Thursday, 21 July 2005

Politics of the third world.

I am officially stranded in Vientiane for the next week. I am not allowed to leave the city. No joke!

As of yesterday, Vientiane is in full blown preparation for the 38th Asean ministerial meeting. Police have noticeably increased, guarding every road junction. Market stall sellers have been ushered off their usual sites and told not to return until after the meeting (apparently they make the place look untidy) and a mammoth operation of dust removal from the roads along which the delegates will pass in their air conditioned, blacked out cars, is underway(never mind the locals who endure the dust on a daily basis or the fact that money would be better spent on schools and healthcare).

Roads are closed, shops, restaurants, bars and schools are closed. No foreigner may enter the city for the entire week (bar delegates and specific journalists with the correct paperwork). Should I leave the city, I would be unable to return. So much for my weekend in Thailand. A short trip across the friendship bridge a few km out of town and I could have savoured the delights of Tescos (yes the British supermarket). Instead I shall probably be sat in my office working on my dissertation...the joys!

Other news. Lao Hmong refugees, who are currently based in no mans land in northern Thailand, have been offered aid by Thailand but have been refused entry to the US. Apparently, many of them crossed the border believing that the US would take them in, as they had 15,000 others. Unfortunately, the US is not planning to take in any more so the refugees are stuck in Thailand. They are seeking political refuge because they claim they are being persecuted by the communist government of Laos.

Also, today is the start of Buddhist Lent, marking the anniversary of the first sermon by Buddha. Lent lasts three months until September, when everyone takes a few days off work and enjoy boat races down the Mekong. The temples look absolutely stunning at the moment with flowers and incense everywhere.

apart from a little insight into the goings on in Laos, I've not been up to much. Working hard and not really playing much. Heading out tomorrow night with a bunch of people for food and drinkies which will make a change. I'm also catching up with an American guy my age, who is based out here teaching English. He seems like a sound guy so hopefully, he'll be able to take me out someplace new. It'll be nice to have someone my age to chat to for a change :) !

The only other thing of consequence that I have noted these last few days, is the reproductive rates of my pet geckos in my hotel room. There seem to be babies everywhere. Today, I even had one in my hair which took me by surprise ! They're fabulous little creatures though and they munch any stray mosquitoes that manage to muscle their way in through the net.

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