Saturday, February 26, 2011

Daddy's weekend of guilt

In the sixties in German union were fighing for the right of a weekend-off from work. The slogan was "On weekends Daddy belongs to me". This is something like a unwritten law, still. Because Daddy has a stressfull and exhausting work week, it is only the weekend when he can spend some time with the kids.
Look at coffeeshops. During the week you enjoy the chilly atmosphere of people reading books or work working on their laptop. It changes dramatically on weekends. Families flooding in, kids smearing their fingers over the cake display, mothers trying to walk with a large coffee latte into the kids playroom, getting hit by a red plastic ball, spilling the coffee all over their clothes. Meanwhile Daddy, who changed his business suit and tie into the very casual and individual shorts, shirt and flipflop, is trying to relax reading the weekend edition of the newspaper. He promised to spend the Sunday morning with the kids. Here we are, at the coffeeshop. They can play with other kids. They can use the playground. And they have chocolate.
It usually takes not more than 10 minutes, when Daddy get's a break. It is either Mom asking for taking care of the 5 year old while she is trying to get the spilled coffee out of her shorts, or it is the 10 year old, who doesn't want to play with the younger ones. "Daddy?", he asks. "Hmm?" comes from behind the newspaper. "Why are soldiers dieing in the war?", he wants to know, referring to the coverstory on Daddys newspaper. "Because it's war", Daddy says. "But why they have to die?", Junior is insisting. Daddy folds the newspaper, making him actually visible now to his son. "Why you don't play with he others?" "There are no others, Daddy, this kids are all too young."
Young is the keyword, where is the 5 year old? "Have you seen your little brother?" Daddy is panicking. Adrenalin is pumping in the bloodstream, and he feel the heart going into alarm mode. What to do first? What did his wife say where she is going? Why it takes so long? "Billy?" is he shouting through the shop, "where are you?" His face is getting pale, his hands a shaking. "He is under the table, Daddy, sleeping."

Weekend is the time, when kids want to spend time wih Daddy. That means they demand the same attention his works get during the week. It doesnt mean that Daddy is physically there. A coffeeshop or a playground isn't the best place to be WITH your kid. Go in the forrest, to a river, go camping, explore wildlife, build a castle at home, an iglu, a tent, whatever. Instead of feeling guilty because you work hard, feel happy to be under your kids control.

And take your screaming kids out of my coffeeshop.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Places with best and worst service in Vientiane

Before I rate some places, just an explaination what means good and bad service for me: Good is when I get what I want and even more. Bad is when nobody is talking to me and when it is way below expactations. I usually expect more from a foreign owned restaurant because they should now better. Many times, they unfortunatly don"t.

Best service:
Joma Bakery
Pizza Company
Japan Tei (next to Novotel)
Scandinavian Bakery
Small room (crepe cafe)

Worst service:
Nos Japanese Restaurant
Khop Chai Deu
True Coffee 23 Singha

Of course, this list isn't complete. Feel free to comment !
Between, but still a long way to go:
Ansara Hotel
Lao Garden
Dao Fa
Sabeidee Cafe

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Lao Sword Dance

Originally uploaded by thomaswanhoff
I went to the French Culture Center where a group of Lao Dancers were performing. I was told this group comes from a small village at the Nam Ngum Lake where this sword dance is a tradition.
It is a quite basic, ancient dance, something we would expect from native groups somewhere in the Amazonas region.

Anyway, interesting insight in the tradiional Lao dance culture. a biit funny: Look close to the feet and see the socks and very modern shoes :-)

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Why countrys like Laos never can do right in foreign experts views

Today in the Vientiane Times is an article about a Chinese investment:

A Chinese company will support farmers in Luang Namtha province to
grow commercial crops in order to reduce poverty and illicit opium
poppy cultivation.

I found the article on a mailing list for local and foreign experts on the Lao agriculture sector. The mails topic was "Here is an example of how business interests can be disguised as development..."

This is the typical attitude of foreign (western) aid agencies. They think they are the only ones who know how to develop a country. But they are actually not. They are building dreamlands, without any reality check. They say they respect the local environment, but they usually give a shit, as long as they can get products from their home country subsidized by the government into the project and waste taxpayers money.

So China gives farmers contracts to harvest commercial crops instead of opium and this is bad? Why are farmers returned to opium in a country that was opium free declared 2005 anyway? Because the alternatives proposed by the foreign aid agencies simply did not work. It is basic knowledge of economics to understand, that you have to offer a better deal in the farmers understanding, not in yours. Growing organic potatoes might be nice for a German customer, but doesn't give the same income as opium.

Another example is a casino. People complain about casinos build in remote areas in Laos and other Asian countries. right, a casino might not be the best solution. But a casino provides more jobs, more money, higher living standards and more skills to employees than yet another a world-bank-supported beauty salon (as it was mentioned in a recent World Bank Youth Entrepreneur Contest).

So what in particular western foreign aid agencies should learn from the Chinese model is, that job are created by businesses, and so is development. If you don't like the way China grows crops, find a company in your home land that makes a better offer. Its sometimes that simple.

Advice if you run a charity these days

My experience with charities is mixed. Some, usually smaller one-man, or most one-woman-shows are effective and just do what they stand for. The bigger, the more problems come up. Once you get popular, there is a risk that you take more care about your popularity than your cause. So some advice from a communications experts point of view.

1. The cause is important, not you.
2. Focus on what you are doing, not who is doing it.
3. Being a volunteer doesn't mean you don't have to be committed (and accountable) for your engagement. It actually means you HAVE TO be committed and accountable.
4. Tell everyone about what you are doing. It doesn't matter who you are or where. The more public support, the more safe you are.
5. Any information you give to members and public should be under public domain or creative commons licence.
6. No titles, unless it is required by law. A president of a charity sounds like a lot of administration, even if it is unpaid.
7. Understand the power of online hubs. Get connected to the right people to spread the word about your cause on large scale.
8. Tell stories about every project you did, in detail and in time.
9. Raise money for a specifc detailed project, not just for "we help children in need".
10. Have fun, and let others have fun too. The cause is serious enough.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Great service at Tigo and Unitel: How to get Internet at home in Laos

About 6 month ago we subscribed to TIGO Internet, because that was the most affordable and fastest solution. We pay about 1 mill KIP for a 256/512 line, unlimited data transfer via Wimax. Unfortunatly, the performance declined steady in the last months, connections is getting slower and slower.
So I went to Unitels office today and ask for their offer. The staff there is very friendly and helpful served me immediately and explained me the different subscription models (I was asking for ADSL, they also offer 3G USB sticks). For 256/512 I pay only 400.000 KIP with Unitel, the setup will be free, the modem about 150.000 if I need one. The girl gave me a survey form, I filled it with name, phone number and a map where my house is, and she told me I will get a call within 5 days if they can technically provide ADSL at my home. Wow.

I went then to TIGO, initially for asking how to unsubscribe. After getting the answer from the person in charge (we know each other already from many visits) that I just have to fill a form and make an appointment when the can take the WIMAX antenna, I told him that I am somehow disappointed with TIGOs performance and price. He told me he know about that, and that Tigo will soon come up with better price model and also improve the connection. I was told they have problems with oversea connections. I was surprised again.

In both cases I met English speaking staff, what I don't expect. Also, they served me well and really competent. They knew exactly what they are talking about. In the TIGO case, he even admitted problems and explained me the reason.

I am still with Tigo on my phone, but if they not come up with a new price model in the next weeks, I switch to Unitel. Anyway, both companies did a great job in customer care.

Monday, February 7, 2011

T'Shop Lai Gallery and Les Artisans Lao go green with recycling program

T'Shop Lai Gallery is now collecting used Les Artisans Lao bottles from customers and recycling them for future use. They have also started to sell shampoo and shower gel by the litre. Customers can bring in any bottle and they will fill it up with their choice of product and fragrance.

Customers will be given a small gift or discount when they participate in the bottle recycle program!"

Les Artisans Lao was founded in 1995 as a small workshop specializing in using coconut shells and recycled materials to make handicraft products. Within a few years, Les Artisans Lao had built up a demand for its products and opened a workshop with a number of young Lao nationals, most disadvantaged, to assist with production. In 1997, Les Artisans Lao opened T’Shop Lai Gallery in Vientiane, Lao PDR to showcase and sell its original collection of handmade goods.

- Natural beauty and skin care line
- Authentic handicrafts (coconut, bamboo, recycled wood)
- Lao botanicals (Soapnuts, wildcraft honey, essential oils)
- Furniture, framing, and custom finishes

My favorites: liquid soap, mosquio repellent, after-bite-cream