Rather than niceness, it are the events of flat bluntness that stick to a traveler’s memory. I have this experience this morning at “bigbrothermouse”. This is a small ngo aiming to increase literacy in rural Laos by publishing and distributing bilingual children’s books. It is and remains a wonderful concept, and so we visit their main office in Luang Prabang (they are also represented in Vientiane). A modest house not far from the main tourist street serves as the nerve center of bigbrothermouse, and the owner, the infamous Mr. Alyson, lives here. I walk up to the counter with Yeon and introduce ourselves and our project. We are asked to wait at a long table, where a few foreign volunteers (an Australian girl I believe) read English books together with local kids. After a while, Mr. Alyson comes down and we introduce ourselves to him. Conversation goes something like this:
“We are charity travel, and supporting charitable causses in every town we travel to..”
-“What are ya doing here?”
“We would like to support your bigbrothermouse foundation with a donation of about 300 dollars.”
-“And..? What do you want from me?”
“Perhaps you could tell us if there are any book parties scheduled so that we could chip in?”
-“That information is all on the internet.”
“I’ve seen the website, it is very nice!”
-“All the information you need is on the internet. I AM NOT GOING TO SPELL OUT OUR WEBSITE FOR YOU.”
He literally said that, and walked off. Here is someone who wants to support your charity and you don’t even take one minute to tell them if you have current projects.. The guy has mental problems, I conclude, and sadly this is confirmed later when we talk to a friendly German expat in Vientiane. It serves very adequately for my personal anger management program, as I teach myself not to get back to Mr. Alyson, not to punch him in the nose or write him nasty emails. Rather than that, I stick to my initial judgement that his project is a genuine good cause, and call people to ignore Mr. Alyson’s crappy rudeness and take bigbrothermouse at face value.
After the visit, in which I thus saved myself 250 bucks, we walk around to experience the strange, surreal atmosphere of this tourist enclave. It is nice, even though we miss the famous temples, the elephant rides, the whitewater rafting, the tubing, and the drinking sprees.
We book the overnight bus to Vientiane, and wrap up our day with an afternoon stroll.