We’ve arrived! We got to Luang Prabang this week, but have been in-country for 13 days now.
A quick recap!
Damo and I are volunteering in Laos for one year. I’ll be working as an Agroforestry Technical Officer and my main goal is to get the tissue culture facility up and running at the National Agriculture and Forestry Research Institute (NAFRI). I’ll also be helping out with research and teaching at the Northern Agricultural and Forestry College (NAFC). Damo will be using his IT and computer wizardry at both facilities and will help out with some teaching as well.
After driving up from Tassie, we spent a month acclimatising in Brisbane before entering the eternal sauna that is south-east Asia. To get a head-start on the teak project I’ll be working on in Laos, I got some high-tech training at the University of Queensland (UQ) in the art of teak seed removal. This involves smashing the seed pod with a hammer until it cracks. It’s much like cracking a macadamia nut and it took a surprising amount of skill to just crack the seed pod and not obliterate it. I’m sure this is a skill that will come in handy throughout life.
After an overnight stay in Bangkok, it was only a one-hour flight to the capital of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Vientiane. I got to visit the team out at the Agricultural Research Centre in Napok and try out a new tissue culture protocol we developed at UQ. I used what may be the world’s smallest laminar flow cabinet and felt a little odd working in thongs (flip-flops), but 75% of our seeds germinated, so not bad for a first attempt. Go science!
While we were in Vientiane we checked out some the local attractions and got the opportunity to make our own offerings to take to the temple.
We were also honoured to attend a rural rocket festival (Boun Bang Fai), where surrounding villages all compete to build the best rocket out of bamboo, and PVC piping. The rockets all receive a blessing from the local monks before being lit. These festivals are held at the end of the dry season and are meant to bring on the rain for the incoming wet season when the rice will be planted.
The largest rocket on the day weighed a ton and was moved by hand. It took over twenty men using a rope crane to position it on the firing platform.
The day was obviously a success. On the way back to Vientiane it started to rain, and by the time we made it to the hotel, the entire city was flooded. Here’s to a bumper harvest!