Education

Walking to school in Laos

27 Jan , 2015  

I volunteer at an English teaching school that is free for the poverty-stricken 15-25 year old’s that are lucky enough to secure a place. It is a peaceful 30 minute walk from my guesthouse. Typically I have breakfast in the main street in Luang Prabang. Luang Prabang sausage is famous and an easy on the run breakfast.

Sausages in morning market

Sausages in morning market

Fish in morning market Luang Prabang

Fish in morning market Luang Prabang

I sometimes walk down the main street (Th Sisavangvong) and buy a sandwich for 10,000 kip that I get packed and take for lunch as there isn’t a lot of food places around the school.

Sandwch bar, main street

Sandwch bar, main street

There are three ways to get across the Nam Khan river to school. 1) walk across the old bridge, 2) take a boat across or 3) in dry season use the bamboo bridge.

This is the scene along the Nam Khan to the boat. Lovely guesthouses line the street, much nicer than where I stay.

Luang Prabang street

Luang Prabang street

The boat is only a 2 minute crossing and it saves a long 30 minute walks across the ‘old’ bridge.

Nam Khan river

Nam Khan river

Boat crossing Nam Khan

Boat crossing on the Nam Khan

The 5 minute walk up the road to school is pleasant, except for the times when a small pack of aggressive looking dogs appear. I often think what I would do if they liked the look of me – hit them with my school pack maybe? So far I have been lucky. There are plenty of chickens roaming the road and fruit left out drying in the sun along the roadside.

Road to LEOT school

Road to LEOT school

A quicker option is the Bamboo bridge. Locals build the bridge in the dry season each year and washed away when the wet season arrives it washes away. I prefer it to the old bridge – it feels safer. It costs 5,000 kip – about NZD $0.80. Quite expensive for locals – almost their daily wage of USD $1.

Bamboo bridge, Luang Prabang

Bamboo bridge, Luang Prabang

Wat Phan Luang is on the other side of the bamboo bridge and it seems a group of chickens live here. The temple seems to have slowly been cleaned up a little. Unfortunately rubbish lying round can be a common sight in some areas.

Chickens at Wat Phan Luang

Chickens at Wat Phan Luang

However my usual route to school is somewhat further and involves crossing the ‘old’ bridge on foot. As a pedestrian I have to walk on the planks either on the side of the bridge. This year, 3 planks were quite loose and fell 6 inches under my foot. The centre of the bridge is for motorbikes and cyclists. It is named the old bridge because a new bridge was built a few years back for cars. When I’m teaching the 4th class of the day which ends at 8pm and it is dark crossing this bridge is an experience I have still have to feel comfortable about.

Crossing the old bridge

Crossing the old bridge

The old bridge, Luang Prabang

The old bridge, Luang Prabang with walking path on the side

If I finish teaching in the afternoon I sometimes pass novice monks on their way to monk school. A common sight in Luang Prabang where there are over 30 temples. Much of the monk population consists of young novices who have travelled to Luang Prabang from the countryside to enjoy the education that monks receive, a luxury not available in their home village. Most study English as part of their curriculum and are eager to chat with visitors.

Novice monks walking to monk school

Novice monks walking to monk school

 

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