#sol17- Day 21/31- March 21, 2017
Anyone who knows me at all, knows I am a literacy freak! Imagine my delight in discovering that on my visit to Luang Prabang, Lao, I could also encourage literacy! Big Brother Mouse is a Lao-owned, Lao-based organization promoting literacy here. I hope you will take the time to explore the website!
My hotel is right around the corner from the local office and twice each day they offer an English drop-in center, where from 9-11 and again from 5-7 volunteers talk with locals who want to practice their English. This morning after breakfast I headed over to see it for myself. I ended up talking to three young men- two high school students and a college student. The conversation was easy- we learned about each other and felt comfortable asking questions to learn more. I learned lots about the educational system here (not free) and the sacrifices families must make to ensure their children have an education. The college student has been living with a cousin since he finished primary school so that he could continue his education (he comes from a mountain region and there was no school nearby for him). He has not seen his parents in years and as there is not phone reception in his home area he has not heard from them often. He says he knows that education is the way forward for him, but that his friends tease him for being English crazy. He is studying finance and wants to work in a bank. I learned lots more about Lao than I would have learned on my own. Our topics ranged from food, to hobbies, and more.
We had fun in our exchange and I was happy to help them pronounce words they had read and clarify meanings. We talked about how hard it is to get books in Lao. I then showed my Kindle and they were impressed with how they could read on it. One of them had heard of the Kindle app, so I demonstrated how they could use the dictionary feature, highlight, and more. I told them that there are sites where they can download books for free and they were amazed. They all had phones, so maybe they will be able to use this.
As I sat down later to write notes in my notebook I reflected on how lucky I am. I am lucky to have both time and money to travel. I knew one man wanted to get to Australia, another to China, and the third to see a friend in Colorado. The high school students said school takes up most of their time because they have to get good exam results to continue (or pay to resit exams). The college student says he pays his fees himself, earning money by helping out in his cousin’s restaurant when he has time. Here at Big Brother Mouse snippets of the world come to them- they meet visitors from all over the world, but know that at least for now, this is how they will see the world. I felt lucky that an organization like this exists to allow me to donate a small part of my break to teach English and I know I got so much more out of those two hours than they did.
I plan to return to the center again and will also donate money toward a book party. I visited the local library and made a donation there too to their “Library Book Boat”.