NB : see the bottom of this page for the 2002 update
In Laos ?
didn't move out of Hanoi, I just came in !
is not the only country with bilingual classes, and among the others is neighboring
Laos : this coming year, there will be 30 classes in 3 cities : Luang Prabang,
Savannakhet and Paksé.
As mentioned before,
we organize training and recycling workshops every summer for the bilingual
classes' teachers. In the past years, the Lao and Cambodian teachers were
coming in Viet Nam to participate to these workshops, but this year it was decided
to organize a specific one for the Lao teachers (in addition to those
in Saigon and Hanoi) in Vientiane from the 16th 'til the 27th of August.
Coron (supervisor in Nha Trang) and me were chosen to organize and animate this
2-weeks workshop, aimed at the effective use of the first cycle of primary school
method : "Il était...Une petite grenouille".
Prior to the two weeks, the Lao teachers
had had a three-weeks French language improvement session... Yet we found
them ready to continue full speed, and very demanding !
how we felt with the AUF team in Laos : Christophe Laborde (chef d'antenne) and
Gisèle Verduci (conseillère des filières et des classes bilingues) made us feel
comfortable immediately !
And more surprises...
not bad ones. The 24 trainees (half having already some experience, and
three being assistant-supervisors) are...
And their well-placed modesty allows them to
ask the good questions and to assimilate rapidly, to later use directly their
new or improved skills !
Roxane and me had to
adapt our schedule more than we thought : if we have had to extend some workshops,
cancel some others and shorten all afternoons of 1/2 hour (so that the trainees
could get their bus), they didn't want any break between the workshops,
were working at lunch time on their own, and at the end, 100% indicated in the
written anonymous evaluation that the 2-weeks session was too short !
But let's talk about the country...
our first steps in the airport of Vientiane, we were welcomed in French.
the streets ? No "Hello ! Hello !"... More than once,
we were greeted at first in French, mainly by kids. Francophonie is
everywhere, and on most signs it's Lao first, then French, and finally English...
Sorry, English speakers !
Laos is low populated, and it's
great : here, stress is proportional to the density of the population, very welcoming
by the way !
will not say otherwise...
But if life is not stressful, that doesn't
mean that Laos don't work nor work less effectively : the trainees and other persons
we met showed us that !
Allez, hop !
didn't stay in Vientiane for the weekend, no sir : we went to Luang Prabang.
short trip in an old Chinese plane reminded me of the ones in Africa, but in a
much less scary way.
Gisèle came with us and showed us around
this little and very nice city. There we got time to "recharge our
batteries" for the second week.
is on the border of the river, and the view is great (no, not "mainly at
the bar !").
We went around the city, but we also took
a car to see the nature around.
Power of nature...
little Lao restaurant !
...of happiness ?
Roxane and me came back to Viet
Nam "pumped up", enchanted by Laos, the Laos, the trainees, the work
done with them... Eyes full of high color pictures, there we are, ready
for a new school year full of challenges !
2002 : back in Laos, disapointment...
if the borders of the holes have been cemented now, you better watch where you
put your foot on Vientiane's walkways...
back from my trip to Cambodia, I stopped
two days in Vientiane. I couldn't wait to be back in the nice city I first visited
30 months earlier !
Wrong feeling : these two days were just
a succession of disapointments. Compare with my 1999 impressions, above...
the airport, the immigration officers were not nice at all and couldn't say one
word in French this time. It's 30 dollars, period. Taxis work only with big bucks
now, and don't expect a smile even if you speak some Lao.
Lane Xang hotel is full, but there is my first smile : they drive me to another
hotel of my choice, the Douang Deuane.
Take a room in the
back for the quiet, in the front for the light and the view ; all are quite nice.
However, don't expect any flexibility : the rules are the rules and if you want
to keep the room until 1pm instead of 12pm, you'll have to pay for one more night
The only thing I haven't found different : the Italian
restaurant "L'Opéra", still as delicious (but you'll have to
pay for it). Besides that... The French language left the streets, smiles have
left people's faces, everyone seemed to be dead bored to me, restaurants were
deserted (except, strangely, the best and the worst of the ones I went to !) I
found the service to be bad and money to be essential...
My second smile
: a very nice driver (M. SiKhoTaBong - tél. 020-616.879) who took me for
a tour then for a drink at his home (don't go for a drink before the tour ;))
third one : many restaurants serve Stella (Belgian beer) !
The cherry on
the cake ? In the middle of my chicken scallop, on the second day, it "scratches"
a bit. What's...? This is a modern restaurant, which already has a good reputation...
pieces of glass ! Did I swallow some yet ? I've never been as white in my life...
I quickly had a thought for this old (Indian ?) torture of the tiger moustache'
hairs in the food, that one doesn't notice until they rip the intestines to the
end (a few hours agony).
I'll be reassured only a few days later.
dear Laos, where did you go ?
July 2002 : One of my friends went
back to Laos for two weeks and did not, unlike me, feel a difference and was not
disapointed. See for yourself ! Maybe I was out of luck...