Friday, December 30, 2011

bungle in the jungle

i got this forbes magazine link, "bungle in the jungle," from a guy that used to be in one of my high school groups. what a mess. can somebody cut Laos a break? ugh. and boo to the person(s) building all the casinos in vientiane and savannakhet. yall suck.

check out this link too:

Monday, December 26, 2011

mixed reviews: Lao princess

as much as i love Laos, i really don't think i will be seeing this movie.  watch the trailer for princess of Laos below and you'll see why pretty durn fast:


but what's good is reading all the crazy youtube comments under the preview.  many of them are just people of differing opinions fighting back and forth, but the best ones are the comments from the filmmaker, mychal mitchell, and wow... so many things get lost in translation.  i am going to post a few here, and so if you happen across my blog and see your comment... well, then you and you're comment are crazy. 

i will start with this -- many of the comments noted that the girl playing the princess looks mixed Lao/african american.  see some of them below:

I am not a racist person, but isn't the princess in this movie black? doesn't make sense to me. Laos is in Southeast Asia, not in Africa.

Laos in Asia not in Africa, we have no black people here.

Actually..Lao woman is Beautiful more than women in this Video^^

now just read a few of the many many responses by the filmmaker:

i just googled Laos and i found out it is in Africa.

i filmed this movie, i wrote it, i have been married to my Lao wife for 23 years......then someone who doesn't know anything about making a movie says to me (as if i'm stupid) "Laos is not in Africa" because the lead actress appears to be African anyone with half a brain would think i made a movie with over 50 Laotians, have been to Wat Lao 100 times, and think i don't know where Laos is? In the words of Monday Night Football crew C'MON MAN!!!!!!!!


ur a 26 year old dummy go watch a show thats more befitting to your intellect like Jersey Shore

if you're trying to promote your movie, why would you go the sarcasm route? and did you really just try to say you understand Laos because you found a Lao woman who'd put up with you for 23 years? or even better: "i'm not racist, i cast 50 Lao people in a movie."

now look at this comment from a youtuber:

I'm very interested in seeing this movie but this trailor gives me a headache trying to sum up what the whole meaninng of the film is about. How is she a princess who inherited a Kingdom when there iz no more Royal Family in Laos. Was this supposed to all happen before the end of the Vietnam War Era... How come my contact Prince Solivang Sovang never mentioned anything about this history? This must be fairytale for entertainment reason, but all in all it should be an interesting watch.

here is the filmmaker's response:

Headache? The story is fiction/drama, i hope that clears your headache. Its a movie just like when you went to see Avatar the flying blue alien. The story is modern day. The untold story is the fact that the lead actress is INDEED the great granddaughter of a woman once married to Kind Sisavangvong around 1910. You can meet her family by visiting the website for the movie Im glad you want to see the movie. Have the prince contact me please.

here is one more from our dear filmmaker in answer to a question about when the movie would be released. this comment was coupled with a criticism that the movie was "embarrassing" due to its fictional content:

why do you want to know when an embarassing movie is coming out?....when the movie comes out just stay at home

so my point is this: now i'm not seeing this movie based on my dislike of the guy that made it. mr. mitchell - seriously, why go through all the trouble to make a movie and then bash on people for their crazy comments?  at some point, you must have realized that not everyone is going to like your film; so why not just answer all inquiries gracefully?  or next time, instead of making a film, you might want to just stay home.

but one more comment from a youtuber. i like this one - not because he still doesn't get it that this girl could be mixed-race of an african american father or mother, but because he has such a good explanation as to why she is dark-skinned:

Can a Cambodian/Khmer guy like myself try to explain this. Many peeps here can be shallow. History revealed that the first Lao Kingdom was built by dark skinned Khmers. So there you go.

Also..., during colonial times Laos has 2 kingdoms. Laung Prabang and the lesser known Champasak. The Champasak kingdom was a minor kingdom in the south. And you know how south Laos is, the lower you go the darker the skin. SPOILER ALERT: The girl is most likely from the NaChampasak Royal Lineage.


Monday, December 19, 2011

a christmas carol

so i made it home to louisiana for the holidays! my step mom led the choir singing christmas songs at church on sunday, and she was real nervous, but i thought it turned out alright... kinda like gift giving: it's always been the thought that counts. but here is the one problem with the ward choirs - there ain't a tryout or nothing. so inevitably somebody gets in there that sounds a little less extraordinary than what you wish they did, and the rest of the choir is left teeter-tottering between the howl of a farmhouse hound and the grace of a Higher Power to pull them to safety. in this case the offending party was... well, i won't say his name, but b.h.h. (bless his heart,) he really got all into the christmas spirit, when the other 20+ people up there were wishing he'd gone a bit more scrooge and shut up. my father was one of them people. somehow my dad ended up right next to him when they got up to sing, and i could just see his face trying to remain neutral - but how do you stay neutral when you got that sound blaring in your ear? one woman in the alto section couldn't stop chuckling when he'd hit some real bad notes. well, luckily - there were enough parts when only the women were singing and enough other parts where it was all in unison, so that it weren't too bad. 'cause even the worst of singers do pretty okay during the unison parts.

but my point here - i do like me some christmas music, and they sang some good ones. i know a few of yall get all uptight when the radio goes all christmas, (and i do try to use terms like "holiday tree," and i try to remember to say "happy holidays" to people instead of "merry christmas," cause i know that the latter can be kinda isolating if you ain't somebody that celebrates christmas,) but i really do like this time of year. and especially here in louisiana; manger scenes everywhere, store employees saying merry christmas in the shopping malls (they ain't never heard of a non-christian down here), and 70 degree weather too. yeah, i can get behind a christmas like this one. (last year was in Laos, and the weather was even warmer than this, but there wasn't no christmas tree out in the village where i was staying.)

so here it is - my favorite christmas albums. and i don't care what anybody says, these are the best. (and the harry connick jr album is real bad, so don't even come up to me with that mess.)

5. the forbidden carols, michael mclean (i know the album ain't called that. but i call it that for obvious reasons to anyone that has heard the whole thing. and the story book that goes along with it is really awful. it's this whole mess about john the revelator flirting with this woman who ultimately cries "the day (she) takes the tree down," so i know that i shouldn't include the album on my list...but i can't help it. i still like it... i just do.)

4. our finest gifts, the nw boychoir and vocal point. i guess you can't buy this one no more, but they got a bunch of others; just go to their website. (i found this album in a 2nde hand shop in the university district, and then i looked em up online to see when they'd be performing. so i ended up seeing them back when their concerts were free; now they cost too much, but this is the best alternative. besides, who else can justifiably sing little drummer boy?)

3. the andy williams christmas album (he just sounds better than the rest. he sounds better than bing crosby, harry connick jr, michael bubbly, frank sinatra, adele, and any other similarly-styled singer living or dead.)

2. home for the holidays, amy grant (this might be an unlikely choice, but seriously, the album adds two songs to the bonafide christmas season staples. and also amy grant really believes in christ. some of the other singers only sing about christmas for the money.)

1. a christmas portrait, the carpenters. (i've never heard the original lp release, just the cd version. but that said, it's amazing; the album plays as one complete piece. and of course this is karen carpenter we're talkin bout here, with some unidentifiable input by her brother richard, i'm guessing. but by far the best christmas album of all time, hands down, 100% sure.)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

the battle rages on...

i am an outsider; i almost feel like i am watching two students fight on the first day of high school. i don't know who they are, but the joy of watching them punch each other is still the same. only i can't say this is joy that i am feeling. well, below is the clip - posted on youtube of course - and i encourage you to go to youtube's site, (well, maybe the word encourage is too strong. maybe i'll just say "you can go to the site if you'd like,") so that you can read the comments posted underneath, (even after the person that put up the video requested that no hate speech be posted.)

but let me explain: some amount of controversy exists over the present-day borders in southeast asia.

and so the war goes on and on. i've heard this for years: thailand took Laos' land and cambodia's land, and they are still trying to claim the khmer temples as their own. cambodia's land was taken over by the vietnamese. the vietnamese stole land from the cham. well, here is an animated map that shows the rise and fall of these kingdoms from 100-1550 ad. and the video is unbiased - it proclaims the map is based on historical fact. watch those early kingdoms move all over the place. it looks like something from the weather channel when a scary storm front is moving in...

but back to the comments... all that swearing? is it really necessary? be nice to each other. if i've learned anything, it's that southeast asians have much more in common (including ancestry for many of them) than what they have in differences. but for now i guess i'll just sit back and watch.

heading home to louisiana for christmas...

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

hell yeah

woo hoo! this is the best thing ever. finally an easy to follow recipe for the best Lao dish ever: tammakhoung. and yes, she does use padek! Jai Lao padek to be exact. buy your padek on the Jai Lao website! anyways, this makes me very happy. and la is funny too; juicy papaya salad means your husband loves you hahahahahahaha!

hell yes.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

hole-in-the-wall review:

this is actually a complimentary review of northend seattle's semi-new Lao/thai restuarant, savatdee. i have posted on this before, so see what all i wrote here and here

but, the part of the seattle weekly article that gave me pause is where the reviewer called the place a "hole-in-the-wall." seriously? what does that phrase even mean if this restaurant is a hole-in-the-wall? erik, laura? jeannette? somebody back me up on this, please. but maybe i'm all offended because it's late at night and i should be in bed rather than reading restaurant reviews... but look at the comment posted by some reader at the bottom of the link; sounds like something i shoulda said.

you need me to repost it, don't you? well, here is the comment in case you are too lazy to click on the link:

hole-in-the-wall? if this place is hole-in-the-wall, then i don't know what that phrase means. i guess you are used to eating a ruth's chris or some other nasty-tasting high-end chain restaurant. weird. and if you call Viengthong, the only real Lao restaurant in seattle a hole-in-the-wall, i will accuse you of being elitist/racist/etc (because you are only calling it that because it's in south seattle.) so you can't win, so don't try. but i do agree: the food at savatdee (not welcome, more like hello) is awesome.

wow... the person making that comment is even meaner than me.  but look at these pictures and decide for yourself if he/she ain't right:

Friday, November 25, 2011

black friday monk

my friend, kone, sent me this picture he took while shopping at 4 am this morning. he included the caption: black friday is for everyone! yup, even the monks know when to get in on the action.

hope yall got everything yall wanted this year. black friday is my favorite holiday - the one holiday that hasn't lost its true meaning.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Laoz really isn't the biggest language

so earlier this week i was looking through facebook and blogs, and i found this link posted on jai Lao's fb page; it is a blog by roland drake who is going to Laos - i think to the village where Jai Lao just built their most recent school - to work on a water sanitation project. here is the link:

his blog is very earnest and sincere, and very much void of the sarcasm and meanness that i got splattered all over mine... and that being said, here i go again; (on to what i really wanted to post about:)

i found this youtube video on roland's blog and it is the best thing since i first ate padek. watch the video, then read my review...

so the wonders of the Laoz language, with its 5 tones, (ain't there 6?) i think that the real difficulty here is that you most likely got an american-born kid teaching people how to speak some basic Laoz. i'm guessing he must be in the mid-west somewhere by himself (without a large Lao community around him,) and so he ain't aware that he don't know Laoz all that well. otherwise he'd never had the courage to post this. in my job i run into quite a few Laoz young people, and they're overly aware of their deficiencies in the language and would never post something like this, even though some of them speak Laoz really well.

but if you're still reading this critique, the main problem (besides the lakone thing: nobody really says lakone unless you're singing a cheesy Lao break-up song; and the inconsistent romanization of Laoz words; and the fish, aunt, and crazy comparison: fish and aunt start with a different consonant (p) than crazy (b); and the coughing up phlegm on camera thing; with all the jump cuts, that could've easily been removed, right?) is what is in the cage behind him? is that a dead hamster back there???

and i know this is mean of me... i really shouldn't say nothing at all, because look at all the comments on youtube from other Lao-american kids who also don't know Lao! so all said and done, props to this kid for putting himself out there and teaching us all something about the Laoz language. (or as they say in Louisiana where i'm from: bless his heart.) and he even has a couple of good jokes: sabaidii does sound a lot like somebody, especially if you can't speak Lao all that good.

Monday, November 14, 2011

bussing it by air in Laos

the Jai Lao Foundation just completed its mission to Laos to build its fourth school in baan hat kham, and while they were in Laos, i really enjoyed checking for the facebook updates - pictures, stories, etc, posted by the mission participants.

if you don't know about Jai Lao, read my previous posts (see labels on sidebar) and go to their website (linked above) and donate!

but one of the facebook posts by the board president included this picture, taken on a flight from Laos to thailand (i think!) with the following caption: Lao airline's new airbus plane. we got to be one of their first flyers on its third day of operation. YAY!! so beautiful and my favorite green color!!!

the plane looks amazing... but seriously? airbus? why not a nice big boeing plane made right here in washington state? maybe if they put that green papya color in their airplanes then Laos might buy one from them too. here is a link to the article about the new airbus planes in Laos. i guess they're getting a second one in december.

Friday, November 11, 2011

importance of ichiro

i've been meaning to post this link for sometime; (well, since the summer when jacob sent it to me...) and even though baseball is over for the year, this is an excellent article about ichiro... or to take it from the writer's caption:

ten years after ichiro suzuki broke into the majors, a reflection on the 2001 mariners, jackie robinson, the four noble truths and the cultural impact of baseball's most enigmatic player.

here is the link to the article by jay caspian kang:

how i miss those 2001 mariners...

Saturday, November 05, 2011

all dogs go to heaven

a real nice picture montage of pet rescues during the recent floods in thailand. thank you wl for sending me this link...

the pictures are real sad... and adding insult to injury, they're paired with one of the worst songs to come out of thai pop music in a long time. unless you believe that all songs of thai pop music genre are the wosrst. was this particular singer drunk/high/drowning when she sang this? tavern karaoke at 2 am sounds better. and for those that might be wondering, this song roughly translates as "thanks for not throwing me away or abandoning me..." (or eating me, in this case.)

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

dengue fever

dengue fever is heading to Laos as a part of their tour of southeast asia. i saw them a couple years back when they came to seattle, and they are just as good as i thought they'd be...

but to see them in Laos, that would be really good. and if you aint heard of them, check out their second album, escape from dragon house.

if you are down that way, here are the tour dates and a link to their website:

11/12 @ FCC, Phnom Penh, CAMBODIA
11/13 @ Epic Arts Center, Kampot, CAMBODIA
11/15 @ Hotel De La Paix, Siem Reap, CAMBODIA
11/16 @ Venue tbd, Battambang, CAMBODIA
11/18 @ Diamond Island Building, Phnom Penh, CAMBODIA
11/23 @ Venue tbd, Vientiane, LAOS
11/26 @ American Club, Hanoi, VIETNAM

Thursday, October 27, 2011

halloween head:

just in time for the 31st. thanks susan for the picture.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

smart and loving it in seattle:

exactly one week after returning from louisiana, i find this opinion post in the seattle times newspaper:

for those that didn't click on the link - it is a piece written by john diaz, (seattle police chief) and sue rahr, (the king county sheriff.) they are plugging early intervention programs as the way to deter crime. there is no mention of money for more police anywhere in their piece, and instead they list research and statistics about the social and financial benefits of early childhood programs.

after reading the previously linked article from the baton rouge paper, i am very pleased to see something like this in the seattle times. and to express my gratitude, i won't say anything bad about the seattle or king county police departments for at least 1 week.

i like how they end their article:

"we would much rather invest in educating kids than pay much more for additional prisons. congress should continue to make early childhood development a priority so today's most at-risk children don't become tomorrow's most wanted adults."

Saturday, October 08, 2011

stupid and loving it in baton rouge:

some of yall already figured this out, but i am home in baton rouge for a visit right now, and i'm having a pretty good time... but sunday morning i woke up to find this article on the front page of the advocate - the only newspaper here after the state times went the way of all the earth. see the link below and then read my comments.

i'm just a bit surprised that the assistant district attorney otha nelson is making these type of comments:

"i wouldn’t say that the problem in baton rouge is extreme,” nelson said. “we have not seen a situation where the public at large is at risk. but we need to get on the front end to ensure it doesn’t get worse.”

nelson seems to imply that as long as it stays within the gang community, then the problem is not extreme. this seems like a white-washed sanitized version of what you'd expect to see in the comment section of the article from the ignorant and prejudiced folk: "as long as it's those black kids, then who cares?" or "let them gang members kill each other - then they'll be less of them!"

in seattle, the murder rate is so much lower. and even though i don't completely agree with how mayor nickel's youth violence initiative has played out (i.e., who got the money, and that it's the exact same thing as before only a different name,) at least the public officials had something more progressive in mind than what they are doing in baton rouge: putting a mother of two juvenile offenders in jail for 30 days; this mother is undoubtedly lacking the resources to parent her children, so i'm not sure this backwoods idea of justice helped any.

i love my city, but i'm disheartened to hear the public officials comment and attempt a definition of gangs - calling them "factions," or spending time and money chasing them down on facebook. they really sound disconnected and sophomoric. just look at this quotation from DA nelson:

we were seeing young men being arrested for violent crimes and then we were seeing deaths,” nelson said. “there were coincidences that made us realize we were dealing with something here.”

is just it possible that he's trying to sound stupid? i thought they'd figured out they were dealing with "something" back in 2009 when this video hit the streets:

it might be nice to hear more about their prevention efforts. so my hat's off to people like arthur reed, who are trying to do this difficult work.

by the way, for those keeping score, the advocate has a nice "murder map" so we can tour all the sights of this year's murders in baton rouge! or maybe even sit back in our easy chairs with a cold drink and a bowl of zapp's potato chips while watching our 46-inch tvs and collectively say aloud, "glad all that s*** ain't happenin' in my hood!"

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Sunday, October 02, 2011

asian food at an italian restaurant, why not?

i saw this seattle times article about the christopher kong, son of the owners of the italian restaurant perche' no, only a few weeks after i met the kid.

if you've never been to perche' no, then give it a go. it's just south of green lake, and although it's as expensive as you'd expect, i really really enjoyed the food. i can't remember the names of anything we ate except the ravioli, or i'd give you our menu.

we'd gone to celebrate jeanette's birthday, and lily (the mom) prepared a special menu for us that lasted all night. it was friggin awesome. (we started around 7:30 and left sometime after 11 pm.) i should mention that jeanette has been going to perche' no for a long time now and so the owners know her by name. lily made her a sign that said happy birthday, and she took her picture and came out to visit numerous times throughout the evening. she even gave us a tour of the rooftop and sat us down to take a picture up there as well. and this may be what they are best at - lily and david really know how to reach out to their customers. all throughout the night, customers would call to her by name, "hello, lily!" or "thank you, lily!" (her husband david is less-polished and some of his comments bordered on the crass and the uncomfortable, especially there at the end of the night. you can ask our friend laura about this. [laura? did you yelp about our trip there or not?])

before continuing, here is a link to the article about christopher:

so on the way out, lily had mentioned that she grew up in thailand, (so we spoke some thai to each other,) and that her son christopher had just returned from a trip to southeast asia - that morning! he got in at 6:00 in the morning and then turned around and unbelievably came into the restaurant to help cook that evening. i stopped to speak to him about his trip, and about what he'd learned, and specifically about Laos. he was kind of busy behind the counter cooking something or nother, but he conversed with me a bit anyways. they were already planning for their first (or second?) asian cuisine night, and lily had given me a flier about it. well, christopher told me about learning asian cooking in malaysia and then traveling around for a bit afterwards.
"yeah, we traveled all night to get to luang prabang, and stayed there a couple of days before going to vientiane." he told me.
"what did you think?" i asked.
"well, there wasn't anything in vientiane, so we left that next day for thailand."

for those of you have been blessed to go to Laos, insert your own commentary here. for the rest of you, i will insert mine: WTH? if christopher was "eating his way through...Laos," then a few days just ain't doing Laos justice. wow, khao poun, khao soy, tammakhoung, laap, kaeng nommai alone would take you more than a few days. as they say, why eat at all if you ain't gonna eat in Laos? (they do say that, trust me.) but i know that not everybody has the Laos bug like me. (that is figurative, i ain't talking about traveler's diarrhea.) in fact, while at the Lao restaurant in south seattle, a white friend once said to me after i passed them the tammakhoung and they caught a whiff of the padek: "get that away from me! i'm gonna throw up!"

i spent a lot of money on therapy after that one.

but don't get me wrong; christopher is definitely the real deal in how he stuck it out in his homeland... so i might just go to one of these asian cuisine nights at an italian restaurant - just so i can see what all he learned while off in malaysia in that open air kitchen. i'm not expecting much padek in my food though... so imma have to sit at home and eat that all by myself...

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Laos: where you can buy anything...

i was on vientiane times website and saw this article... it appears that this Lao guy tried to bribe some immigration officer in new york and got caught. see the article here:

and then to make matters worse, he decided to say, "i thought it was like my country, where you can buy anything." i am not sure what he really means, but the newspaper sure seemed to get a kick out of it.

because i'm pretty sure that you can buy anything in america; in fact, "buying anything" is what defines our great nation. and so i think i will buy a jumbo jack (with four tomatoes!) from jack in the box tomorrow. (you can't buy that in Laos.) and i am guessing there's plenty of public officials in america who are willing to be bribed; you just gotta find the right one.

so good job joe, making Laos look bad.

Monday, September 12, 2011

just like a waving flag...

so i was finishing up a meeting with a client the other day, and he gave me a Lao flag; he had a few of them.  (they were from a relative's funeral, he'd explained.) well, i happily accepted the flag - it's pretty small, and i used to have a big one hanging in my office, but i finally gave it away to this Lao kid that wanted it a lot more than i did.

but as i was looking it over, i noticed something strange:

a closer look in case you didn't see it the first time:

yeah... there is a cross on top of the parasol. and the real Lao flag... well, it aint got no cross. see below, (held proudly by some Lao-american rapper i aint never heard of:)

but not that it matters, right? this isn't even the flag of Laos anymore; it's defunct, having been traded in (by the communist regime) for the less ornate, much easier for the school kids to draw, version:

but what's funny is that the Lao flag (the former) contains a bit of buddhist symbolism - the three-headed elephant (while representing the three kingdoms of Laos to many of the Lao people) is a buddhist/hindu symbol for greatness. and the parasol is also of buddhist origin.


here is a link to a summary of the present Lao flag's meaning, and it seems to jive with what i have heard before. (and interestingly, it is one of the few communist countries whose flag aint got a star on it:)

well, i guess if the flag is a mix of hindu, buddhism, Lao history and legnd, then why not throw in a little christianity too by sticking a cross on top of it all? in the end, i believe that everyone has the privilege to worship according to the dictates of their own conscience, and that we should allow everyone that same privilege, (i.e., let them worship how, where, or what they may.) so do what you will with the former flag of Laos. in fact, maybe christians should do something with the american flag too... (and maybe they already have..) maybe something like this?

Friday, August 26, 2011

the magic string on a bag of rice

i aint even joking when i say there is a magic string on a bag of rice. lotsa yall know this already, but all bags of rice are stitched shut with this string thing - there's like three strings altogether - and if you find the magic string (the others are false leads like dead ends in a maze) and if you pull that one string, the whole bag will just open up and then you can get your rice out the bag. i was camping a bit ago and nobody could figure it out... one guy insisted that he'd seen is moms do it before, but when it got down to it, we had to use a knife to cut the strings. people were getting hungry for their rice so we couldn't wait there forever while he tried to find the magic string! and here is a picture of him trying to do just that:

well, i figured everything is on youtube, so i thought that when i get back i gotta get on the youtube and see if somebody got something to tell me how to do this... and here's what i found -- bag is from thailand, but not the teacher!

well, it takes him so long on that second string (and i had no idea what he was even doing cause i couldn't see nothing) that i kept yelling at him through my computer screen: "open it with a knife already!!!" that video wasn't much helpful, so i looked some more and found this one. thai rice with a thai teacher, (woo hoo! i can understand!) and only 1 minute open time...

he even does a "beup!" sound effect when he makes the
scissor cut. i like this one a lot. but seriously, can anybody post something in english?

i feel like this is a long time coming. i need to be able to do this. problem is, i just opened my rice (jasmine and sticky), so it may be a while before i get through all 25 lbs so i can practice. (unless somebody out there just bought a bag and needs it opened...)

Thursday, August 18, 2011

one more reason for china to be anxious about taiwan

lebron james participaed in a basketball game while on some nike tour of asia.  here is what happened:

i think america's basketball prowess just got downgraded by the s&p to an AA+ rating...
here is an article about the incident:

thanks emerson; i stole this link from your fb page...

Friday, August 05, 2011

i am Lao

here is a pretty awesome song called "khoy pen Lao" (i am Lao,) and it mostly talks about Lao food, rice liquor, and bugs that Lao people eat. and it has my favorite line: i eat sticky rice, chew it with the chunky padek.

well, one of my clients informed me that this is the ring tone he set for me, so every time i call, he answers singing this song... well, obviously i am honored by the designation. but i'm kinda confused as well. i thought i made it clear that i wanted to be mien.

(i almost got this song memorized... one verse left to go.)

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

the tree of life

ben said, "you gotta see it in the theatre - if you watch it on dvd, you'll get distracted."
i say, "see it in the theatre more than one time."  i'm going again on next tuesday to see the best movie of the year; in fact, why don't they just hold the academy awards tonight? and then they could give all the awards to this one right here:

but i should give you a word of caution: this movie aint for everyone; it aint like nothing you ever seen before.  i hear that some people have gotten up and left the theatre, thinking that the movie is more like some preview that never ended.  read moira's review and you'll see what i mean.

so meet me at the egyptian on capitol hill at 8:00 pm if you're fixing to come watch it on tuesday.  show starts at 8:15. see yall there. 

Thursday, July 21, 2011


yes chandra... 78 minutes.  i got my info from a faulty source.  regardless, joseph gordon-levitt got 500 days, and all we get is a little over an hour?  can't wait for autumn...

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

66 minutes of summer


so seattle is making me mad. i wait all year for july, and then it gets here and all we get is 66 minutes of temperatures above 80 degrees, and only 19 hours of temps above 75 degrees. it just aint right... ima file a law suit.  and everywhere else is getting 100 degree temps!  wow. thanks alena for making me aware of how miserable this summer is turning out to be.

does any of yall wanna go to Laos for the summer?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

russell is asian

dear you-know-who-you-are:
this really aint important, but seriously... how could you watch the whole movie and not know that russell is asian. i realize that his race is not a part of the plot, but seriously... i mean, i know that he is a cartoon and that all cartoons look alike, but seriously? and they even show his mom at the end, and she ain't got a baseball cap like russell to cover up her asian-ness...and plus, you said it was one of your favorite movies? seriously...

but i need to reiterate: i know it aint all that important (other than it's pixar's first asian casting in a leading role; see wikipedia for that one,) but it is kinda important for jordan nagai, a japanese american, and the child voice actor for russell... and what's more, you wouldn't even believe me when i told you, so you had to text message your friend that works at pixar??? (but i gotta admit - that is pretty cool that you know someone who works at pixar. i only know folks who are out of work mostly.)

well, anyway... here is a picture of a kid who clearly knew that russell was and ever will be asian:

Friday, July 08, 2011

cambodia's curse

below is the link to a book review of a new book on cambodia. while most of the book is on the modern state of cambodia, the author has a section on cambodians in america and how ptsd can be passed on generationally.

i haven't read it,(nor have i read several other books that i bought about cambodia.) but i saw it on the shelf down at powells two fridays ago, and i thought, "wow, another book on cambodia?" not that you can have too many books on cambodia, but really... you kinda can, especially if you haven't read the 10 or so that you already have.

but if i do eventually purchase and read this book, i will say more, right here on this blog...

Sunday, June 26, 2011

ode to my sister

my sister just completed a week-long visit to seattle. she returned to louisiana, the state of my birth with quite amount of fanfare that i will not get into here. but she loved seattle - the view of mountains and hills in pretty much every direction you might look - and the smells, particularly downtown where the salt water mixes with the carnival aroma of things cooking at pike place market (or maybe even mcdonald's on the corner of 3rd and pine.) she and so many of my siblings have tried to shake themselves of their louisiana heritage, while i guess i might be the only one that wants to embrace it. maybe it's because of all that time we spent in california when my dad was in the air force. (i hardly was in california at all; my dad retired before i even started kindergarten and brought me back louisisana.) and now i've been gone from home for more years than i like to think about, but i spend too much time in my job talking about culture and heritage to not see its importance for me- so i find myself wanting to reclaim mine.

i know i've posted on this (and mincemeat pie) before, but the feeling of disconnect from my roots seems to intensify over time. i think my louisiana heritage is much muted by the fact that i've lost my accent - sold it for a mess of pottage as it were, by coming up to seattle and so readily embracing the scene here; thus i am looked at incredulously when i tell people i'm from baton rouge. also, we didn't eat crawfish growing up. my mother is not cajun nor was she poor, and thus, crawfish wasn't something her family would eat. and i didn't grow up hanging in the treme, (watching people sashay past my steps.) so what do i have left? well, i still have my sisters and my dad that live there, and i can still go home. and my sister, to her eternal dismay, still has a southern accent that gets the jealousy stirred up inside me. and she hates her accent! (so much so that when she says, "i hate my accent," she says hate with two syllables.) but no matter, seattle loved her - everywhere she went there was a conversation, and seattle quickly realized that they could look up at the sky or into each other's eyes and say things... yes, to quote my sister, "seattle finds me quaint and adorable!" there are some other quotations from my sister, but i won't get into those here either.

but the point of this post: while my sister was here in seattle, i felt my tongue loosen. (how else can i describe this?) my brain somehow sent signals to my mouth, my tongue, the air coming up out of my lungs! and my brain told my voice to loosen it up a bit, to revisit the past, to speak how i shoulda been speaking all these years, how i used to speak before. (oh yeah, i know some of yall didn't know this, but believe you me, i did have an accent! i've seen videos of me as a kid, and i look at me and feel all confused, like it aint really me at all, just some other kid wearing a shirt or sweater that looks like something i used to wear back when i was growing up.) well, this past week, i felt my southern accent return. when talking to my sister, i'd speak the words like they're supposed to be spoken, and the sound of my tone and voice, it was how it shoulda been! and like a father killing the fatted calf for the returning prodigal, i felt inclined to throw myself a party. so i ate a lot of doughnuts and pretended they were beignets. it really was a week-long mardis gras.

but its sunday morning, and it's gone now, my accent. my sister left and took with her my ability to speak it... if i try, it sounds like i'm imitating. when did it go? where did it go? i'm not upset that its gone, more happy to have had it hang around if even for a little while. felt like more than just my sister had come to visit, but my past and my former self. so this is for you wana lee! (and for your accent!!) thanks you for reminding me of it, for bringing it out of me, and for giving me the most important reason of all to return home.

by the way, check out the opening credits of treme. this has gotta be one of the best tv show openers of all time - from the music to the images of katrina mold and vintage scenes of new orleans:

here is the full song by john boutte:

Saturday, June 25, 2011


congrats to daravanh for her winning essay and the opportunity to accompany Jai Lao foundation to Laos to build a school in banh hat kham! and thanks to everyone that voted!

and if you're in cali today, don't forget to stop by the Jai Lao foundation's annual fund raising dinner! but actually, on second thought... i think you have to reserve your ticket, so it might be too late...

well, here's the link anywayz...

Friday, June 17, 2011

Jai Lao's essay contest: banh hat kham

i've posted all the essays for the Jai Lao build-a-school-in-Laos contest! if you haven't had a chance, read them below - or go to the Jai Lao facebook page, like Jai Lao and read them there. then you can vote on which one you like best.

i will be voting for essay #1, and so i encourage everyone to get on facebook and vote for banh hat kham! this is a very close race, so vote now.

here is my reasoning - while every village in Laos needs a school, banh hat kham has the ground work already laid. the land has been identified and cleared, teachers are ready to teach, and an organization is already in the community and can assist with the ongoing negotiations to ensure the success of the school.

i appreciate all the hardwork that JLF has put into their missions in Laos. and i am excited to see another school built!

the contest ends next friday, so vote now:!/note.php?note_id=10150197409086644

Thursday, June 16, 2011

banh meuang kham

essay #4:


I remember sitting at the dining table one hot afternoon, complaining about the amount of homework third graders had to do when I should be outside playing. Telling myself how stupid school was, would I really use all these subjects as an adults and why am I wasting this beautiful day inside instead of outside with my friends. Not only did I grow up in a small town of Opelika, Alabama; I was that 1 out of 5 Asians in my school that spent more time observing the other students than interacting with them. I thought whoever wanted to go to school was an idiot!

My aunt, Monekham, who just came from Laos, would often sit down with us when we did our homework. Interested in the subjects American school s offer, she would ask us how Laotian schools were compared to American schools. She then reminisced about how difficult it was to go to school back in Laos. The children there wanted to go to school but couldn't. I just didn't comprehend what she meant by that. Why would anyone want to go to school when they had an option not to? And she couldn't comprehend why I didn't want to go to school.

As she tried to explain it to me, I could feel the seriousness in her voice, the way her eyes got glassy about a very corrupt country and hard life back in Laos. Even as an 8 yr old, seeing someone's eyes moistens up signified the universal language for sadness. She described her early morning 20 minute walk on a dark dirt road from her village, Baan Muang Kham (Xieng Khouang), to the next village where a school was available. Her village had a small school but it was only from grades 1-3 and the children would be lucky if they had a teacher. After elementary school, she had to go to another city to continue her education. She always reminds us how fortunate we are to have many schools, buses, textbooks, and teachers to accommodate us. She was very proud to grow up without a parent but still get the chance to get an education.

Unlike her, there are thousands of other children who wants to read and write, sit in a classroom and gain book knowledge. They weren't able to do so because there were no schools nearby since Laos is not developed enough due to lack of educational. So many children help out their family by finding jobs at a young age to help feed their parent and other younger kids in the family. It is a game of survival of the fittest. Life was their school and teachings. They would never be able to experience sitting in a classroom and reading a textbook like our kids are in the United States.

When I saw Jai Lao's posting for this contest, I thought of my aunt immediately and knew how much entering her village in this contest would mean to her. After explaining the contest to my aunt, she repeately asked, "Wow, so they are really going to build an actual school, school? With teachers?" The excitement in her voice was priceless.

With the lack of knowledge I have on Baan Muang Kham, I started doing my research and also had my aunt contact some of her family and friends in this village. Please forgive me if some of my facts are off, but getting resources on such a small village is so limited, we can only go by the information that were given from a relative who currently resides there. Baan Muang Kham is a small village of about 30 families. The village consists of an old elementary school, that often lacks teachers. If a school is built there, not only Baan Muang Kham but the surrounding small villages will benefit from walking lesser miles for education. Children will have consistency in education because the governor will provide teachers for them. As you can see, all the Googling I did about this tiny village wouldn't be enough resource for me to speak so thoroughly about. This is how unexplored part of Laos are, to know more about this part I would have to speak to people who once lived in this village. Right now Laos is islolated from the rest of the world, not only through educational advancement, but also because the people there don't have the tools to communicate to the rest of the world about where they come from. That's why it's so important to build schools and bring awareness to everyone outside of Laos. It starts with a small gesture and from there on, it grows and maybe one day we can build a school in every village just like American has schools for every X amount per capital.

Here I am, over two decades later and finally realizing what my aunt said to me made sense. My friend MeMe and I had a conversation about how we always wanted to have a foundation of our own to help Laotian and Thai people back at home-we didn't know how or what, but we knew we wanted to do something. But did it matter as long as we are dedicated, and inspire others to do the same? Whether it is raising money to send supplies back home, building a school, or even educating today's youth about keeping our traditions alive, we know that it starts with "you". We both told each other with faith and supporters behind us it could happen.

So when we came across Jai Lao's contest we knew we had to do our best. This opportunity will give both of us a wonderful experience to serve on one of Jai Lao great missions. Being raised in America for almost 30 years and living the American way doesn't mean we have to lose all sense and tradition of our Laotian way. We surely don't have the appearance of traditional Asians, but that's what would set us a part from the stereotype. If we could educate other younger 2nd, 3rd generation Laotians in America about our mission and/or traditions, then we can keep our culture alive and not let it wash away.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

banh houay xai

essay #3:

Embracing My Roots

I wake up to blaring alarm clocks, Facebook, and live by what my over packed electronic calendar on my iphone tells me to do. Half way around the globe, there are people who wake up to the sound of roosters and live by what the sun and stars provide them. While I start my day complaining about having to get up for work, commuting, and running myself ragged with my kid’s extracurricular activities, these people start their day fetching water from a well, sow their fields, and walk miles to the market to sell their crops to support their families.

It’s no wonder my parents looked to Ah-may-leekah (America) in search of freedom for their future but mostly for mine. The price to pay? I have no memories. I have kept zero to little tradition. Worst yet, I have no photographs except the one shown of my childhood in Laos. But I am educated. There was never a doubt that I would be. My parents believed an education held promises for a better life.

We left Laos when I was 4 and we never lookedback. I never had any interest in embracing my culture because all I wanted to be was an American. I didn’t want to be made fun of at school for looking different, for speaking different, and “darn it! why did e-meh (mom) pack me a ball of sticky rice for my lunch while everyone else had peanut butter and jelly sandwiches?” I wanted nothing to do with being Laotian until recently.

My secret desire to learn about my motherland was sparked in December 2009. I met an older Caucasian man at a holiday party. Drunk conversations can often be hilarious but never educational... he knew more about Laos than I did. He traveled thru Laos in the late 70s and fell in love with the country. He told me about Luang Prabrang, Huay Xai, Muang Sing and a bunch of other small villages. Although I wasn’t drunk, I couldn’t tell him which province I was from.

When I tell people I’m from Laos, they usually don’t have a clue where the country is so why bother with details of province and village. He told me stories of how each village was very rich in tradition, hospitality, and especially compassion for a stranger.

After the party, I declared that visiting Laos was going on my bucket list. The next day I called my parents and asked them where we lived in Laos. My mother is from Ban Huay Xai and my father is from Muang Sing. I’m not certain whether it’s a coincidence that my family is from the places that Caucasian man was telling me about.

Later in January 2010, my son’s preschool class asked me to share some traditions for their multicultural day event. One event led to another and that year I learned a bit more about Laos. One sleepless night, I was surfing the internet and stumbled upon Jai Lao Foundation (JLF). I don’t even remember googling anything on Laos but somehow one link led to another link that led me to JLF.

Perhaps it was a coincidence that all these strings of events has led me to this opportunity to be a part of JLF’s mission to build another school for the Laotian children. Each event and each link I visited got me closer to connecting with my parents and initiating a long over due and rare conversation about our culture.

Every child, no matter the culture, has heard the story of how their parents walked miles and miles to school in snow, rain, and sleet. My mom is definitely no exception. She literally walked a long distance from her village to go to school. She didn’t attend preschool or elementary school as there was none available. She was a teenager when she first attended school and she says, “I would stop by the noodle house and eat kow soy midway to school because it was that far.” As the only daughter amongst three older brothers, she had many responsibilities handed to her so she was very fortunate to receive an education even though it was very minimal. There was no time for formal education when there are other important things to worry about such as the basic survival of the family.

My intention of nominating a school for the villages of Huay Xai is to not only bring a school closer to their village or to give them an opportunity for more education, but to be the example of why it’s important to know where you are from and most importantly to not be ashamed of your culture. Building a school in the villages would be an easy thing to accomplish with the proper resources, but teaching people to look inside of them and empower them to stay grounded in their roots is a much more rewarding service.

As a yoga teacher, I am rewarded and inspired by the many students who begin to spark transformations through the practice of yoga to find their authentic self. As I commit to my practice, I realize that sometimes I struggle to find my authentic self because I’m not grounded in my roots. I’ve grown up in a place where external influences heavily taint my true self. I’ve masked myself with layers of social domestication because I wanted to fit in. These past few years, yoga has slowly helped me peel away the layers so I may get a glimpse of who my true self is. Sometimes I find things that I don’t like about me, but the process of finding that part of me helps me to grow and become what’s already inside of me and not what I should become.

Without a doubt, the villagers will be overwhelmed with gratitude for their new school. To these under-served children, a pencil, a teacher, and a classroom can bring the promise of a future with choice. This is what my parents created for me. However, as I live and grow, I can see clearly that an education alone does not promise a ticket to a better life. I’m discovering that we all have choices no matter what our socioeconomic status is. It’s a simple choice of choosing to be guided by our life’s experience and using those experiences as a platform to create future choices or be stuck in the story of “poor me... if only I had more of I could live a happier life.” My wish for these students is to bring their real life experiences into their new classrooms and use it to create possibilities.

Each village deserves to be the recipient of a very generous gift from JLF. However, I chose my mom’s village in Ban Huay Xai. If chosen, I would choose without hesitation to have my mom accompany me on my journey to Laos. It would be a dream come true for her because she tells me the house she grew up in is still standing. She has never visited the Motherland since immigrating here. Many stories would unfold from our visit and I imagine many tears would be shed.

What intrigues and scares me most at the same time is the connection I would be rebuilding with my mom. There is much mystery and opportunities to be discovered by not only my mom and I, but for those Laotian faces that are smeared rich with experience and humanity. There is no question that these little faces would educate me beyond what any classroom could provide for them. They are already rich in many ways... a classroom would just be the sacred space for them to explore their highest potential.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

banh pherk

here is essay #2 from the Jai Lao foundation's contest. see my previous posts below for details. please like Jai Lao on facebook and then vote for an essay!!/pages/Jai-Lao-Foundation/86902157936?sk=notes

First of all, I would like to Thank you all for giving everyone an opportunity to submit this essay.

I would like to share my childhood memory with you of a small remote village by the name of Ban Pherk. This village is about 40 minutes drive out skirt from Vientiane. As a kid, I remembered walking on the red dirt road for 5 or 10 minutes to the village school as a first grader. The school bench was made out of logs that has been cut in halves and not stained. Students shared desk with other classmates in a classroom with no electricity or bathroom. Every morning before starting class, we all stood in front of the school and sang the Lao Anthem song. The school exist of 1st to 4th grade only. After that, students has to go to another village name Elai which is about 20 minutes driving distance. Most of the people in this village do not own cars, so the education stops at the 4th grade level. Ban Pherk is not a village that I was born in, but it was the last village that I can remember as a kid living in Laos. I consider this village my childhood hometown village. As I remember there is only 1 school there. The village has no playground anywhere not even at the school. I believe in higher education for every children in the world, and I would like this village to have that opportunity as well. If there is an opportunity in the future, I would like to explore this village with the Jai Lao Boards to build a Secondary school. With an educated children in the village, they will be able to provide and contribute to their community as well as to Laos and the World outside of Laos. This would be an opportunity of a lifetime for me and this village to have a Secondary School build within walking distance for the children to attend. I would be able to visit my parents homeland and reconnect with people in the village in helping Jai Lao Foundation build a school, if Ban Pherk is chosen.

Since both of my parents has passed now, I do not know too much about where my parents raised us as a kid in Laos. Most of my relatives are back in Laos. Our dad passed away 1 month after we arrived in the US and my mother was in her early 30's with 5 young children. My mother passed at the age of 50 losing her final life battle to cancer. After my father passed, my mother had to learn to drive and work to support her children. We didn't do much family events together because mom always had to work to support us. I didn't understand why she had 2 or maybe even 3 jobs back then. Now I understand all the sacrifices that she had made to provide for her children. The one promise that my dad requested from my mom before he passed was to make sure his children all attend college for higher education. My mother worked and show us her strength and ambition for us children to further our education not only for ourselves but to make our hard working mother proud and have pride in her children. At each graduation ceremony, my mom would cry nonstop and I used to be so embarrassed. But now I understand her feelings of joy and accomplishment of the promise she made to her late husband. I like to learn more about Ban Pherk and have more compassion for the people of the village. This will show me where my parents came from as well as where I came from and where I would be if my mother did not make the decision to escape Laos to meet up with my dad who escaped the War and was already in Thailand waiting for his family.

It's very difficult for me to take my mind back to the past because there was a lot of sad memories. I look forward everyday for a brighter and better day. As immigrants, we all have the same kind of story but every story is different and unique for that family. I remember going back and forth hiding in 2 of our Aunt's house in Vientiane before escaping to Thailand. My mother sewed gold jewelry inside the Sinh that I was wearing. We rode in a boat to cross the Mekong River with my mom, 1 brother and 2 sisters and a cousin who was about 15 years old who was very beautiful with long wavy hair. I remember the only light lighting the way in the Mekong River was the cigarette light from the man who was rowing the boat. I stared at the glowing embers of the fire, observing the smoke fly away and gradually fade to nothingness. I heard several gunshots along the way and even saw a dead body floating in the river. My mother covered my mouth before I can even scream in terror. We walked up from the boat to the Thailand soil that dark morning. We saw 2 Thai Officials carrying guns. Before they took us to the Nongkai Camp in Thailand, there was a bribery between the 2 Thai Officials and my 15 years old cousin. I remembered they took her somewhere and brought her back later with her white shirts missing buttons. I don't know much about time back then, but the wait to see her face was so still and silent. The only noise I heard was my mom cries in anger the whole time until my beautiful cousin came back with the 2 Thai officials. I kept thinking in my mind the whole time, what is happening to my beautiful cousin and where did they take her, and when will I see her again??? She came back looking so upset with anger and fear. She non stop cried nonstop in tears until she sat in silent. As I got older, I made an educated guess what happened to my cousin. I think the 2 Thai Officials violated her soul to pay for our ways to the Nongkai Camp in Thailand. I never asked my mom about it, but I'm pretty sure that was what happened. Maybe my mom though we were too young to even know what was happening and hope that we did not remember this past. It's something that we never discussed or talk about ever again. With this is my mind as a child, it made me a stronger person and to believe in the ability of attaining a higher education and maybe one day go back in the past to the village my parents once lived and see how I can help this village. Taking the effort to write this essay is my first step in trying to help my fellow classmates and Lao citizens back home who did not take the opportunity to escape Laos and experience the life in America. If my parents can bring us to the America so their children can have a higher education and fight the many obstacles along the way, there is no reason why anyone of the village kids should not attend school or have the opportunity to do so if the secondary school is built in this town. I would even like to tell the village people our family struggle and experiences to the US, just to motivate parents to allow their children to attend school. Our family is one of the very few that left the town.

In 2009, I made my first journey back to Laos and visited Ban Pherk for a brief 30 minutes. My last memory about Ban Pherk, it was one of those rare morning that the sun manages to peek out from the thick, ominous clouds that have disappeared for many days, revealing the vivid bright sky and the warmth of the bright sunlight seeping through my face as we walk out of this village. At that very moment, I felt and saw a brighter light somewhere else in the future or place as if we were following the rainbow to search for the pot of gold. Many years has passed by in the blink of an eye and I came back to Ban Pherk and everything still looked the same with very little changes in the village. I did not have the opportunity to explore the village, but it looked very small. I remember as a kid the house we lived in had more land. I was told the land was sold out. My parents used to farm rice field and that was sold out too by relatives. When I went back to the house we used to live in, i had very few recollection of the house. To my surprise, my brother remembers every land and lot that belonged to my late grandmother. The fondest memory I had was having lunch with my parents on a hut in the rice field while my brother was fishing. While visiting the Village's Wat, I was looked for my grandmother's Tombstone which was no where to be found. I discovered that the day of her funeral, it rained so hard and her ashes were never collected. Grandmother's Tombstone was never built. I felt so hurt by this discovery, my eyes was draining tears as if I was trying to fill up the water in the Mekong River. When I returned to the US, I told my siblings about the story and we built a Tombstone to honor my grandmother at the Wat. The most precious thing that my aunt in Laos gave me that belonged to her only brother were spoons that she found at the house we left behind. She gave me 2 of the spoons which I feel very honored to have since this is the only belongings that I have from my late father. In meeting and learning about Jai Lao Foundation, it gave me the courage to travel back in time to my past which I remember in Ban Pherk. In that travel, I learned more of where my life started, the struggles my parents took, the life of my parents, and who I am and who I could have been if I was still living in Ban Pherk now.

Seeing the innocent people at the Wat who are now all strangers to me, but could have once been my parents friends, made me want to explore more about the town to learn more where I came from and where my parents came from. After going back to Laos, I realize the painful memories I fear was now in the past. We all make choices and our parents made choices for our future. It was not an easy struggle and there were sacrifices along the way to the land of freedom and opportunity. Parents in Laos have this opportunity to support their children to attend school and children have the decision for their future. If they understand our immigrant struggles, then maybe education will be a priority for our Lao people too. An educated person will have an educated choice in life and a brighter future no matter where they reside. By building schools and giving educations to the hundreds and later thousands of children in Laos, Jai Lao Foundation is giving the best gift anyone can give to a child. I would like to nominate Ban Pherk to have this opportunity for a secondary education for the children of this village. This is the best life time opportunity that I can do help the people of this village is to share knowledge. Education is not up to the mark at Ban Pherk due to lack of institutions. The lack of proper infrastructure or school are the main drawback which directly effects the growth of the development in this village. Agriculture is the main occupation of the villagers. The cultural and social life of the villagers are simple and comfortable. They seem to be contented with what they have because it's what they know. If a Secondary School is build at Ban Pherk, Most if not all kids in the village, and maybe other villages will be entering the school to acquire the knowledge they need and further help with the development of their village in the future to come.

Thank your for reading my life memory which started in BAN PHERK, a small remote village in Laos. Please considerate your VOTE for BAN PHERK for Jai Lao Foundation to build a Secondary School to give the children of this village an opportunity to higher education than just a 4th grader.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

ban hat kham

over the next several days, i will post about the Jai Lao contest to build their fourth school in Laos. (see my previous post.) Jai Lao is doing awesome work in bringing education to young people in Laos, and they are sponsoring a contest to bring another school to Laos - and allowing supporters of Jai Lao to decide which village will have a school built. Four essays have been written asking for support.

if you "like" Jai Lao organization on facebook, you will then be able to help decide which of these villages will have their school built.

here is the first of four essays that are posted on the Jai Lao page:

Situated two and a half hours north of Luang Prabang then an hour and 45 minutes by boat further north up the river Nam Ou, Ban Hat Kham is built in mountain terrain and nestled in groves of trees. The village has no paved roads, no electricity, and no latrines. It is home to 53 Khmu families and has a population of 307 residents. Their homes, made of bamboo with mostly thatch or tin roofs, are perched on stilts and clustered close together.

The residents of Ban Hat Kham are extremely poor. Their estimated per capita annual income is a mere tenth of the meager $986 national average (U.S Department of States, November 30, 2010, Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs). Their geographic location limits their economic mobility. They rely heavily on subsistence farming, gathering, hunting, trapping, and fishing for their survival. The villagers mainly barter for goods among themselves, although they occasionally earn cash by selling farm goods, basketries, and livestock to outsiders who pass through.

Ban Hat Kham needs a new school that will provide education to preschoolers through third graders. The village has a school teacher and 49 students but no school building. In 2010, monsoons destroyed the village school, a simple bamboo structure. The villagers salvaged a chalkboard, some desks, and a few wooden benches and tables. No textbooks exist in the village.

The residents want to build a two-room school but lack the funds. As a temporary measure, the local government allows the teacher to hold school in the village’s community center where village council meetings are held. The community center, an open structure with no windows or shutters, is not a suitable location. During the wet and windy season, which can last up to five months, classes are usually cancelled. This substantial gap in the school year disrupts the students’ educational progress.

Steve Rutledge, founder of Adopt a Village in Laos (AAVIL), a Canada-based nonprofit organization, obtained approval from the local government to build a two-room primary school and provide water purification systems and hygienic latrines. AAVIL had a donor lined up to fund the school. Unfortunately, the donor withdrew the offer when the Lao government announced a proposal to build a dam near the village. The dam proposal is in its early stages. If the project is eventually approved, which may take an estimated seven to ten years, Ban Hat Kham would be submerged in water, and the residents would be forced to relocate.

While the proposal creates a degree of uncertainty, the developers have promised to relocate the village and replace everything the villagers lose, including any buildings such as a school. The education of these children cannot be placed on hold while the decision is made. Most children in Laos do not make it past the 5th grade. A delay of a single year costs the children a large percentage of their potential education. They can’t afford to wait. They need a school now.

AAVIL does not currently have funding to build a school for Ban Hat Kham. A partnership with the Jai Lao Foundation is all it would take to make the dream of obtaining a new school a reality. Mr. Rutledge indicated that AAVIL is excited to collaborate with Jai Lao and has pledged to donate a water filter system to every family in Ban Hat Kham and to the school. In addition, the organization will provide school supplies and two toilets to the school when it is built.

According to Mr. Rutledge, the residents of Ban Hat Kham are eager to help build a new school. They have committed to supply wood and collect gravel and sand from the river. The villagers have shown initiative in cleaning the old school site and clearing debris to prepare for the new building.

Thanks to the preliminary work completed by AAVIL, Ban Hat Kham provides an opportunity for Jai Lao and its supporters to improve lives quickly. With so many deserving villages, deciding which one to assist will be difficult; however, I believe Ban Hat Kham is the ideal location for Jai Lao’s new school project.

this essay was written by a good friend of mine, daravanh! if you wish to vote for ban hat kham, "like" Jai Lao, then "like" essay #1.

Friday, June 10, 2011

building a school

i've posted about the Jai Lao foundation before. they are a wonderful organization that has been working to build schools in rural parts of Laos. (and one of their fund raisers is selling Jai Lao padek!) they are currently beginning construction on another school right now.

if you are on facebook, look for them and "like" them, and you can see their info and photos of the work they've done.

they were awarded money from chase bank to build more schools, and so they are holding a contest - four people have submitted essays describing the needs of a village in Laos, and based on fb votes, a school will be built in one of those villages.

here are the rules:

Jai Lao Village School Search Rules

The Village Essay School Search will run from Friday, June 10 through Friday, June 24. Here are the four villages asking for your vote to have Jai Lao build a school in their village: BANH HAT KHAM~ESSAY 1, BAN PHERK ESSAY 2, BANH HUAY XAI~ESSAY 3, BANH MUANG KHAM~ESSAY 4. While all four villages are worthy of having a school built, only one can win this contest through your votes. Please take the time to read all four essays to determine which one you’d like to vote for. You must “LIKE” the Jai Lao Foundation first in order to have your vote counted.

ONLY ONE VOTE PER FB USER PLEASE. If Jai Lao sees you have voted more then once, then your vote will be disqualified. The contest is two weeks long and every vote counts. Please feel free to rally your FB friends to help your village. Jai Lao will tally up the votes Friday, June 24 and announce the winning essay at our 2nd Anniversary One Night in Laos Charity dinner June 25.

The village chosen with the most FB votes will have a great opportunity to travel to Laos, along with a friend, funded by Jai Lao in November 2011 to build their dream school in their home village. This indeed is a rare and wonderful opportunity for Jai Lao Board of Director Volunteers travels to Laos at our own expense. Please note: Travel is from San Francisco airport only. Jai Lao wishes all four great essays the best of luck on this contest.

so get on fb, like Jai Lao, and vote!

and bhet would like for you to vote for her village...hers is baan hat kham, essay #1!