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Pictures from Laos: Food and life in the villages

Dogs (05.04.2010)

Here in Laos dogs are not so much seen as pets, but as kind of living meal. In most of the villages there are very many dogs. They are running around free but usually they are quite friendly. Some few families take good care of them but usually they are in a rather poor condition. In addition, certain parts of the body (i.e. the tail and sometimes also the ears) are used for traditional medicine. Therefore dogs like this poor thing on the picture can be seen quite often. In the beginning I wondered always what had happend to the dogs (and cats - it’s nearly the same for them) until finally someone explained me the background.

Fruit from the forest  (05.04.2010)

In the forest you can find all kind of nice things. Wild animals as well as plants. It is amazing when we make a short break somewhere in the forest and right away our staff starts looking around for eatable things. They know all exactly which herbs, plants, fruits etc. are useful. This one here is a very special fruit. It is difficult to collect, because it grows only very high up in the trees. After harvesting it, it has to be dried. Then it can be stored longtime. For preparation you have to put it into water for around 30  Min.  It soaks the water and becomes more or less like a mushroom. Very interesting but I prefer real mushrooms.

Snails (05.04.2010)

Beside of the forest there is also the water as precious source for food. The villages that are situated near a river have most of the time less problems with malnutrition because they are eating fresh fish every day. This family here just came back from collecting water snails. They are cutting a part of the shell so that it is later easier to eat and then the snails are boiled in salt water.

„Whatever it was...“ (05.04.2010)

This animal was skinned just when we entered one of the villages. First I thought it was a dog, but the villagers explained us that it was some kind of wild animal from the forest. I have no idea what exactly it was. It was sold very fast and for quite a good price, so that I didn’t get the chance to taste it :-(. But it must be something very delicious!

Breakfast (05.04.2010)

Breakfast here is of course a little bit different from breakfast in Europe. People know what bread is or rather they have an idea of the baguette from the french colonial time, but they hardly ever eat it. There is one Vietniamese guy here in Attapeu who sells baguette, but it is just made out of air without any taste and can hardly be called bread. The typical breakfast is in stead sticky rice which is also the main staple food. For a very good breakfast like here it can be served with some dried buffalo meat and a salad out of raw green beans and chili. It takes some time to get used to this eating habits!

Tractor (05.04.2010)

Like everywhere the progress is also reaching here the remotest areas of the country. If someone has enough money, he will buy such a mini-tractor for transporting goods and for plowing his land. This machines are quite strong and robust but it needs also a strong person to operate it. Even in the remotest area such vehicles can be found - but only some few. Most of the people are still using buffalos as draught animals.

Buffalo (05.04.2010)

Water buffalo are very common in Laos. It is one of the favourite animals for slaughtering as well as for work. For the villlagers it is a symbol of being rich. The buffalo are a little bit bigger than our cows and have a good weight. They love staying in water, but they live also in the drylands. This picture is from one of the villages. The water from this pond is used for watering the gardens but the buffalo are enjoying it also. Usually they are running around free. But the villagers seem to know exactly which buffalo belongs to who.

Dirt and hygiene (05.04.2010)

Hygiene is an important topic here. Especially in the rural areas, it is often extremly poor. Part of it is result of a lack of knowledge but a big part is also attributable to the waterproblems. In this village is e.g. the river the only source of water and it is around 1 km distance to the village and this with a very steep and sandy road. Hence it’s quite difficult for the people to keep everything clean. But if you see this kids with their dirty hands and faces eating rice without washing anything before, it still makes you feel very bad. It it is no wonder when they are suffering from diarrhea all the time.

Dream or nightmare? (05.04.2010)

This is the watersource for another village. It is an absolutly beautiful place in the middle of the forest. But for the daily life it is more than difficult. The level of the water is low which makes it hard to fill the buckets. Ít is far from the village and it is the only water source. Therefore everyone is bathing and washing here as well as fetching water for cooking and drinking. At least the people are paying attention to fetch water for drinking upstream where the water is still fairly clean.

Crossing a river with the motorbike  (05.04.2010)

The roads are often difficult to pass. As long as they are dry, it is somehow ok but when there is too much water the journey can easily become an adventure. In the moment it is still dry season and the water levels are at their lowest point. Nevertheless are some of the roads hardly navigable. At this place the water level is e.g. still to high to cross with a motorbike. There are no bridges, only for some main roads and the only possibility to reach the villages is to hire people to carry the motorbike across the river.

And the same by car (05.04.2010)

In the moment it is still possible, but as soon as the first rins starts, it will be impossible. Some of the villages are accessible just from January to May and some others from November until May. ´This makes our work much more difficult. This is why we included also 2 villages which are accessible during the whole year - even if there are other villages which would need our help more urgently.

Hospital (05.04.2010)

This is the entrance of the provincial hospital in Attapeu. Provincial Hospital means that patients are transfered here from the district hospitals and the dispensaries in the whole province. Nevertheless it is a very small hospital with just 80 beds. But this is mainly caused by the low population density in the country and also by the poor infrastructure. The hospital is often the last option for the popluation and  they are coming only when they see no other way.

SFE Team (05.04.2010)

This in in the moment our whole team here in Attapeu. A nicely mixed group and I am really enjoying to work with them. The local employees are working partly in the hospital project which is running already since several years and partly in the community health project and some also in the management and accountability. In the morning we always begin the day with a short meeting in which we discuss the tasks for everyone this is good for the team spirit and helps a lot to organize the work.