Vientiane

Trip Start Jul 29, 2008
1
13
Trip End Aug 30, 2008


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Flag of Lao Peoples Dem Rep  ,
Sunday, August 24, 2008

The bus ride to Vientiene was 5 hours, and in Laos busses are never full so I got to hold an adorable sleeping Laos child for the ride. Badminton is also big in this country evidenced by the stadiums devoted specifically to them. You can also put condensed milk in anything apparently, coffee, pancakes, fruit shake . . .

I also woke up early one day (5:30a) to give alms to the monks. Monks wake up at 4:30a and chant and meditate before walking around their city/temple to collect alms from people. People will put tiny handfuls of sticky rice and food into the monks' bowls as they walk by for a blessing. I bought cookies and passed them out, and then got to spend some time with some adorable novice monks. Whatever is put into their bowl is what they get for breakfast. So if a monk belongs to a temple in a tiny town with few donations they might be very hungry.  Novice monks are boys under the age of 20.  The next meal they eat will be at the temple before noon and after that cannot eat for the rest of the day. Many of the novices' are boys from far away provinces whose families couldn't afford to feed or pay for their education. They were all adorable and I wanted to give them all a hug. I have a great book if anyone wants to borrow it, about novice monks and their lifestyle, culture, and background.
The last part of the day I visited COPE, a rehabilitation center for victims of unexploded bombs in Laos. During the Vietnam war one of the biggest bombing campaigns in the world happened in Laos. In 1962 the U.S. signed the Geneva Accords stating the Laos was a neutral territory. Meanwhile the gov't dropped millions of antipersonnel bombs and the CIA trained Hmong hill tribes to covertly fight on the ground, while denying these facts to the American public. For eight years every 40 min day/night Laos was bombed. Roughly 30% of these bombs never exploded, leaving millions around the countryside and to this day thousands of people children are killed every year or lose their limbs while helping their parents till the soil for rice farming, or while playing in their town. Many bombs are uncoverd during heavy rains. The COPE center http://www.copelaos.org/  provides transportation, housing, a small food stipend, and a prosthesis to these individuals who have survived a cluster bomb. http://www.stopclusterbombs.org/ is another great website. Cluster bombs are dropped from a plane, open, and thousands of tiny round shells the size of a tennis ball filled with hundreds of ball bearings, drop to the ground and explode spraying millions of tiny pieces of metal hundreds of feet.  Many people have no idea that US had anything to do with Laos during Vietnam much less the amount of bombs that were dropped. COPE is an amazing organization and I was really moved by the people I saw and their facilities. Cluster bombs are still being used today by NATO. The sole purpose of a cluster bomb is to inflice as much damage on a human being as possible. Please check out http://www.stopclusterbombs.org/ to see what you can do to the use of cluster bombs.
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