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出發前的想像：過去幾年到過泰緬邊境、越南、尼泊爾這幾個發展中國家，這些都是一些大學團體搞 Service Trip 的熱門目的地，但老撾的 Service Trip 卻甚少有聽聞過。加上之前有看過一些關於老撾的書都說當地不太開放給遊客，因此我猜想老撾應該是比尼泊爾還要落後。還有知道老撾是個共產主義的國家，所以猜想當地的人都會很愛國愛黨？因為知道有整整四個月可以慢慢在當地探索，所以事前也沒有特別搜集太多資料就出發了。
出發後的實況：到達機場後，馬上就看到一些有中文字的廣告，感覺上沒有想像中那麼落後，可能因為是首都吧（老撾的首都叫永珍，又名萬象）。再走到街上，乍看上去很像越南，到處都是混雜的電線桿，馬路上都是電單車和舊式的客貨車，然後同樣地都是沒有人遵守交通燈過馬路（雖然其實是不能遵守的，因為我看過的綠燈只有三秒，而且我同事更說在這裡那麼久都沒有看過綠燈）。當然談到全球化的影響，越南胡志明市的連鎖店是比永珍多很多。在這裡暫時只有看過 Forever 21、Zara、Swensen’s 和 Pizza Company 等，其他比較普遍的如 McDonald’s 都沒有看過。
談及對當地人的印象，因為工作環境都不同國家的人，而且本地人也甚少會說英語，所以接觸的本地人並不是很多。現在我能跟他們說的都是 Sabaidee（你好） 和 Kob Zai（謝謝），還有在問價錢時可以聽懂 1-10 （因為老撾語的數字是跟泰語一樣的）。
來到這裡其實對衛生環境也沒有甚麼意見，反然令我久久不能釋懷的是安全問題。可能因為聯合國的 Security Department 都比較嚴謹，他們跟我們說了很多治安問題，例如踏單車的時候不可以把袋子放在籃內、背著或側孭，因為會被人搶去或「界走」，然後家裡一定要有兩把鎖、窗子也一定要有窗花，不然很容易會有人進來盜竊。我們選住所時還有一個專人來檢查和拍照記錄，我來這裡兩星期後身上就有十多條鎖匙了（家裡的前後門、樓下大閘、房裡的櫃、Office 的門和 Locker、單車匙…），真的很誇張。每天晚上睡前都要把電腦和相機鎖起來，真的有點吃不消。但就在前兩天我的同伴就在踏單車時被人搶去了背包，弄得很多證件都要再申請，所以這些安全措施也不能不做。希望住久了對環境熟悉一點會較有安全感吧。
Mission 1: Write down your perception towards the destination before the trip, and compare it with your impression after arrival
Perception before departure:
Previously I have been to Thai-Myanmar border, Vietnam and Nepal. These are all population destinations for service trips held by universities. However, service trip to Laos was rarely heard. Besides, I have also read some books before and it is stated that Laos doesn’t not open up itself for tourism (may be many years ago though). Due to the above thoughts, I have a feeling that Laos would be more underdeveloped than those countries I have been to.
I also know that Laos is a country ruled by communist party, so I guess the people there would love their country or their party quite a lot? Since I knew that I would have a four-month-stay in Laos to explore it bit by bit, I didn’t really carefully search for all the materials before the trip and those were all of my impressions.
Impression after arrival:
Immediately after arrival, I saw some advertisements with Chinese words and those made me think that Laos was not as self-enclosed as I thought. The city where I stayed is the capital of Laos, Vientiane. It looks like the Ho Chi Ming City of Vietnam. There are many motorbikes and old-style vans on the roads. Nobody follows the indications from traffic lights to cross the roads as all the green lights only last for 3 seconds (My colleague who has stayed here for so long said that he has never seen any green light before!). However, regarding the number of chain stores, it is much smaller than that in Ho Chin Ming City. Forever 21, Zara, Swensen’s and Pizza Companies are nearly all the chain stores that I have seen. I would like to search for McDonald’s yet I haven’t seen any.
Regarding the impression towards local people, I can’t really tell a lot since most of the people I met in UN and those whom I could communicate with were mostly international. Now I can only say Sabaidee (Hello) and Kob Zai (Thank you) to them. I also understand numbers 1-10 (since they are same as those in Thai!) and it is very useful when asking for the price.
Another issue which concerns me a lot is the security issue. The security department in UN conducted a briefing for us and they gave us a lot of reminders, such as we cannot put our bags in the basket when cycling, not even for backpacks or shoulder bags as thieves on the motorbikes will pass by and take them. And we should have at least two locks at our apartment, otherwise others may break into our house easily. When we were choosing our apartment, a colleague from UN came and checked the whole apartment, as well as took photos for record (So cautious!). After staying for 2 weeks, I have already got 10 keys (for front and back door of my apartment, for the drawers in my room, for the gate, for the office door and locker and for the bicycle, etc.) and I have to lock my camera and computer every night before I sleep. It’s a bit stressful yet there is really a need to do so since my friend from Hong Kong really lost his money and identity cards a few days before! His bag was grabbed by two men on a motorbike when he was cycling on the road. It was quite scary! Now I just hope that I would have a sense of security after I get familiar with this place.
Mission At 20. Laos Chapter. 作者簡介
在 2015 年的下半年，我會到老撾的聯合國單位做義工。在老撾，有超過 50% 的人口是 25 或以下的，但當地對於義工等概念都比較貧乏，因此這次我是主要負責推廣青少年義工文化。
而從老撾回港約一星期後，我便去飛到丹麥的哥本哈根大學交流半年，唸一些 Major 以外的科目。
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