Khamphanh - somewhere in his forties.
I met Khamphanh at the bus station
in Luang Phrabang, waiting for the pickup to Nong Khiaw. He asked
where I was from and I told him I was American. His English exhausted
he then asked if I spoke German. As a Communist country,
Laos sent many people abroad to fellow Communist countries to study.
You can still find Laotians who speak Polish or Russian. This conversation
was conducted squeezed into the back of the pickup. I wasn't able
to get a photograph - it was that cramped.
Where are you from?
I live most of the time here in Luang Phrabang, where I work, but my
family is in Nam Bac province, about 120km from here. I am originally
from Pacse in the Champacse province but I left when I was quite young.
I am on my way to see a girlfriend near Nong Khiaw.
What is your occupation?
I work for an international UXO organization - we seek out unexploded
ordinance and disarm it. Sometimes a farmer will find an old bomb or
a mine in a field and we will go out and diffuse whatever it is he has
found. There are too many types of UXO to tell you about quickly. There
is so much.
Do you enjoy it, or would you rather do something else?
Yes. I like my job very much. I work mostly as a translator as most
of the UXO experts are from Germany, though the funding comes from various
countries. They usually stay from between 3 months and 1 year before
going somewhere else. I really like them allot. My work colleagues are
a good bunch and they treat me very well.
.Isn't it dangerous? Does your
She thought it was dangerous in the
beginning but I eventually persuaded her that with my knowledge and
expertise I would know when to call in the experts! (he laughs) I am
always a little afraid though, it would be dangerous to have no fear.
Have you traveled much or been outside your country?
Quite a lot When I was young I went to live in Vientiane to study. After
working there a few years I was sent to East Germany to continue studying
and learn German. I liked Germany very much, nice and modern, but I
was also homesick. I missed the spices and walking and girlfriends.
What about the food and the weather?
Well, it was very cold of course. Especially
for a Laotian like me. The food was good, I liked the bread and the
meat. I could get rice there too, but not like here where it is the
me about your family? Are you married?
Not married have a 'girlfriend' and together we have a 5 year old daughter,
you have access to the Internet?
Yes. If I wanted to use it I could go into town and use an Internet
cafe just like you do. We don't have Internet access at work.
Where did you learn your English? Why did you learn it?
Not applicable - spoke only German, no English
do you do for fun?
You mean when I have time away form work? I like to celebrate with girlfriends.
Occasionally I sit around with my friends drinking 'Schnapps'. If I
have free time I work for the family too - in the garden or building
a hen house. I don't really like sports that much, just prefer to hang
out with my "Kumpels." (Chums).