Archive for October, 2010

Patthana – Development, Progress, Creating…

Monday, October 4th, 2010 Latitude: S Longitude: E

“Patthana” is a word often used in Conversations between outsiders and the Lao:
– What do you do here in Laos?
– I am working with a media development project!

Translate that into Lao and the word “Patthana” will be used.

There’s a lot of Patthana here in Savannakhet, you just have to look carefully – but wether it is “progress”, “development”, “creating something new” or some other (non-)meaning this word has for the Lao, will be judged by others coming after us. The Evangelical church is being built out. It was only a few month ago a shack like the one you see on the right hand side of the picture:

Evangelical Construction Site in Savannakhet, Laos

My impression was that the height of the new evangelical church was about the same as the one of the much older catholic church. It is built opposite the catholic convent of “Le soeurs”, the Sisters, as the older people of the historic neighborhood of Savannakhet call them. If you peek over the fence of the convent, you’ll se a garden and a pool/pont. The latter one fenced in with the typical perforated metal plates that where used by the American forces for their makeshift airstrips or to prevent vehicles from sinking into sandy or muddy ground.

Carousel vehicles from Savannakhet, Laos

Not much “Patthana” by the way with regard to cleaning up the mess the Americans have left in Laos. Still today millions of unexploded bombs and “bombies”, small cluster ammunition is spread all over the country. Savannakhet has a huge share of that.

Sundown in Savan…

Sunday, October 3rd, 2010 Latitude: S Longitude: E

Savannakhet, Laos second biggest city after its capital Vientiane, has still that backwater feeling to itself that amazed me when I came here two years ago. Much has changed: more and more roads are paved, have proper curbstone and more and more traffic signs are setup – not that too many people do care: right of way is mainly negotiated with a look and a smile. Feels good to be back – and at the same time its also a farewell: The project that kept me coming back here is to be finished, that will be my job for the next few days. The old guesthouse I usually stayed in now becomes the “old” guesthouse. The box where I stored belongings so that I wouldn’t have to fly them in and out will have to move to Vientiane. Just like many of those here who feel that they need to connect to the faster pace of modern life. Savannakhet changes as well. But – and that is something I learned as well – it does so at its own speed.