Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Work of Rights-LINK - The Villages of Salavan Province


 It was bright and early the next morning when Viseth picked us up to start our village visits.  And after a quick breakfast soup (what else? although I'm not complaining, I loooove soup for breakfast) we picked up our special guests - a district government employee and a provincial government employee.  You see, Dave and I were such important people (or untrustworthy people? suspicious people? or just plain American people?) that the government would only grant permission for us to visit the villages if we were accompanied by official minders. Of course, these minders spoke zero English, so we could spout all the subversive talk we wanted without fear.
A village lane
The first village we visited was, we were told, fairly prosperous.  Because they were located close to the main road, they enjoyed electricity and easy access to markets to sell their goods.  Viseth pointed out a well and a school that VFI had funded (unfortunately it was a public holiday so school was not in session and we couldn't visit).  Of course, we've heard a lot before about the benefits of having an accessible clean water source, but it really hits home when someone points to a well and says, "we built that. And now they [mostly girls and young women] don't have to walk a few kilometers every day to get water, and they can go to school instead."
This guy really, really wanted his photo taken.
The second village was more fun.  We were immediately tailed by a gaggle of local kids.  First they hid shyly behind a tree...
Then behind a post...
 Until we finally coaxed them out of hiding!
Dead serious
We met some super-cute babies...

We also met some super-cute baby animals!

Once we had all been introduced, it was time to get to work.  Rural Lao villagers process rice by hand, in a manner that we can only imagine has been in place for hundreds of years.
There's a pro in the kitchen.
Everyone chuckled when I stepped up the giant-mortar-and-pestle-type-device and clumsily attempted to husk rice.  I had my hands in the wrong place, my posture was all screwed up, my rhythm was off.  But when Dave asked for a try, the chuckling turned into hysterical laughter.  The kids, especially, were running around, pointing at Dave, and convulsing with hilarity.  This was women's work!!

Once the rice was fully husked (not by us), it was poured into a wide, shallow bamboo bowl and sorted by the women and girls.

It was an interesting day and visiting the villages brought to life the work that Rights-LINK is doing in Salavan Province.  We're so thankful to everyone at VFI for arranging our visit, and especially to Viseth for being such a good host and taking time out of his busy week to show us around. 

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