Sunday, January 26, 2014


A tale of two women, two children, one river, 1,100 km apart.

Part I

When I was in Luang Prabang, northern Laos, I watched for the better part of the morning a women with her son working in the river Mekhong. She, maybe in her fifties, was standing up to her waist in the cold water for hours, scarping the bottom of the river with a plastic tray. The gravel and sand she got up from the river bed her young son, maybe ten years of age, filled in big plastic bags. He was standing next to their motorized long-tail boat, stacking the filled sacks of gravel on top of each other, one of which at least weighted 50 pounds. In the few hours I watched them they were able to collect some 10-12 sacks of 'free' material. I don't know whether they do this all day, or how many days of the week, but considering the cold ambient temperature at this mountain location and the cold water, it was surely a unhealthy working condition, for both of them. 

Part II

Here in Pakse, southern Laos, a women and single parent in her fifties is constructing the next addition to her home where she and her daughter lives, directly at the river Mekhong. The construction work goes on since years now, and sometimes the designs are not to her liking which results in the demolition and new construction of the respected building wing. The buildings in their proportion and number of floors are modeled after Louis XIV Chateau de Versailles, France. The women, a merchant with family background in Vietnam, also owns much of the land around her single-family residence, such as the large new market complex in Pakse, a street with several large banks, and a neighboring hotel complex, also under construction. Her daughter is a tomboy. 

It is also the first time that I saw a construction site with a 6.00 meter tall cast-in-place reinforced concrete construction fence, hundreds of meters long.

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