Monday, May 30, 2011

Cross cultural issues

Some things I found quite interesting about this topic: In Laos people eat noodle for breakfast, in Germany bread or cereals. Both will ever change this habit. (Thanks to Gunnar Lindh for this!)

German people have the wedding ring in the right hand, will most other countries have on the left hand.

In Laos people always ask you where you coming from (or where have you been - Jao pai sai maa). This is not just pure curiosity. In former times, before big cities were established, every traveller was also provider of news. So it was always interesting to know where they come from and then ask for news. By the way, How is it going or the GEran "Wie geht es" is close to it as well.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

At The Horizon - Laos hope for a new film wave

When I was talking with the crew of the movie "At the Horizon", a Lao film to be shoot in June, it took a while when I recognized, that actually the story about the movie is as good as the movies script.

But first things first: At the Horizon is a feature action movie about two different worlds in Laos colliding: The wealthy influential people on the one hand and the poor and honest on the other hand. There is a death, anger, pain and kind of vendetta included. So far, it is something that happens in Laos (and other Southeast-Asian countries) quite often.

The plot is described as the following:

"Sin, a wealthy boy in his early twenties who was born with a good fortune, had been spoiled by his parents that he had never realized the importance of self-dependence and had become an irresponsible man. The boy lived his useless life relying on his parents wealth and power,
making him even more arrogant and pompous.

Lud, a mute middle-aged man, he came from a rural area to be a motorcycle mechanic in Vientiane. His wife worked as a market woman and had a six-year-old daughter with him. Though, Luds life was not gaudy, his family was warm and sufficient. However, one day, Lud unexpectedly faced the greatest loss of his life caused by Sin"

"We don't just tell the story. We want to create a different Lao movie. That's why we call us Lao New Wave Cinema Production", Xaisongkham, one of the team members, says. New things, in particular when it comes to media, are not that much to be welcomed in Laos. When they submitted the script, the government wasn't really excited and refused approval. After some discussons they now have the permission to shoot the movie, but no permission to screen it. Xaisongkham is still opptimistic: "We are sure the movie will be good, and they will like it once it is finished."

Most Lao movies like "Sabeidee Luang Prabang" or "Only Love" are melodramas. At the horizonn wants to go into another direction. There will be a lot of action, but, as director Anysay Keola mentions, this isn't the focus of the movie. "I want to go close to the characters" he says. But with the actions scenes will will also try a new approach in Lao movies.

The schedule is tight. at present the team of 10 people is preparing everything for the shooting that shall take place in June. In the recent days Anysay Keola and his co-workers invited actors for the casting. Since there is not a tradtion of movie actors, it is not that easy to find the right ones. "We deal with what we have and improve from there" Fabiola says. She is responsible for the actors training and wants to support the project with her skills in theater play.

The whole team isn't working for money. "We recently found a sponsor, but this will be mainly for food and expenses for the actors." Producing a movie isn't easy in Laos, since everyone has a dayjob. "That's why we cancelled shooting in the provinces, becaus eit is to far to go there. We would waste to much time we need for shooting." In October, that is the schedule, At The Horizon should be finished. "We hope to screen it at the Vientianale", Ansay says. Until then, so the team's hope, they will received the approval of the government.

If you want to follow the project, "like" it on Facebook. The group posts regulary updates about the progress.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

What services for Expats in Laos are the best when it comes to relocation and real estate?

As someone who is living in Laos for one year now, it is amazing how fast we settled down. We found a house and friends. But how did we get there? Actually we are not fans of the expat group for women but of some expat and relocation services. We like the ads at the Simuang Supermarket and at the Phimpone Supermarket. and, even more important, talk to your neighbors. They know better what to do when a heater is broken or the water is leaking. Also look for groups on google or Facebook. Best for events is Paisai on Facebook, and starting from there you can get connected very well.
For real estate there is a huge competiton right now. Look for Laohomes or for, they know the market for houses and apartments quite good.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Shangri Lao: Enjoy the nature in Luang Prabang

Shangri Lao Tour

I really enjoy trips into the nature, and while doing the usual temple tour during my last stay in Luang Prabang, it was now time for going wild. We had the nice offer to try the Shangri Lao Expedition, what is a one day excursion on an elephant, but also trekking and a boat trip.

The elephant ride goes through the river, but you won't get wet. The expedition begins with an 1.5 hours long elephant ride across the river through the Huay Sae Valley. Along the way you can stop to see the amazing scenery of the Nam Khan River Valley. After we had quite delicious lunch at a jungle Sala - they served even wine. Depending on the water level you can refresh and swim in the natural pools. Then it is time to get up and walk through the forest for about 1.5 hours. Here and there you will signs on the trees giving you botanical explanations.

Shangri Lao Tour

Down at the Nam Khan River, a luxury bamboo raft is waiting to take you back. Have a coffee break, relax and watch the traditional village life of farmers and fishermen along the river. Slowly floating down the river, the relaxing 1.5 hour journey, plus an optional 30 min stop at the Tad Sae Waterfall, will bring you back to the camp.

You can book the tour in Vientiane with Diethelm Travel. Email them or just pass by the office at Nam Phou Square. Telefon (+856-21) 213 833 and 215 920.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Monday, May 9, 2011

Lao Short Movies

I saw today some of the short movies from the last Vientianale. Frankly, I was disappointed. Only the animation movie is something you show at a film festival. All other movies are nice, but not for international festivals. This is exactly my concerns with festivals. You take what you get, then you give awards, because that's what the festival is about.
But does it help to give an awards to a movie that is just not good? How does this help?
There will be workshops at the Vientianale, I hope they will take Lao film making further up the road.
I think the biggest problem is creativity and story writing. I hope Filmcamp Laos will be helpful with this.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Cross cultural understanding promotion in Laos

My Lao teacher came to me and told me about writing an essay with the topic above. We went into a chat about what Cross cultural understanding means.
For me, it is the respect of others cultural background. It also means, that if you live in different country, you have to be a bit open about different cultural behavior.

After one year, I can speak Lao on a very basic level, but at least I can, I know how to cook sticky rice and laap as well as Bamboo soup, I went to a Lao wedding, to my neighbors birthday, a Lao friends birthday and celebrated Pi Mai with our Lao neighborhood. I don't say I am an expert in Lao culture, but I try to adapt a bit and to learn. That does not mean that I will forget where I am coming from.

So what about the other culture? Are my Lao friends enjoying foreigner parties and food? Unfortunately not that much. It seems that especially food is an issue. I am not talking about German food, even Vietnamse food seems to be an obstacle. My friends stay with their food. And with their Lao music. And with their language. It seems still hard to get closer as a foreigner.

I still don't give up.

Momordic cochinchinnensis or Wonder fruit or Gac

From Wikipedia: Momordica cochinchinensis is a Southeast Asian fruit found throughout the region from Southern China to Northeastern Australia.It is commonly known as gac, from the Vietnamese gấc (pronounced [ʒə́k]) or quả gấc (quả meaning "fruit"). It is known as mùbiēguǒ (木鳖果) in Chinese, and variously as Baby Jackfruit, Spiny Bitter Gourd, Sweet Gourd, or Cochinchin Gourd in English. The fruit contains by far the highest content of beta-carotene of any known fruit or vegetable.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Coffee shop stories Part II

Hell. Herbalife!!!! Help!

Ok it seems the virus spread from Vietnam to Laos now. I saw the first guys with Herbalife T-Shirts today in my favorite coffee shop. For those who don't know the scheme: Herbalife provides you with pretty useless yet expensive powder and call it kind of nutrition supplements. If you eat regular, you don't need it. But more important than the products is the Multi-Level-Marketing behind it. That means, they want you as a consumer becoming a seller. And that"s the point: You will not make a lot of money unless you become a very annoying person who sells this stuff to all friends and family - and try to recruit more sellers. So my advice: Don"t even think about buying or selling this product.

Students and business people
It seems that Joma is targeting only foreigners, since they don't have a Lao menu. But reality is different: Today I saw a lot of Lao students coming in, also many business men and women. The coffee shop office seems to get popular with Lao people as well - what isn"t surprising, since it was just a matter of time and availabilty of facilities. I just wonder how long it will take Joma to recognise this change in customers and offer a Lao menu (they never answered my e-mails, so I give up to ask them)