It is the hot season and it is HOT (in the 90s F) and dry and dusty, a big change from the rainy season when I started my field work. I have had some personnel changes over the past month. My village guide Tsing had to go work in the fields with his family. My military guy Suree had to do military training so I got a new guy named Yer. They are great helpers but I have had to do some training and get to know them which has taken time. It takes awhile to figure out how to communicate with mixed Lao/English and hand signals. Yer knows one sentence in English, “My name is Yer, what is your name?”
I am still constantly battling with paperwork. You would think after working here for 9 months I would not have to continuously renew around 10 different documents. Let’s not forget Laos is a communist bureaucracy and they love paperwork. My site is highly restricted to foreigners, even though there is a massive road being constructed which will make the area accessible to anyone and everyone. Go figure!
I am getting ready for the Fulbright Enrichment Conference for scholars in Southeast Asia called “Building Partnerships in Southeast Asia: Opportunities and Challenges for the U.S.” This will be held in Hanoi, Vietnam in the middle of the month. It sounds like this is going to be a great conference with speakers from Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Singapore, Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Laos (including me!) so I will have a lot to report. The topics to be covered include the role of education and trade, prioritizing conservation efforts, expanding economic opportunities for rural poor farmers, biodiversity corridors, and much more. Before the conference I am also presenting on gibbons in Laos at the United States Embassy Vientiane. I have a lot of work to do!