Monday, 20 May 2013

Safe arrival in Vientiane

After a 36 hour travelling ordeal - consisting of a red-eye out of Perth followed by two international flights, $320 of excess baggage and forgetting a bag at the airport - Gav and I arrived in Vientiane with the rest of the AVID/AYAD crew (pictured above- James, me, Gav, Sean, Ash, Michele and Julie).

Might I suggest that if you need more than the 30kg (which is 10kg extra, ONLY if you ask) of baggage that an international airline will often allow you, that you call the airline or make sure that you get in touch with their local branch manager if you don't want to pay excess.  It was of course too late for us when we found this out at the airport, and I must say that I was seriously disappointed in the website and customer service provided via email by Thai airways in this regard. Don't get me wrong - Thai airways had great customer service in the airport (they gave us ~30% discount on the excess as it was) and on the flight (brilliant in fact) - but I would like to see them improve their online services.

Yesterday we managed to open a bank account (we are now millionaires- yay! In Kip of course...) and get ourselves sorted with Lao mobile numbers. While enough English is spoken to get around, when it comes to organising some of these more technical things we are more than grateful for our In-Country Management Team. Today, we continue our orientation into Lao life, language and culture - I can't wait to get a handle on the language beyond "Sa-bai-dee" (hello) and "Khap-jai" (thank-you)!

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Pre-departure preparations

With only three days to go Gavin (my partner) and I are in the full swing of final preparations. Although we have had a great deal of information from current and past volunteers in Lao, we are still not entirely sure what to expect- we have packed our Australian standards motorcycle helmets, cotton sheets, shoes and decent shirts and are busy finding room for our "luxury" items such as boardgames and hiking gear. We are heartened by the support we have through the Australian Volunteers for International Development (AVID) program and Austraining, but we're not likely to really know what it's like until we experience it for ourselves. The AVID program is an Australian Government, AusAID initiative which deploys skilled volunteers to live and work in developing countries as part of the overseas aid program and I am very excited to be a part of it!

A mix of emotion is setting in - excitement and trepidation - with a certain sadness to leave friends and family behind for so long.  It will be amazing to see how people's lives have changed and families have grown while we're away - being in our 30s it seems everyone is "settling down" and "growing up" while we're setting off on a great adventure (maybe one great last adventure, but I'm loathe to say it!)

This blog will be my record of my life and times in Lao - designed to be about those things which I find most fascinating, both culturally and academically, and hopefully most useful to others considering a move to Lao. Lao still seems to be growing as a tourist, volunteer and work destination and I hope these blogs can be a source of information (and perhaps comfort) to those considering life in the country- especially those who are planning on being in a more rural location such as Pakse (Champasak province), where Gav and I are going.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Gavin and I all dolled up at our pre-departure orientation dinner in Melbourne. I met Gavin in Perth while I was studying my PhD and love him dearly. He works in accounting and is a great support to me in many ways - he's definitely better with languages and numbers than I am! We're really looking forward to our adventure in Lao.