Justin recording Lao music on the streets of Vientiane.

Lao Rocket Festival

Shooting home made rockets over the Mekong River in Vientiane.


These are some of the 2,300 Buddha sculptures at Wat Si Saket in Vientiane, Laos. Vientiane is a wonderful laid back city on the Mekong river. There is a strong French influence here. Laos was a French colony until 1953, except for during WWII when it was occupied by the Japanese. Our first night here we ate a French restaurant: steak (!!!) and eggplant with goat cheese and fancy red wine. Many people in Vientiane speak French and dozens of French expats have opened cafes and boutiques all over town. The city's name used to be "Wieng Chan" which means Sandalwood City, however through French transliteration it became Vientiane. When I (zoe) was here 8 years ago the city looked completely different. It was quieter, dustier and felt kind of empty. Since then it has developed so much and is a booming tourist destination. The New York Times choose Laos as the number one place to visit in 2008.


Today we visited a school for Burmese migrant worker's children. The actual school house was destroyed in a storm a few weeks ago. When we arrived the headmaster and students were playing soccer in a large field where the school once stood. The school would cost $6,000 to rebuild but they have no way of raising the money. If you want to donate to their school please let us know. In the soccer field we met a man who had just come from Karen State three days ago. His village had been damaged by the cyclone and there were no signs of relief coming anytime soon. Tomorrow he will travel back to his village in Karen State to assess the damage. When he returns to the Thailand border, our friends will email and tell us what it looks like in there.

Karen State is the homeland of the ethnic Karen. For the last 50 years they have been fighting a bloody civil war against the Burmese military government. The Burma Army has recently escalated its offensive against the Karen civilian population. The latest offensive started in February 2006 and so far an estimated 20,000 people have been forced from their homes and displaced.

In the soccer field we met two displaced kids who are also newcomers to the Thai-Burma border. They traveled from Karen State to attend the school. They had made the arduous journey with 23 others. However they traveled dangerous roads and their vehicle toppled over a cliff. Three people died, the rest of the group returned home. The two teenagers were the only ones to make it to Thailand. They are the two boys on the left.


Cyclone Nargis

We've received lots of concerned emails over the last few days and wanted to let everyone know we're fine. Here in Mae Sot we had a few days of heavy rain but nothing more. Our housemate works at the a local refugee hospital called Dr. Cynthia's Clinic and she hasn't seen any patients yet from the cyclone. She said they might start seeing cyclone victims in a few weeks. Travel is slow in Southeast Burma and it will take people a while to get to the border.

As for us, we are just finishing up our project with Karen refugees. If you get a chance check out: UnseenMaeLa.blogspot.com We're still working out a few kinks.

For more info and news articles about Cyclone Nargis and how you can help check out this site our friend Karen Zraick made: http://burmaemergency.wordpress.com/

Lots of love,
Zoe & Justin