Sunday, October 30, 2011

I'm On The Air

Fairchild Radio headquarters, Richmond Hill, Ontario

This morning I shared the program with Sieng Lao Radio host regular, Bev Korasack.

At 9.30 am this morning I appeared as a guest on Fairchild Radio's Sieng Lao Radio program, which shares news, events, and other information of interest to Toronto's Lao community and which is broadcast locally and around the world on the Internet, to talk about Adopt a Village in Laos.

While my time on the air was short, I tried to include as much as I could in the allotted time. First, I introduced myself in Lao by saying, "Saibaidee, kanoy man...", which essentially means, "Hello, my name is....".  Then I thanked Fairchild Radio for having the opportunity to appear on the program and to the donors who contributed to Adopt a Village in Laos. I said special hellos to two acquaintances in Laos, one of whom I met at the Buddhist temple a couple of weeks ago and one Facebook friend. Afterwards, the focus shifted to talking about the work of Adopt a Village in Laos, where I touched on some recent project updates and fundraising targets. I emphasized to listeners that they should visit the Adopt a Village in Laos blog for more information and about how to donate.

Before my time was up, I informed listeners about my own venture to Laos this coming December and that I would be providing updates through my blog, Facebook, Twitter, and Skype.

Throughout my portion of the program, I alternated between two of the Sieng Lao Radio team, Khamkeut Keovongsa and Bev Korasack, who provided the necessary translations into Lao. You can listen to that part of the broadcast here, with the English segments starting at 2 minutes and 20 seconds.

As the program was about to conclude, Khamkeut received a call from a listener who wanted to donate a $100. After briefly chatting with the caller, she passed the phone to me and I personally thanked that person for the contribution.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Live from Laos

When not visiting the hill tribe villages, I will be based in Luang Prabang. From here I will have easy and ready access to the Internet and be able to update my friends and acquaintances back in Toronto and people around the world about what's happening with me through this blog, email, Facebook, Twitter, and Skype.

Going to Laos: 35 Days to Go

The countdown continues to my departure for Laos. Now only 35 days remain.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Beauty of Luang Prabang

When Bev Korasack, my friend and host of Fairchild Radio's Sieng Lao Radio program, recently posted on Facebook a beautiful video about Luang Prabang, the former royal capitol of Laos and now designated as a World Heritage City, she said that the video brought back many cherished memories of her homeland, which, to this day, she deeply misses.

Upon viewing this video, I immediately thought that in just 38 days I will be landing in that very city. Soon after, I will be exploring it and experiencing it. It will also be my place to call home whenever I am not venturing in the rural regions to work with the hill tribes.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Going to Laos: 40 Days to Go

The countdown continues to my departure for Laos. Now only 40 days remain.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Guest on Sieng Lao Radio

On the morning of Sunday, October 30, I will be a guest on Fairchild Radio's Sieng Lao Radio program, which broadcasts every Sunday between 9 am and 10 am on AM 1430 in Toronto and around the world via the Internet. While I will be on air for only a few minutes, I will use that time wisely to raise awareness for Adopt a Village in Laos, not only with Toronto's Lao community but with Lao communities around the world (including, of course, Laos itself).

I will touch on the various projects which Adopt a Village in Laos embraces and the positive impact it has already made in the lives of the hill tribe people. I will briefly mention my own involvement with the organization and my upcoming trip to Laos. Finally, I will mention the 'Secret War' and its deadly legacy.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Packing for Laos: The Case

A few weeks ago my friend Jason and I were discussing my upcoming venture to Laos. During that conversation, he mentioned that he had some luggage which I could borrow for my trip. Yesterday he finally dropped off that piece of luggage for me to consider.

After I got home from work, I carefully examined the large plastic-bodied case equipped with wheels and a retractable handle. Instantly, I thought that it was absolutely ideal for my needs, particularly for negotiating busy airports.

To make certain that it would work in practice, I placed the backpack, which I had purchased last week from Mountain Equipment Co-op, inside the case. The backpack fit perfectly and there was still room to spare. The other compartment was left free and clear so that I could store other items for my trip. To make storage easy, I am going to buy some plastic containers to keep everything neat and organized.

Overall, I will be able to travel with great efficiency because I will not be bogged down by multiple pieces of luggage. In addition to this case, I will have a carry-on large enough to accommodate valuable items such as my camera and computer gear.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Travel Adapters for Laos

In Laos, there are two plug standards: two-pronged (with and without ground pin) and twin-bladed (with and without ground pin). The item on right is a traveler's power strip which supports 120 and 220 volts.

In North America standard voltage for most electronic devices and appliances is 120 volts. When one ventures to places such as Europe and Asia (including Laos), the voltage standard is 220 volts. Plugs and the receptacles into which they are inserted vary from country to country.

Because of these differences in voltages and plug types, unless a product is specifically designed to function with multiple voltages, you are guaranteed to fry it. For a product which is only designed to function in North America, you would need a step-down transformer and a country-specific adapter plug  for it to work anywhere else in the world. Fortunately, all my electronic devices, such as my computer and camera gear, support multiple voltages. Therefore, I will only need to buy some adapter plugs at my local travel shop so that I can use my devices in Laos. Since there are two standards in Laos and  I don't know which one to expect, I am buying all of them just to be on the safe side.

In the rural regions of Laos, especially where I will be venturing, electricity is not widely available. Where it does exist, it is typically turned on only for short periods of time. For the times when I am based in Luang Prabang, I will have ready access to electricity, so I must make certain that all of my battery-operated devices are fully charged. Once I venture out into the field, I will most likely be gone for at least a couple of days at a time.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Final Fundraiser of the Season for Adopt a Village in Laos

Steve Rutledge with Mike Yap (Adopt a Village in Laos co-founder).
Before leaving for Laos at the end of this month, Steve Rutledge, the president of Adopt a Village in Laos, is putting a last burst of energy into fundraising and hopefully achieve his goal. Simply click on the image above to view the details of this campaign.

Going to Laos: 49 Days To Go

Starting today, I begin counting down the days until I depart for Laos. Officially, there are now 49 days remaining.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Backpack for Laos

Before venturing into work today, I finally decided to visit Mountain Equipment Co-op, a specialty store catering to adventurers and people who love the outdoors, to buy my backpack for Laos. This particular model, MEC Ibex 65, is specifically designed for multi-day expeditions, has its own waist belt allowing the backpack to secure itself snugly to one's body, and even sports a special compartment to store a sleeping bag. It has a capacity of 61 litres and weighs 2.8 kilograms.

On the Mountain Equipment Co-op web site, it describes this pack in detail:

This fully featured pack is excellent for multi-day backpacking and or mountaineering. Interchangeable shoulder straps and waistbelts allow you to customize the fit. The backpad plate can be slid up and down the stays, allowing precise adjustment to your back. The pad then locks firmly into place with a large hook-and-loop patch for stability.
  • Body is 630-denier Superpack nylon with fully taped seams and bartack reinforcements.
  • Bottom, lid, and exterior pocket are extra-rugged 1050-denier smooth nylon.
  • Body contact surfaces are covered with 3-D mesh for breathability.
  • Polyethylene frame sheet and twin aluminum stays for efficient load transfer to hips.
  • Main compartment is accessible via the top spindrift collars, a large vertical zipper, or a horizontal zipper to the sleeping bag compartment.
  • Main compartment has a stretch mesh pocket and hose exit port for a hydration system.
  • The top part of the sleeping bag compartment can be unclipped to connect to the main compartment.
  • Large front pocket accessible via a full length side zipper or the outer spindrift collar.
  • Two low-profile side pockets hold items you need to retrieve quickly or quarantine from the main load (such as fuel bottles).
  • The underside pocket in the floating lid is fronted with mesh-reinforced transparent plastic for easy location of items inside.
  • Twin waistbelt pockets hold small items close at hand.
  • All exterior zippers are weatherproof or flap protected.
  • Shockcord attachment system can be used for crampons or other gear.
  • Removeable ice axe loop.
  • Compression straps trim and stabilize the load.
  • Twin stretch mesh water bottle pockets.

Monday, October 10, 2011

A Day at Buddhist Temple

On Saturday night Bev Korasack (one of the hosts of Sieng Lao Radio) took me to my first Lao function, a wedding. It was a truly wonderful experience and a magnificent opportunity to immerse myself in and learn more about Lao culture. I was introduced to and participated in my first baci ceremony and had the honour of tying white string around the wrists of the groom and the bride. There was lots of delicious food to eat. Later that evening, I had some fun learning how to dance Laotian style.

On Sunday I spent part of my day at Wat Lao Toronto, a Buddhist temple situated in the northwest end of Toronto. This was a great opportunity to experience another aspect of Lao culture.

Gathered around a ceremonial meal, from left to right, are: Khamla Phandanouvong (visiting from Vientiane, the capitol of Laos, and involved in her own humanitarian cause); Roland Drake; Sengdao, Bev Korasack, Khamkeut Keovongsa, and Khanty (Sieng Lao Radio hosts); and Chieow and Tex Sihachack.

The bowls we are holding contained offerings of food for the monks presiding at the ceremony.

Bev Korasack, Khamkeut Keovongsa, and Roland Drake standing beside a money tree.

Posing with the hosts of Sieng Lao Radio.

Khamkeut invited me to address the congregation and introduce them to Adopt a Village in Laos. As I spoke, she translated for me.

Some samples of sumptuous Lao cuisine.

To conclude the ceremony, the monk moved through the crowd and offered his blessings by splashing water on the congregation.

Before leaving the temple, I had the elder monk tie this string bracelet around my wrist. The bracelet basically symbolizes good luck.

With the ceremony finished, I was invited by Viengkham Khammongkhoune, a long time friend of Bev Korasack, to her family home. Sitting in their beautiful and tranquil backyard, we discussed more about the work of Adopt a Village in Laos and how the Lao community of Toronto could get involved. I also took time to show her the two videos: The Dark Days of Laos, my contribution revealing the secret bombing of Laos, and Adopt a Village in Laos, Ted Amsden's contribution showcasing the work of this organization with the hill tribes, both of which were presented at the fundraiser at the Capitol Theatre last month. She was very impressed, deeply moved, and extremely grateful.

In all, this weekend was amazing because of a series of small breakthroughs to raise awareness and making connections with people.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Mission of Adopt a Village in Laos

Among the presentations at the big Adopt a Village in Laos fundraiser on the evening of September 17 was this video by Northumberland Today photojournalist Ted Amsden. Shot while he was visiting Laos in December 2010, this video vividly chronicles hill tribe life and the work of this humanitarian organization with the hill tribe people.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Fundraiser at Capitol Theatre Snap'd

It was a packed house the night of the fundraiser.
Darrell Leeson gives event 2 thumbs up!

This morning I received an email from SNAP Northumberland West, the local version of SNAP which "captures life and entertainment" in Northumberland county, notifying me that the images from the highly successful Adopt a Village in Laos fundraiser at the Capitol Theatre in Port Hope, Ontario in September were now online. Above are a couple of these photos.

Water Filter Brochure Distributed at Wat Lao Veluwanaram

Last night I received a Facebook notification from Sieng Lao Radio informing me that a new photo had been uploaded to their Facebook page. The photo reveals Kham Keovongsa (one of the Sieng Lao Radio hosts) giving the President of Wat Lao Veluwanaram, a Lao temple north of Toronto, one of the Adopt a Village in Laos water filter brochures at an event earlier this month. The message went on to say that the president had been informed that I would visiting the temple this coming Thanksgiving weekend.