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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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Project Sekong 2014: We can only carry so much into the field. We either “make do” or “do without”.

February 10, 2014
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Project Sekong 2014: We can only carry so much into the field.  We either “make do” or “do without”.

I’ve resolved: By this time next year I want to have mastered six new knots. The challenge isn’t to learn them in the comfortable confines of my living room using two, fat, differentially colored ropes. My self-imposed standard demands that I’ll be able to tie them using a variety of materials in true-to-life settings....
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Project Sekong 2014: Travelers who want to present a meaningful gift might consider reading glasses

February 9, 2014
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Project Sekong 2014: Travelers who want to present a meaningful gift might consider reading glasses

People traveling to Laos or other developing country often plan to present gifts in gratitude to hosts or to assist needy villagers.  I’ve found that reading glasses are an excellent gift—cheap to buy, light to carry and, potentially, life changing.  I buy pairs a dozen at a time at a discount store for less...
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Project Sekong 2014: As we go about our everyday tasks, villagers go about theirs. This time of year people are collecting firewood.

February 8, 2014
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Project Sekong 2014: As we go about our everyday tasks, villagers go about theirs.  This time of year people are collecting firewood.

Shortly after daybreak, women from every family head out in the cool morning air to cultivate their gardens and to forage in the forest for edible foods. Every woman carries on her back a hand-woven basket of split bamboo. The baskets are large, reaching from the nape of the woman’s neck to the small...
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Project Sekong 2014: Our Team Leader must recognize ordnance in a myriad of forms: rusted, broken, decayed and more.

February 7, 2014
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Project Sekong 2014: Our Team Leader must recognize ordnance in a myriad of forms: rusted, broken, decayed and more.

Late yesterday afternoon the guys finished clearing a farm, the fifteenth in fourteen days, but we still had slightly over an hour before the end of our normal workday. Was there time to squeeze in another job before we called it quits? The guys had worked hard all day, but their workday is difficult...
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Project Sekong 2014: Good boots are essential. I’m taking back an earlier recommendation.

February 6, 2014
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Project Sekong 2014: Good boots are essential.  I’m taking back an earlier recommendation.

One piece of advice for those who are planning for work in the bush: spare no expense when you purchase your hiking boots and allow enough time at home to properly inspect them and break them in. Better to break in your boots than for your boots to break in your feet. Learn from...
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Project Sekong 2014: We find tons of bomb fragments and other scrap. That’s not a figure of speech. That’s our reality

February 4, 2014
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Project Sekong 2014: We find tons of bomb fragments and other scrap.  That’s not a figure of speech.  That’s our reality

As we sweep parcels of land with our metal detectors, looking for unexploded ordnance, we find prodigious quantities of scrap: bomb fragments, spent artillery shells, rifle casings, flare canisters, sometimes entire bomb casings weighing 500 pounds or more. All metal refuse must be removed from the area we are clearing or it will interfere...
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Project Sekong 2014: For good reason most aid agencies forbid their vehicles from traveling after dark

February 3, 2014
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Project Sekong 2014: For good reason most aid agencies forbid their vehicles from traveling after dark

Last night a truck misjudged a curve and went airborne over a deep ravine. It ended its flight upside down in a stream, its skyward pointing tires about the only clue that the wreckage was once a truck. Three victims were found, deceased, in the morning; the men either perished in the crash or...
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Project Sekong 2014: A generation ago, before help arrived, farmers removed or destroyed ordnance themselves. Some lived, some died.

February 2, 2014
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Project Sekong 2014: A generation ago, before help arrived, farmers removed or destroyed ordnance themselves.  Some lived, some died.

I knew we would find no ordnance but a lot of scrap on this hillside. There are several craters next to this site, a guarantee that this parcel was going to be filthy with fragments. (A 500-pound bomb consists of a 250 pound, hardened-steel casing containing 250 pounds of TNT-like high explosive). That much...
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Project Sekong 2014: Cluster bombs endanger lives and hamper development.

February 1, 2014
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Project Sekong 2014: Cluster bombs endanger lives and hamper development.

America dropped at least 280 million cluster bomblets on Laos during the nine years of the “Secret War” and experts estimate that between 70 and 80 million of them still lurk in the soil, contaminating nearly 25 per cent of Laos’ 10,000 villages. We continue to find numerous cluster bombs in the coffee gardens...
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