Saturday, June 20, 2009

Vientiane; Bombies and Skateboards

Today was a great day. Blog worthy? Maybe.

In the morning I visited COPE, a NGO in Laos which provides Laotians injured by unexploded ordinances (landmines, mortars, rockets, etc... from Laos' unfortunate past) with prosthetic limbs. COPE has a great exhibit with lots of great information where you can watch documentaries whenever you like. I saw a great documentary called Bomb Harvest which shows how Laos is affected by the UXO today and details how the Laotians are trained to disarm the bombs (and I unfortunately didn't get to see a Canadian one called Bombies which is supposed to be great, anyone wanna watch that when I get back?).

Before coming to Laos I was completely unaware of how many parts of Laos suffered nine years of sustained bombing missions by the United States. The war was widely unknown which is why it was called the Secret War. During the secret war the US dropped in excess of 260 million cluster bombs (or bombies), and keep in mind these are cluster bombs, they have no way of controlling where these things land and who they kill as a result many innocent people were killed. The US legacy in Laos continues today because an estimated 78 million bombs never detonated, and Laos efforts to clean up the mess has only removed 387 645 bombs (0.49%), so even today many people are killed by UXOs.

In the afternoon, I took out my skateboard for a spin to take a look at the city of Vientiane. Sometimes I kick my self, saying: 'why the heck did you bring a skateboard to south east Asia in the first place?'. But, it is days like these that totally justify having one. The roads in Vientiane are smooth which make riding great, and the weather today was hot and sunny (which is lucky because it is the rainy season right now) but not too humid. I rode around to some monuments and really enjoyed myself. One neat thing about a skateboard is it really draws a lot of attention from locals, many want to try and ride it for a bit (or at least spin the wheel with their finger), but from that you get to talk to people who otherwise wouldn't really give you a second glance.

I met a few English people (because of the skateboard) at one monument which was particularly amazing. I joined them for a trip to market where I ate bugs for my first time ever. The cockroaches were the best, satisfyingly crunchy and seasoned really well. It's like eating a really big pop corn kernel but not so hard (but they do get stuck in your teeth the same way pop corn does).

For not knowing if I should write about anything today I really wrote a lot. Sorry.

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