Learning from Laos
Sunday, August 08, 2010
"The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page." Saint Augustine
Everyday one learns something new, and my brain has been overloaded ever since I left the Americas. I knew nothing about Laos until I came to this wonderful country that has so much more to offer than tubing/partying down the Mekong river. It's beautiful countryside and artistic history is something everyone should be able to witness. In this blog, I want to share about what I have learned from and about Laos. I'm sure some of what I go into is well known, but it's all new to me and somethings were difficult to fathom.
Women DO NOT touch them. Ever. So my dream of coming over here and hugging one will never happen.
Also, always show respect to the Monks by being below them. If you are to take a photograph, and you are female, you sit on the ground while they keep their distance.
UXO (Unexploded Ordnance)
The Lao People's Democratic Republic has the distinction of being, per capita, the most heavily bombed nation in the world.1 As a result of the broader conflict in Indochina during the 1960s and 1970s, Laos was the scene of extensive ground battles and intense aerial bombardment.
UXO contamination, UXO Lao Annual Report 2004.
Graphic courtesy of UXO Lao
From 1964 until 1973, over half a million bombing missions were carried out over the country, and as a result, over two million tonnes (2.2 million tons) of bombs were dropped.1 Based on its experience over the last 10 years, UXO Lao estimates that up to 30 percent of all ordnance dropped failed to detonate on impact, leaving a lethal legacy that continues to kill, maim and impoverish over 30 years later. This explosive ordnance included vast quantities of cluster bombs which released sub-munitions, or bomblets (also referred to as "bombies" by the Laotian people). Such unexploded bomblets become, in effect, anti-personnel munitions. Bombing records provided by the U.S. government indicate that over 80 million of these bomblets were dropped all over the country.2 There are also vast quantities of unexploded large bombs, rockets, grenades, artillery munitions, mortar shells, anti-personnel landmines and improvised explosive devices lying around.
Therefore, there are many organizations that have been established to help the victums that still unfortunately are hurt daily by these explosives. I am going to a couple tomorrow and will let you know some stories.
MAG (Mines Advisory Group) clear the remnants of conflict
COPE (Cooperative Orthotic and Prosthetic Enterprise)
○ Every year there are new casualties from UXO in Laos, although conflict ended in 1975. With higher prices for scrap metal and millions of UXO still lying around, poor and disadvantaged people are tempted to disarm them to salvage the scrap metal. Inevitably there are casualties, especially among young males who often have families to depend on them.
Even I was ignorant when I read this fact. Giving children ANYTHING encourages begging, enforces the idea to their parents that they are more valuable on the streets, and often keeps them from getting an education. A more positive approach is finding a project, health center school to donate to, or volunteering your time.
The photograph that is attached to this blog was actually taken in Thailand before the cabaret show to warn/educate tourists on the issue. The issue is all over Southeast Asia and is only continuing to grow. Education and awareness can help almost any problem...
I will be writing an article about this issue shortly. Beyond begging, child prostitution and sex trafficking has risen and tourists are often behind the issue.
here are some informational websites, but I have a feeling when I reach Cambodia, I will be writing a great deal about this.
www.ecpat.net and www.childwise.net
Sadly, they are expected to be extinct in Laos in the next 30 years from what someone told me. Maybe even Southeast Asia. They are not meant to do tricks, trek for eight hours, and be in cages. The one of the three biggest killers is....loneliness. It is a subject that is very sad.
I will post more about this as Courtney will be writing an article regarding the issue.
• We are going to museums, organizations, and other informational areas and I will share everything I learn :)