Time has come to say goodbye to all my friends and colleagues in Laos. Isn’t it always the way that when you finally feel at home then it is time to go again?
Did I mention that it is hot here? It is really really hot! It must be getting up into the 100s on some days. When I walk in the sun I feel like I am in a sauna. Luckily my work is in the forest where there is shade. However, in any of the developed areas there are no large trees and no shade. It seems to be a habit of some Communist countries to cut down all the large trees when they do any major development (at least that is the case in Laos and much of Vietnam). I guess it is just easier that way (?) but it is very uncomfortable. In the shade it is 10-20 degrees cooler. At night it cools down a bit and in the morning it is generally cool until around 10 am. From 11 to 4 pm it is stifling! Okay so you get it is hot here.. moving on..
As my work here nears its end, every day seems longer than the one before. Being apart from family and maintaining a long distance relationship has been very hard. It is not something I will be signing up to do again and would not recommend it! It doesn’t help that the Naiban’s wife every time I see her asks me “Where is your husband?” and “Where is your baby?” (In Lao). It is simply unheard of for a woman who is almost 30 to be single in a foreign land walking around in the forest. The villagers are always worried about me. They think it is too dangerous for a woman to be out in the forest. They tell me they are worried about me a lot. It is quite touching actually but I don’t know why they are so worried when they are in and out of the forest all the time. The Naiban’s wife kindly invited me, my husband, and babies to come back and stay with them anytime. Once the road is finished, that is actually a possibility in the future.
Check out this youtube video posted by the U.S. Embassy Vientiane youtube channel. Julia Ruppell talks about her research in Laos studying the ecology of the crested gibbon in Nam Kading National Protected Area.
You can learn more about scholarships and exchange programs between the U.S. and Laos at http://laos.usembassy.gov
We’re so proud and honored to have Julia as one of our volunteer scientists!
What seems like a impenetrable forest is actually full of all sorts of goodies. My Lao research team seems to know how to find and make use of the abundance hidden in the depths.
We have to carry all of our supplies to our campsite. Sometimes this requires hiring a few extra guys for 20,000 kip per day ($2.50).
The heaviest thing we have to carry is the Lao staple, sticky rice, which is eaten at every meal. It is made by collecting water in a special pot and then putting the bag of sticky rice on top so it can steam.
At night Tsing caught some fish in the stream. I don’t know how he did it without a net or fishing pole!
Tsing also caught a bunch of frogs and made a stew. I did not try it! I am vegetarian after all..
Some trees are fruiting abundantly now.
The guys built a makeshift ladder and climbed up to harvest some.
There are a lot of snakes. Luckily I haven’t seen too many.