Once a French colony, Laos is the only landlocked country in southeast Asia and is among the poorest of the region. My interest in teaching in Laos stemmed from reading about Pencils of Promise‘s education programs in the country. I met Aay in Thailand the year prior and lived in his village and volunteered as an English teacher for 6-20 year olds. Several things struck me as fascinating during my time at Aay’s village:

• The way people in Laos use bamboo is truly indicative of how resourceful people can be when presented with limited materials. This is not a reflection from seeing bamboo souvenirs in gift shops, but rather witnessing villagers make so many different things with bamboo by hand. From household accessories such as fans, cups, and chairs, to utility items such as knives and skewers, to structural units such as an entire lake house, people in Laos have absolutely explored the versatility of bamboo as a direct response to their struggling socioeconomics. This, the circumstance in which a community can push boundaries and continue to thrive in spite of societal constraints, is to me what demonstrates the purest form of creativity.

• Despite not knowing any English, the children who I (tried to) play soccer with were more than capable of teasing me for my non-existent athletic abilities. It’s amazing how the bonding of human relationships can transcend any language/cultural barriers, and how our friendships were so deeply rooted in the sharing of pleasant exchanges such as laughter and play.

Places Visited:

  • Vientiane
  • Phonsawart Village
  • Vang VIeng
  • Luang Prabang