Eight hours on a minivan. 262km of tight winding roads. One stopover for a cheeky chunder.
It wasn’t wise to have a big night of drinking before a long bus trip the next day. Nobody could have helped me. I prayed for real, the first time in ages. Someone upstairs answered me because I was able to seize control of my nauseated state and keep from being sick inside the vehicle. The same could not be said for the guy in front of me, who had filled several plastic bags – he just tossed them out the window, never to be seen again.
The one and only stopover during the eight hour journey was at the top of a mountain, in the middle of dense forest and uninhabited lands. There was a window at the restaurant stop house overlooking the mountains and valleys below, quite a sight to behold. But overcome with nausea I could not keep my eyes open long enough before feeling dizzy and weak – no photographs were taken of the view.
I was invited to give classes English
to the students that night, for two hours.
Once we finally reached Phonsavan, I rushed off the minivan and took in so many deep breaths of fresh (dusty) air. As in most places, hoteliers were waiting to greet us in the hope that we would offer patronage in their accomodation. I obliged willingly and was chauffered to the guesthouse which was not even 100m from the bus station. Being driven such a short distance seemed pointless, but it was nice to indulge.
I checked in and then the hotelier began telling me about the school where he taught English. Being a native speaker of English, I was invited to give English classes to the students that night, for two hours. To teach English in Phonsavan was a great way to wind down after a long journey. He said he would discount any tours I took with him, but more than that I couldn’t resist the excitement to meet young people and empower them to speak English.
They wished me well and
told me to have sweet dreams.
The first class was large, perhaps 30-35 students between the ages of 10-19. An enthusiastic and disciplined cohort, the students answered the teacher in a chorus of ‘Yes, sir’.
We learned numbers together, the calendar, and days of the week. They were very interested in maths, and I found it a great way for them to make logical calculations in their minds using English.
At the end of the class, two students, one female and one male, stood up and each gave a (very well-prepared) thank you speech. They wished me well and told me to have sweet dreams, it was adorable.
He offered to take me on his motorbike and be
my ‘tour guide,’ so he could practice his English.
The second class was smaller, perhaps 15 students with the average age between 16-19 years old. Their mastery of English was impressive, even their accents were great! In this class we spoke more generally, of things we did that day, of things we were planning for the weekend, simply trying to use as many of the different tenses as possible (future, past, present and its variations).
I told them that I would visit the Plain of Jars. After class, a student asked if he could accompany me on the sightseeing trip. He offered to take me on his motorbike and be my ‘tour guide,’ so he could practice his English. I thought it was a fantastic idea, and he could earn a bit of money as well.
Souk met me at the guest house in the morning and we headed out to see the 2,500 year old megalithic structures, whose origin and purpose remain a mystery to this day.