I wanted to stay a bit longer to catch the sunset on the Plain of Jars, but next on the agenda was visiting an English learning school, run out of the house of a person I’d wanted to meet for a long time. I first found out about a Lao gentleman named Manophet through a Phil Borges photo. I was assembling text to go alongside the image, and it just had so much incredible stuff, that I decided to put in everything, no matter the text size. Soldier, farmer, hotel worker, translator, father, tour guide, humanitarian, singer, you name it, he’s lived many lives already, with enough stories of sorrow and triumph for a movie.
The school was packed with mostly Hmong boys, ranging in age from teen to early 20’s, and the goal was just to have them break up into small groups and converse with instructors or visitors in English. It really was an amazing experience. We take for granted the almost global language of English, how it works so well for so many things. My two “students” were very bright and eager. I told them to ask me about anything in my life, and it was a simple, humbling and rewarding experience to be able to share with them a language that we Americans get so tired of, we even truncate it in txting and of course slur it all to hell in my thug ghetto speak (that I’m so fond of…heehee…).
Manophet charges a modest fee for his school, but it is still too much for some of the students’ families to afford. Some come from 30 kilometers away on the winding mountain roads. Some pay him with corn, rice, or pumpkins–that eventually ends up being cooked to feed the students.