, materials and inputs. It feels like our work is actually needed and it is not only about beautifying things to sell more for profit. Where is this going to lead?
… and up we float in the air into the unknown…!
There was weird sounds coming from the lower trunk of the bus – it was filled with small chicken and ducks! But one escaped and me and my fellow traveler from Israel caught it to save it from its probably dark destiny. We gave it to a local who promised to treat it well – well, let’s hope until it lands on the plate it will have a happy life!