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Laos :

Workshop in 1999

NB : see the bottom of this page for the 2002 update

In Laos ?

No, I didn't move out of  Hanoi, I just came in !

Viêt Nam 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.

Roxane 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 !


...is 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...

And not bad ones.  The 24 trainees (half having already some experience, and three being assistant-supervisors) are...

Highly motivated

Very demanding

Hard workers


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 !   Wow...

But let's talk about the country...

From our first steps in the airport of Vientiane, we were welcomed in French.

In 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 !

Geckos 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 !

We didn't stay in Vientiane for the weekend, no sir : we went to Luang Prabang.

The 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.

Some rest

Our guesthouse 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.

Boudhist majesty...

Power of nature...

Great 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 !

February 2002 : back in Laos, disapointment...

Even if the borders of the holes have been cemented now, you better watch where you put your foot on Vientiane's walkways...

Coming 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...

At 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.

The 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 ;))

The 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...

Small 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.

Laos, 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...

Page créée le 3 septembre 1999 -  Mise à jour le 27 juillet 2002

©opyright 1997-2007 Pierre Gieling - tous droits réservés