Desert Lake

Jen and I woke up bright eyed and bushy tailed early Monday morning, anxious and excited for our first day of work at Savannahket University, over a week ago today. A little too early perhaps, as we arrived in a tuk tuk 30 minutes early, and tried to hide ourselves under a tree to avoid looking overly keen. The morning started with a meeting with Dr. Bounheuang, the Acting Dean of the Faculty of Agriculture and Environment, outlining what is expected of us over our three months spent both on and off the campus. He stressed that curriculum development was their main priority, as the bachelor of animal husbandry and medicine is still in its infancy, and
still needs much additional content and fine tuning. We also discussed helping to develop a veterinary terminology dictionary (translated from English to Laos for the students), writing grant proposals, and to develop/implement vaccine protocols in surrounding farms and villages. Also mentioned was the undertaking of teaching English to the professors; an amazing opportunity, but slightly
terrifying…i’m relying on Jen to coax away my stage fright.

The first field trip of the week was a motorbike ride to a neighboring farming village, where we will help administer vaccines for foot and mouth disease (FMD). It was shocking for us to hear that this disease is rampant all over Laos, when our own country has put sweat, blood and tears into making sure that it stays eradicated. Unfortunately, limited resources and money means limited ability to effectively segregate individual species and farms. Last year, over 400,000 cattle were slaughtered due to FMD in Laos. A sad reality for the farmers and their attempts to prevent disease transmission.

For the majority of the week, Jen and I spent our time working on the dictionary and trying to communicate in broken English and Laos with our new friends in the office. The highlight of the week at SKU was our first weekly dance lesson taught by a kind…and very patient…professor on campus. Jen and I were a sight to behold, with our clumsy feet and rubbery arms, but we can now officially bring some steps with us home to Canada, at the price of dozens of students watching us in the doorways in fits of giggles.

Along with having our first slightly catastrophic English lesson at the end of the week, we’ve also been
stuffing our bellies with the most delicious traditional Laos food in a restaurant across the road: papaya salad, bamboo soup, sticky rice (you had me at hello) and laap (it’s a whole lot tastier when you don’t think about the parts
you’re eating).

All in all, an excellent week, and we’re fantastically excited for what the summer has in store for us.