When we arrived at the airport in Vientiane and walked out of the door, the LGTC volunteers of Team VI, i.e. Tasja and Anna, were already waiting for us. First of all, we got settled in our new home, a bungalow which is located next to the campus. For dinner we instantly experienced our first meal from some steaming pot on the walkway at night. The next day we got to know Ms Moukdala Keomixai, who showed us around the compound. We also had a meeting with the director Mr Khamsavay Gnommilavong and with the English teachers Mr Saythong Insarn, Ms Mouk and Ms Akina Yadsadahuk, who kindly welcomed us to their college
. All in all our first impressions were very positive.
First trip and Baci
As we would have one weekend together before Tasja’s and Anna’s departure, we planned to go on a short trip together to Vientiane Province. These were our first impressions concerning sightseeing experiences in Laos. We very much liked the landscape and also the bumpy car ride to Nam Ngum lake. Once we arrived at our destination the whole group sat down on a boat. We sang karaoke and had heaps of very tasty food!
Furthermore, Mr Khamsavay announced that on Monday they would hold a Baci for all of us four girls, as a farewell for Anna and Tasja and as a welcoming for us two. This invitation came totally out of the blue for us. It was a delight to have landed in such warm-hearted surroundings. We were honoured to receive the opportunity to participate in a Baci as one of our very first impressions in Laos. It would be the first time for us to be part of a ceremony of this kind. And it would be the first occasion to wear our newly made sinhs.
The people in Laos
The first impressions we had about the people here is that they are very friendly towards us. Even if they do not speak English well they will try everything to help us out. The group of teachers immediately integrated us in their community, in particular with the help of Anna and Tasja, who organised a small get-together in our bungalow as their farewell.
We even had the chance to meet the other German
volunteers of Team VI, who lived and worked in Sikeud. First, we all met for a nice dinner at an Indian restaurant in Vientiane (which quickly became one of our favourite places). After that we all went to the tremendous night market by the Mekong River together, where you can basically find anything and everything.
For a couple of days after our arrival our predecessors introduced us to the proceedings and took us along to their classes. Therefore, it was very easy for us to dive into the everyday life of the college. In the following week we eventually started teaching by ourselves and already realised a charming easy-going laissez-faire attitude similar to the one we had encountered in Sri Lanka.
The first weekend trip to Vang Vieng
On our first weekend alone we decided to go to Vang Vieng. This small town is known for its various outdoor activities that are offered to the many backpackers who visit the place. The walk up to our hostel room, which was located in a tree house 80 meters above the ground, was quite an adventure by itself. We climbed wooden ladders and swinging bridges to finally reach a breathtaking view. Up there it was very peaceful and quiet, the only noise we could hear was the chirping of the crickets. A place so calming that we were able to sleep like never before!
Nearby, there were a few caves where we could go tubing inside, with a helmet and a headlight on. After that, we headed to the blue lagoon to have our first try at paddling around on a bamboo raft. The water was indeed very turquoise and picturesque.
For the next day we booked a kayaking tour on the Nam Song river. As both of us lack any kayaking skills, we were very happy about our relaxed tour guide who did not mind the small breaks in between. While kayaking he randomly collected some leaves from the bushes on the side of the river. Out of these he would make soup, he claimed. He was very nice and even offered to invite us for dinner. We had to decline due to our tight schedule but saved his phone number to get back to him the next time. He suggested hiking a mountain and camping out there, which we are already looking foward to doing.
During our trip to Vang Vieng and recapturing our first days in Laos, we realised that it was definitely the right decision to come here. Therefore, we are now looking forward to a great time here!
Text by T. Wedemeyer & S. Röhm
Photos by B. Boun, S. Röhm, T. Wedemeyer, K. Gnommilavong, M. Keomixai