Author Archive

Project Sekong 2014: When humanitarian clearance is lacking, villagers sometimes put themselves at risk.

February 25, 2014
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Project Sekong 2014: When humanitarian clearance is lacking, villagers sometimes put themselves at risk.

There was a time when clearance organizations trucked their own supply of TNT across the country and then stored it in one of several approved depots, usually at a military base. Most recently the government has insisted that the explosive travel only on their vehicles. That’s “vehicles”, plural, because the National Regulatory Agency’s S.O.P....
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Project Sekong 2014: In a land with many heartbreaks Lao children still have fun!

February 18, 2014
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Project Sekong 2014: In a land with many heartbreaks Lao children still have fun!

The setting: a steep hill of hard-packed clay lightly coated with gravel. The sleds: a flattened cardboard box, a lid from an old bucket and a crushed water jug. Who cares about a little road rash when you’re having fun with your buds!
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Project Sekong 2014: We partner with the Lao Disabled Peoples Association to lead villagers to help in Pakse and Vientiane.

February 17, 2014
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Project Sekong 2014: We partner with the Lao Disabled Peoples Association to lead villagers to help in Pakse and Vientiane.

Vong knew he had no future as a farmer. He was born with a deformed leg that makes walking difficult and arduous labor in the rice paddies impossible. He’s unlikely to marry well, if at all, and a farmer without a helpmate has, as we in Wisconsin know, a handicap worse than a gimpy...
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Project Sekong 2014: A new employee with little experience around UXO forgets what might be underfoot!

February 16, 2014
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Project Sekong 2014: A new employee with little experience around UXO forgets what might be underfoot!

While I was distracted See, my newly-hired interpreter in training, wandered off the work site. He reappeared some minutes later immensely pleased with himself. He carried a wounded bird in one hand and a slingshot in the other. I had no idea that he was packing heat. He had bagged a grey-headed, indigo-bodied songbird...
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Project Sekong 2014: When a sturdier footbridge is needed villagers employ unique skills!

February 15, 2014
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Project Sekong 2014: When a sturdier footbridge is needed villagers employ unique skills!

I recently wrote about a thrifty, improvised bridge, rudimentary in design that, nevertheless, repeatedly bore the weight of the many Lao adults who trotted over it. I was halfway across the span when it collapsed under my weight, dropping me in the muck. It was not my first fall through a Lao footbridge. There’s...
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Project Sekong 2014: This is a land of rivers, streams and makeshift bridges—safe for a Lao hiker, unsafe for me!

February 15, 2014
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Project Sekong 2014: This is a land of rivers, streams and makeshift bridges—safe for a Lao hiker, unsafe for me!

The Western world is getting fatter. So is America. So is Jim Harris. For some masochistic reason, at home between trips to Laos, I step on a bathroom scale every morning and watch my number steadily climb northward even though, lacking will, I have no intention of doing anything to reverse my gain. 180,...
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Project Sekong 2014: Last night someone built a campfire over old ordnance. The device, hidden underground, heated up and exploded.

February 14, 2014
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Project Sekong 2014: Last night someone built a campfire over old ordnance.  The device, hidden underground, heated up and exploded.

It’s always unnerving to hear a bomb explode after hours. Say…we’re all eating lunch in the field, or dinner in camp, or sitting around the campfire on a chilly evening. An explosion can only mean a mishap in the village, and possibly the loss of limbs or lives. Last night, when most of us...
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Project Sekong 2014: Sometimes the guys lark about, boys in spirit if not in age.

February 13, 2014
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Project Sekong 2014:  Sometimes the guys lark about, boys in spirit if not in age.

We began work after lunch by hiking into to a miserable site. We first spent half an hour stumbling around at the top of a ravine looking for a safe route down. We couldn’t find so much as a rabbit run in the dense foliage, much less a path that the farmer would have...
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Project Sekong 2014: We visit farmers that we helped last year and are pleased to see how they are using their land.

February 12, 2014
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Project Sekong 2014: We visit farmers that we helped last year and are pleased to see how they are using their land.

Last evening near, Dak Lie village, we visited with a family who last year asked us to clear a parcel near their fishpond so they could plant a vegetable garden. They envisioned harvesting fresh greens not only for their table, but possibly in an abundance that would permit them to market produce to others...
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Project Sekong 2014: If our team misses an object the size of a walnut we could be setting the stage for a fatal accident.

February 11, 2014
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Project Sekong 2014: If our team misses an object the size of a walnut we could be setting the stage for a fatal accident.

In the forest near Dak Yoy village we’ve encountered a surprising number of detonators from cluster bomblets that broke in half upon impact but did not explode. Whenever I see these walnut-sized devices in the soil I’m reminded of my friend Thongbay who has lived most of his life as an amputee. When he...
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