12 Witnesses

Let these stones be a witness to what we have done here this day.

Vietnam 2009: Lao Chai School

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I have several posts written and will be stting them to drop over the next couple of days as we travel home.  Thanks for your constant prayers.

Lao Chai School

On Tuesday morning, our team went to Lao Chai School to install another computer lab.  This lab was paid for by a team from Northwood (I think) that was to come and install it last November, but the weather prevented them from making it.  I was confused as to how the weather could be that bad, but then I found that we had to hike with the equipment over rocky terrain with a creek running across it for about half a mile.  That was hard with good weather and, apparently, it had snowed there in November.

Lao Chai – not to be confused with Lao Cai province or city – is a tourist destination.  People hike there from SaPa through the mountains and the people that live there are the Mong.  Different than the Hmong, but pronounced similarly to the American ear.

The tourism is a double edged sword.  On the one hand it provides some boost to the local economy, which is very necessary.  On the other hand, it objectifies everyone in each other’s eyes.

To the tourists, the Mong people exist as an object of curiosity and entertainment.  They take pictures of them living their lives and to the tourist, the Mong exist for their personal fascination.

To the Mong, outsiders exist only to buy their handicrafts and to support them financially, so all outsiders exist only to support them.

The obvious problem is that all of this creates barriers to relationship and real conversation.  The children in the school are used to outsiders coming through and taking their pictures while they take class and then leaving.  As a result, they are very shy when people show up from outside and want to begin building a real relationship and help them only to help them.

People who want to bless them and ask nothing in return are completely new.  They really don’t know what to do with us.

The school there is an elementary school and they oversee the four other schools in the region.  I suppose that they are so far back in the mountains, we never saw them.

My wife, the teaching expert from America (visiting professor at the University of Hanoi – more on that later) said that she found tremendous teaching skills in the classrooms here – far better than San Sa Ho.  She said that there was one teacher teaching complex math to second graders using differentiation that was particularly impressive.  Bonnie said she would have hired her to teach in America immediately.

I suppose the undercurrent of that statement is that this teacher she found on the backside of a mountain in Vietnam in the shadow of the China border was better than some (many?) of the highly paid (in comparison to Vietnamese standards), highly educated teachers in one of Oklahoma’s premier school districts.

Here are my pics (all of them).  You can see more of them at flickr or my photoblog.

Click on a thumbnail for a bigger picture.

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