If you really want to make a friend, go to someone’s house and eat with [them].
Following Prof. Dr. Isabel Martin’s invitation to the 5th annual “Lao-German Friendship Feast” on behalf of the entire Laos-project, many former volunteers, current Lao cooperation partners, and other guests came together on 21 June 2019. Amongst them were several students of her “Global English(es)“ seminar and the freshly-nominated members of Team IX in the “Teaching English in Laos” project.2 It was quite a hot Friday evening – summer solstice, the longest day of the year, a perfect night to celebrate!
Mr Martin Schoebinger, who had joined the project as advisor for electrical training at the LGTC in September 2018, had spontaneously offered his private front yard in Karlsruhe-Durlach for the celebration. Initially, we were going to have another picnic in the Castle Gardens like in 2017, when we celebrated the Friendship-Feast for the first time in Karlsruhe. Martin’s cottage, however, had more amenities to offer than the Castle: A kitchen and fridge for the drinks, a toilet, several cosy seating areas with benches or chairs, and lovely lights all over the place. In short, here we had a practical and charmingly rustic environment, complete with white tablecloths on the long tables and big baskets for the many kinds of bread that had been baked for the occasion.
The party’s relaxed and communicative atmosphere was thus amplified by the cozy and comfortable setting of Martin’s home and hospitality. The 55 guests came from all over the world and were between 5 and 60 years old: Most of them were former team members of the Laos project (Teams IV, V, VI, VII, VIII), some of whom had brought partners or friends; then there were several international students from Laos, Taiwan, and the USA, project partners from Savannakhet University, and representatives of the International Office of the PH Karlsruhe with their families, and of course Prof. Martin and Dr. Martin Remmele from the PH English and biology departments.
Most of the 55 guests brought home-made food and delicatessen to contribute to the international buffet. As soon as one dish was finished, another one arrived – and this went on from 6 p.m. until well after midnight. The colourful and delicious choices of food included dishes such as “laab” (Lao chicken salad), “eetch” (Armenian traditional bulgur dish), home-baked olive ciabatta, self-made garlic butter, mixed bean salad, lettuce and vegetable salads, and many more. The dessert choices included “khaokam” (Lao sticky rice with coconut), fresh watermelon, fruit salad, and different kinds of muffins. The hosts provided the drinks, e.g. “Radler” (a mixture of beer and lemonade), beer, water, and a selection of fruit juices.
This party was a most pleasant and informal highlight in a semester filled with intercultural encounters and global learning on academic and personal levels, and the annual continuation of our tradition of the “Lao-German Friendship Feasts” – which itself is a continuation of the 60 years of Lao-German diplomatic relations.
In the early evening, the conversations revolved around making new acquaintances and connections within the larger team. For this, Prof. Martin easily made the connections, as she was the only person who naturally knew everyone. Previous and future volunteers were introduced to one another to share their experiences or ask questions; former research assistant Ms Heike Mueller was introduced to the SKU food science staff member Ms Viengvilaiphone, with whom she had previously had contact via Facebook about a possible joint conference paper, and also to Dr Martin Remmele, because her next project would take her back to Savannakhet for research – the world is a small place sometimes!
Later on, the project volunteers happily celebrated their reunions with their core-teams. The students from the “Global English(es)” class – German and international – discussed upcoming exams as well as travel plans for the summer. Mr Napha suggested they drop by to visit him in Savannekhet on their next Asian tour – which they actually did this autumn.
Our Lao three guests of honour (Savannakhet University) mixed in with everyone, and then, for most of us, it was time to say goodbye to Ms Viengvilaiphone Botthoulath, as her staff training mobility was almost over. Mr Thaithanawanh Keokaisone and Mr Napha Khothphouthone stayed for 3 more months on their students mobilities in the PH Karlsruhe/SKU Erasmus+KA107 programme.
“Pull up a chair. Take a taste. Come join us. Life is so endlessly delicious.” (Unknown)3
We would like to thank everyone who attended and especially all those many people who contributed to the buffet. Our special heartfelt thanks, however, shall be expressed to Martin for hosting this celebration and to Prof. Martin for the invitation. As we only noticed when it was too late, we were all so wrapped up in conversation that none of us 55 people ever thought of taking a group photo!
Finally, we are happy to announce the next, 6th, Lao-German Friendship Feast in Karlsruhe, to which all cooperation partners and colleagues and project friends and current Global English(es) students (and their friends and families) will be invited again. Save the date: Friday, 8 May 2020, at Martin’s!
Text by Y.-J. Muss & I. Martin
Photos by I. Martin & V. Botthoulath
1 Sophisticated gourmet (last accessed on 15 November 2019)
3 Sophisticated gourmet (last accessed on 15 November 2019)