Today was my first complete day in Phonsavan and my plans were huge. I wanted to find out everything about the UXO situation in Laos and get in contact with officials of help organisations in order to get access to the “frontlines”.
The first thing I did was visiting the “Quality of Life Association”, an organisation that helps UXO survivors and disabled people. To my surprise I was able to make a few good contacts, for example with a japanese TV crew that was filming a documentary about the very same topic that I had planned to work on.
After I let them interview me for their film I asked whether I could join them for the rest of the day and they agreed. I was more than happy, especially because I did not exactly know where I would begin. Joining a TV crew that had a filming schedule made the start a lot easier. We went to a nearby sewing room where female relatives of UXO survivors were producing handmade bags and iPad cases to support their family as well as the association. It was interesting and even though I did not understand any of the interviews it was an emotional atmosphere.
However, after this first success they sent me back home, I suppose because they were continuing their interviews and thought it might get boring for me. At that time I was hoping to be allowed to join again the next day and left with a good feeling.
Later that day I coincidentially ran into the team and asked them about the next day. It turned out that they could not let me join in. Apparently they had to get an offical letter from the ministry of foreign affairs for their shoot, and one more person would not be allowed. I quickly learned what they needed this letter for when informing a bit more in another organisation:
If you want to participate in the bomb search and defuse squad you need such a letter and getting it takes time and luck.
So, my chances are pretty bad and this also makes me question whether it makes sense to continue my work, without having completed the obviously required preparations.
I think I will make my decision tomorrow.
All the best