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Teaching English in Laos

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On our way to the night market we saw a farmer leading his flock of cows home across the dusty street.
Even though our accomodation is located in a rural area the unsurfaced road is quite busy. Every day several cars and mostly scooters - which are the main means of transport - pass through...and sometimes also cows :)

P.S. It only occurred to us later that we never asked about its name. It probably doesn't have one anyway.

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Surprisingly they did it!
And we drank fresh coconut water from our own coconuts for the first time.

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The main means of transport for short distances are scooters. If you don't own a scooter you mainly move around by taking a tuk tuk. Tuk tuks are kind of auto rikshaws - a vehicle composed of a motorcycle and a trailer. The driver sits in the front and the passenger back in the trailer.

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In our street there is a daily morning market and night market. During lunch time you can also find some stalls where home-made dishes in small packages are sold. Here you can see the night market, where we buy fresh ingredients for our dinner every day. The range of seasonal food varies each day - the Lao market traders sell whatever their farms and gardens provide at the time.

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What you might consider to be a garage is in fact a shop :)
These shops can often be found along streets - so also along our street. They sell a varied range of products, mainly non-perishable foods, and are open until late at night. Instead of a fourth wall there are shutters, which come down at night. The shop-keepers also live in their shops, somewhere in the back.

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Our journey from Frankfurt to Vientiane/ Sikeud via Bangkok took around 16 hours. When we finally arrived we all were very tired but we were greeted very warmly by Gerlinde Engel and had a great dinner with two of the Lao teachers.

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Alyssa and Jessica didn’t want to climb up the tree. But they also didn’t have the right tools. That’s why they just took a very long stick and taped a knife to its tip.

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Souk and Donekeo are the two English teachers at Ban Phang Heng secondary school Laura works with. Laura helps them to enhance their English skills and their teaching methods. Together with Tanja she also offers different activities for the students like an English conversation club .

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Besides preparing and holding lessons together with her tandem-teachers Ms Mit and Ms Noy, Alyssa teaches English to them and two more adult students at Ban Sikeud primary school. During “Activity Time” she sings and plays with the primary pupils using the English language in a playful context.

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Every week Venetia teaches English to the pre-school children at the Ban Sikeud primary school.
She also teaches English to two groups of “non-English” teachers at the Ban Phang Heng secondary school every day. During “Activity Time” she does English games and songs with the children to activate speaking.

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Teaching the pre-school kids at Ban Phang Heng Primary School is one of Jessica's tasks. With the Mopsy programme the children learn their first English words and structures in a playful and highly activating way.
Moreover, she works closely together with Bounpheng, who teaches English at this primary school. In the afternoon she offers English activities for the students.

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At the Lao German Technical College Amelie is responsible for Muk. She watches her lessons and helps her to improve them. She also teaches two English classes, one at beginners and one at elementary level. Conducting activities and an English conversation club in the afternoon is part of her daily work.

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In this chapter we want to show you glimpses of everyday school life - usual circumstances but also some curiosities, as school in Laos can be very different from what we know in Germany.

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Twice a week students from Ban Phang Heng Secondary School have the opportunity to join the "Science Lab", an extra curricular activity offered by Rebecca and Veronika during Activity Time. Here you can see one of the many experiments that the students can conduct.

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Teaching is not the only thing a Lao teacher engages in. Sometimes they also cut their pupils' hair as the boys in Lao schools have to have short hair.

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This Lao teacher, Ms Bounpheng, was so happy when she got her own laptop, a donation from AfC!

Now she is learning how to use it for her work as a teacher.
We cannot imagine how much this means to her because for us it is usual normal to have our own laptop.

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This video was filmed by one of the Lao teachers during Activity Time at Ban Phang Heng Primary School. Alyssa and Jessica introduced the song “Hey Baby!” and, as you can see, the catchy tune went down very well with the children! :)

Here are the lyrics for you to sing along:
Hey baby, hey baby, let's rock and roll!
Hey baby, hey baby
, let's rock and roll!
We're gonna jump, jump, turn around.

We're gonna twist, twist, to the ground.
Hey baby let's rock and roll!

Hey baby, hey baby let's rock and roll!

Hey baby, hey baby, let's rock and roll!
We're gonna twirl, twirl, way up high.
We're gonna shake, shake, to the sky.

Hey baby let's rock and roll!

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This week we did a workshop for the science teachers at Ban Phang Heng Secondary School. The five teachers were very excited to work in the schools's didactics room and create their own teaching material.

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Producing flashcards using a laminator and a paper cutter




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Preparation and implementation

In the workshop we also let the teachers prepare their first experiment in the new lab and we were really proud to see that one of the Lao teachers went to the lab with his pupils two days later and let the pupils conduct the same experiment.

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One area of Stephanie's work at the Lao German Technical College is to accompany Viengkhom's lessons and to give recommendations how to improve the teaching methods. Moreover, she teaches English to two beginner classes. Together with Amelie and Christiane in the afternoon she organizes an English conversation club and other activities for the students.

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Lao PDR, the Lao People's Democratic Republic, is a small Communist country in Southeast Asia, bordered by Myanmar, China, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand. The overall topography of Laos is hilly and mountainous with thick green forests and rivers or the stately Mekong River running through it from north to south. You can find many beautiful landscapes there and we saw some amazing places that we want to share with you. The Laotians are a very happy and content people, always friendly, and constantly smiling. During our stay we had the opportunity to dive into their culture and daily life, which is deeply influenced by Buddhism.
This chapter shows you a few of our impressions.

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We spent one weekend in Vang Vieng
with our whole team. Vang Vieng is a
popular destination for tourists and
also people from Laos because of its
outstandingly beautiful and diverse
landscape, which includes lagoons and
caves.
One of the places one should have
visited in Vang Vieng is the Blue
Lagoon.

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Vientiane is the capital city of Laos. Its population is 783.000 and the Mekong river running along the city forms the border to Thailand. One Saturday we went there for an outing and met our fellow-volunteers from the Lao-German Technical College. As they live in Vientiane and they already know their way around the town, they took us on a walking tour. We climbed the famous Patuxai (a war monument in the center of the city), visited a morning market and sat on the Mekong river bank. In the photo, you can see our team, only Laura is missing.





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This wonderful picture was taken by Stephanie, one of our LGTC teachers, while going for a walk in Vientiane in the evening on one of their first days in Laos.

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Fresh fruit can be bought anywhere at small stalls sold by constantly smiling Lao women. The taste is incredible!

Can you spot the odd one out? :)





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Lao cuisine is diverse and distinct from other southeast Asian cuisines.
The staple food is steamed sticky rice, which is eaten by hand and the most famous Lao dish is larb (ລາບ; pronounced lap) which you can also see on this picture. It is a spicy mixture of marinated meat or fish with different herbs and spices. Another popular Lao dish is spicy green papaya salad. Galangal (a tropical rhizomatous spice, similar to ginger), lemongrass, and fish sauce are important ingredients of most Lao dishes.

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Rice, more precisely sticky rice is the staple food of the Lao people. In fact, the Lao eat more sticky rice than any other people in the world. Besides breakfast, lunch and dinner Lao people eat several little snacks during the day. Rice often accompanies their meals. In this picture you can see several sorts of rice sold at the morning market in Luang Prabang.

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Lao cuisine is absolutely delicious! However, sometimes the Lao people eat food which we would shrink from eating :) In this picture you can see curry chicken feet and sticky rice. Even if you don't believe it some of us German volunteers were were curious enough to try them.

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Not only chicken feet but also insects are eaten, which the Lao people regard as saep lai lai (delicious). No other people in the world eats more insects than the Lao. This clashes with our own eating habits and therefore seems odd to us, but we only need to remind ourselves that our eating pork seems “wrong” to other cultures as well. Apart from this, eating insects has significant nutritional benefits. They are eaten in Laos like we eat crisps, but are a great deal healthier. And does it not make sense to eat what meat is around you – unless you are a vegetarian, of course?

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Together with the English teachers Bounleud and Souvhan, who teach English at the Ban Phang Heng secondary school, Tanja prepares material for their English lessons. She does not only teach English to both of them but also helps them to develop their teaching. Together with Laura she offers various activities like an ABC club for the students every week.

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Carpe diem! One must celebrate when one has the chance

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The Lao people's pleasure in celebrating is exceptional. No matter whether it is a national holiday or another festive event, celebrations are always welcome as they bring variety into the workaday life. The reasons for the festivities are very diverse; however, they often have a Buddhist background.
During our stay we had the opportunity to attend several Bacis, also the opening ceremony of a new gym in one of the schools, and Christiane also celebrated Lao New Year in Vientiane. As every village and its pagoda has one or more festivals a year we were often invited to the festival of the villages around Ban Sikeud. The volunteers at the Lao-German Technical College also went to two Lao weddings.

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On our first day at school the traditional Lao ceremony Baci (ບາສີ) was held to welcome us. During the ceremony strings are tied around your wrists to chase evil spirits out and let positive energy in. We got very emotional when so many people wished us good luck for our stay in Laos.

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On Friday, 10th April 2017 was the official opening ceremony of the gym of Ban Phang Heng Primary School. The inauguration was accompanied by the blessing of the local monks, who were given donations. A Baci ceremony was held and the schools' students danced and performed a fashion and karate show.

Let the following impressions work their magic!

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As a welcome, the karate team of Phang Heng Secondary School perfomed for us. Their fitness and precision was very impressive, especially when you consider the hot weather.

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One of Veronika's tasks is teaching English at Ban Phang Heng secondary school to four science teachers, who have just started to learn English. In cooperation with the teachers she also develops their teaching and helps them to enrich their teaching methods and repertoire. On Wednesdays and Thursdays she offers “Activities” in the school's science lab with Rebecca.


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Teaching a Technical English class is one of Christiane's tasks at the Lao-German Technical College. With the teachers Ms Saythong and Ms Ba she evaluates their lessons to help them optimize their teaching. In the afternoon she offers “Activities” and an English Conversation Club.

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Ms Chanmany and Mr Sackbong are the science teachers Rebecca works with at Ban Phang Heng secondary school. She sits in on their lessons and helps them to implement experiments in their lessons. She also teaches English lessons to Mr Sackbong four days a week. Together with Veronika she also offers “Activities” in the school's science lab for the pupils.

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Sabaidee!

We are Veronika & Rebecca and are responsible for the collection , editing and publication of the media for this pageflow. We want to take you on a interactive multimedia journey to Laos by sharing our experiences with you.

Enjoy! :)

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Hello and Sabaidee,

As Team VII has arrived in Laos it is time to finally continue working on this live documentation. Currently it's only me, Malin, who is uploading photos and videos of my first impressions here, but at the end of October Anja will join me and we will take care of this Pageflow together.

We hope you enjoy scrolling through the photos and getting more, hopefully interesting, insight into this beautiful country and everything we get to experience here.

Have fun!

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Every day after school, the students stay for one more hour for Activity Time. It takes place from 3 to 4 p.m. in the primary schools as well as in the secondary school. The students have the possibility to choose from a variety of options. We, the German volunteers, also offer activities for the students in the three schools.

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Breakfast

Lao breakfast- western breakfast

The typical Lao breakfast consists of noodle soup, fish, rice, or other salty dishes. For Western people, this is strange. We rather eat oats, fruits, muesli, or bread. When we have breakfast with our Lao teachers it is a real intercultural experience.
For Lao people, our type of breakfast is strange, too. “Only rich and fat people eat ‘cookies’ for breakfast.”


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The Drama Club is a new offer for the students by Marie and Rebecca. Every Tuesday and Thursday, students come to the Drama Club Activity Time to play short role plays, dramas, or skits using the English language.
They do not only practise their English but also learn how to act, use gestures and mimics, or how to use intonation. In the video, is a sequence of the students acting in the participation story "The Ghost with One Black Eye".

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                       The English Games Club was established during
                       Team IV and this time continued by Lara and
                        Veronika. Two times a week students of grades 1
                         and 2 join the club during Activity Time to play
                         different games and it is always a giant fun! The
                         students learn extracurricular vocabulary in a
                          playful way. It happened that they developed a
                          big love for the game ‘Hangman’. Every time
                          at the beginning of the lesson the students
                          ask for playing this game.  

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From 05:00pm to 10:00 pm the night market in Vientiane is open. It is similar to the Morning Market, but at the night market you can buy more clothes and electric devices. It is indeed a place where you can meet a lot of tourists and prove your bargain skills.

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In Lao school both teachers, and pupils have to wear uniforms. For women the uniform consists of a traditional lao skirt and a blouse, for men trousers and a shirt.

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Celebrating Halloween in Laos

On October 31, we celebrated Halloween at the LGTC in Vientiane. Dressed up as witches, the three of us welcomed all English classes (Beginner A+B, Elementary and Technical English) to be part of this festivity. Each class had prepared a contribution to entertain to others, which was followed by a variety of games. Our Lao teachers definitely proved that games work at every age - no matter how old you are :)

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Observation lessons are part of our work in the schools. We take part in the lesson of our tandem-teachers and observe them. In the end of the lesson they get a constructive feedback, so that they can improve in their teaching or stick to their good habits.

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In Laos there are many villages. The teams that work at Ban Phang Heng Primary and Secondary School as well as Sikeud primary live in a village called Sikeud. There is not much to do besides the market and two karaoke bars.

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The Conversation Club is one of the Activity Times offered at Ban Phang Heng Secondary School. Every Wednesday, Lara and Marie plan activities for third and fourth graders who want to practise their spoken English.

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In the English lessons in Laos the focus is normally on reading and writing and speaking or having conversations is almost never practiced. Therefore, this club is a great opportunity for the students to practise having English conversations in an activating and playful way.

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This time, they trained how to describe a picture to another person in English. One student got a picture and had to describe it to a partner. The partner drew what the first student with the picture described.

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The Conversation Club has been offered at the secondary school since Team III has been in Laos and it is still a great success.

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Indigenous weaving is very common in Laos. One can find clothes, bags and carpets but it is also possible to take part in an indigenous weaving course where one can encounter the procedure of weaving.

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Packbong or also called “Morning Glory” is water spinach and a very famous dish in Laos. It is cooked with garlic, chili and soy sauce.  

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During our stay we have to offer workshops for our Lao-teachers. With the help of the workshops the Lao-teachers have the possibiltity to improve in their teaching skills, in their pronunciation, in their grammar and many more. The workshops are visited numerous because of the big interest of the Lao-teachers  

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JPRL is the “Jeunesse populaire révolutionnaire laos “ or “Lao People’s Revolutionary Youth Union”. It is a big organization in Laos which wants to mobilise the young people for a national development in Laos. It belongs to the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party which is the Communist Party of Laos.
Pupils who belong to this party wear a blue blouse on Monday and Wednesday.

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Every morning when the pupils enter the schoolyard and every afternoon when they leave the school, every class has to stand in a queue until they called by a teacher to enter their classrooms.

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The "Elementary" class at the Lao-German Technical
College is one of four English classes for teachers
held by German volunteers. Every afternoon from
Monday to Friday Sandra teaches the very motivated "Elementary" class which is always a great pleasure
for her." In the picture (left to right) you can see
Mr Bounthavy, Mr Phonesvanh, Mr Souliya,
Mr Phonesouk, and Mr Siphanda.
Unfortunately Mr Khamsavay and Mr Souny
are missing.

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In Ban Phang Heng Secondary and Primary school one will find a teacher’s kitchen where there the teachers cook in their breaks. In the mornings they start with papaya salad and mango and for lunch they often cook sticky rice and bamboo soup.

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Although it is very hot and sunny in Laos, there can be rain as well, especially in the rain season. Rain means in this context heavy rain that can flood the streets.

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Being young in Laos does not mean that you only go to school and then have free time. Often the parents of the pupils have shops, stands or small restaurants in which they help their parents after school.

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Festivaloflights my boat
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Lhai Heua Fai means ‘floating boats of light downstream’. The festival is celebrated at the end of Lent all over Laos. It is very spectacular, especially in towns located next to rivers.

We were in Luang Prabang when the festival was held and had the opportunity to be part of this beautiful happening. Every family makes a small boat by arranging banana leaves, flowers, incense sticks, candles, and small offerings like betel nuts or money on a piece of banana trunk. At the bank of the river, they light the candles, say a prayer and then let the boat go into water. The spectacle of thousands of boats with their twinkling lights is magnificent.

The act is a tribute to the river and begs forgiveness for disrespecting or misusing the river’s water. It is also a ritual to send away all bad things such as sickness or bad luck. Another reason for letting the boats float is to send offerings to the dead. But most important – it is a tribute to Buddha.

Temples and villages also build boats of light. These are much bigger and there are two types of boats: the normal Heua Fai, which are set into the water, and the Heua Fai Khowk, which stay in the temples. In Luang Prabang, each temple and each village sends a boat to join a procession on the main street taking place in the evening of that day. The different groups present their big glowing boats made of bamboo, coloured transparent paper, and decorated with loads of candles. During the parade, a jury watches and nominates a winner for the most beautiful one. Ethnic groups wear their traditional clothes, people sing, chant, and dance. It is a jolly hustle and bustle. After the procession the boats are brought down to the river and launched where they float down next to hundreds of small banana leaf boats – an overwhelming twinkling and sparkling sea of lights.


In the picture above you can see a Heua Fai Khowk infront of a temple surrounded by monks and lanterns. Every temple ground is decorated with like this. The small picture shows a small boat which we let float on the river.

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The small boats made of banana leaves, flowers, incense sticks, and candles are also sold on the streets. Unfortunately not every salesman is thoughtful and some of them use polystyrene instead of a piece of banana trunk as floating platform. Nevertheless these individual boats are the reason for making the river look so sparkly.

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The picture of this Heua Fai Khowk was taken during the procession. Every Heua Fai Khowk looks differnet. They vary in size, shape and colors but what they all have in common: their glow is jaw-dropping!

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Druing the procession people sing, chant, and dance, wearing their traditional clothes. Every few minutes the parade stops as the judges, which sit at the side of the street, have to examine the Heua Fai.

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In Laos there a several stands where one can buy a Lao pancake. Be careful – it is not what you will expect. The seller puts sliced sausage on it and tops it with sweet sauces.

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A special place in Ban Phang Heng Secondary School is the Science Lab which is a new building for science lessons. Up to 50 pupils fit into the modern room that contains a preparing room for the teachers with lots of material. It is also used for Activity Time to conduct experiments together with the pupils.

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Here you can see the Science Teacher of Ban Phang Heng Secondary School: Sackbong Boulapan, Khamsee Thanbounhueang and Chanmany Thippachan.

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In a rural area we visited a small zoo called “Na Deer Farm”. In there one can find exotic animals such as ostriches and crocodiles, but also common animals like goats, sheep and cows.

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In Vientiane there is a big morning market where one can find clothes, bags, food, cosmetics and Lao traditional medicine. Although it is called morning market, it is open until the evening.

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The teacher’s room is the central place in the school. There the Lao teachers work and prepare for their lessons, but also relax and talk to their colleagues.

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