Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Trying to Find Someone in Laos?

The funny thing about Laos is that the levels of separation are not far and almost everyone knows everyone or they may know your relatives, family or friends.  So relatively speaking it can be quite easy to find or get in touch with someone through a bit of investigating.  Laos is a small country and even Vientiane, I've often described as having a small town feel to it even though Vientiane is quite developed now.

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Lao people generally tend to stay in the same area or home that they grew up in.  With the exception of younger people who move to Vientiane for school or work or those who have moved abroad, most families stay where they have always lived and raised kids at.  And the kids then tend to live and buy homes close to their parents or other family members, usually in the same baan (town/village).  Though this is not always the case, it is in fact quite typical in Laos.

Getting Started
So here are a few my suggestions of what you should have in hand before going there to search for someone.
  • The first thing is to find out which baan they live or lived in. 
  • Knowing their full name and nickname helps. 
  • It's also useful if you could find out any of their parents or relatives names.
  • Any place of previous work could prove helpful as well.

Next Steps
Once you have as much info as possible, you can then go asking around in the last known baan of the person you're looking for.  Additionally, finding out who the head of the baan and speaking to him/her could prove helpful as they usually know who/where most families are in their area.  Further, you should always find the nearest temple.  Lao life generally involves contact with the temple on some level.  The temples become unofficial community centers.  Suffice it to say, the people there usually know who is who along with background details.

Difficulties
Of course with any search there can be difficulties.  Such as, incomplete information to go on, people's memories not being perfect, people may be unwilling to help or quite simply they may not have the info you're looking for.  As with any challenge, you'll need plenty of perseverance and patience.

Story to Share:  Personal Experience of Mine in Trying to Find Someone
When I was in Laos I had to do this a few times trying to find people or places.  One instance that comes to mind was when I visited Laos and I had deliver a gift to someone, keeping in mind I didn't know my way around yet.  The gift was from a family friend in Canada who wanted to send along some money to her father who was quite old.  First thing was to visit the last known baan of where he lived.  I drove there on a motorcycle with one of my cousins.  When we arrived in the vicinity of the village/town I asked the neighbors where he was or where he lived now.  They seemed unsure. Unfortunately the last house he was known to reside was no longer the case.  The search continued.  One person said he was at the temple.  It was on to the local temple.  Those at the temple said that he was no longer a monk there but was now residing with his eldest daughter.  At this point I knew we were getting closer to finding him.  As we drove our motocycle further down the unpaved road, we eventually found the house of where he was residing.  On arrival to the house, I was met by 2 guard dogs and a lady who turned out to be the eldest daughter.  Once I knew it was safe to approach them further, I explained to them who I was and why I was looking for this gentlemen.  They invited me in and I met up with her father.  I explained again who I was to the father and that this gift was from his daughter in Canada.  Mission accomplished.  They seemed really thankful that I came all that way to deliver the gift.

In hindsight, I was surprised I was able to succesfully complete that.  It made me realize the challenge but also the somewhat ease it is to find someone in Laos because on some level everyone knows everyone.

Also worth mentioning is that the internet is becoming a useful resource to finding people even those in Laos.  Although there are no whitepages or 411 directories like there are in western countries to find people (however there are yellow pages to find companies).

-  Submitted by VM
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5 comments:

  1. Hello, I was wondering if you could help me find my friend's sister. Somewhere around 1975, my friend; Thai and the rest of her family, excepting the one sister, had to abruptly leave Vientiane, Laos. Thai's sister name was Ai My Nguyen. The Facebook profile I have created for Thai is listed. Do you have any suggestions? Any advice would be greatly appreciated. TY! https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100010199258098

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi there, we've received your message in Facebook and replied to you privately there as well. Though I'll post reply here too as it might be relevant to others.

      -----------Original Reply:

      Some suggestions (though some of these things you may have done already):

      - On the page you created for Thai, consider posting Thai's picture, family pictures or pictures of Ai My. Also consider using Thai's real name (current and maiden name) and make the profile searchable. This is in case she or her children try to find her on there using those names and with a picture it'll help to identify her.

      - If you know where in Vientiane she last lived, it's plausible she may have remained in the same town or village. It would be worth it to visit the area, if possible. Visit the old house or ask the neighbors questions or visit the nearest temple to see if she was a regular attendee.

      - Perhaps contact the Vietnamese community in Vientiane.

      - There's also the possibility that she may have left Laos at some point after she was separated from the family. If that is the case, try using the online whitepages websites of countries that were taking in southeast Asian immigrants at the time (including USA, France, Australia, Canada, etc.) to search for her name.

      - Look for her on Facebook.

      Nguyen is a very popular last name which makes it all the more challenging on top of the fact that so many years have passed. But don't give up! Try using some of the suggestions. I hope it helps. Best of luck to you!

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  2. Hi there,
    Writing you from Ukraine. My friend, 30yo woman asked me to find her father from Laos. He has left her mother after she was born. So my friend never seen him, but know his name. Actually I find him in web already (even phone number), but didn't contact him for now. He is a professor in University of Laos. For sure he has a family, and I am afraid he'll not accept her.
    So could you advice me how to connect them in better way. Maybe you have TV-shows that help to find relatives as we have? Or some organizations that helps to find relatives officially, etc.
    Thanks for any advice
    Legzeg@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Unfortunately, there are no shows nor organizations to help with that in Laos. To be frank, you don't need those 2 options. You already have the contact info of the father. And if you're friend and her mother are 100% certain that they have the right person, then I would simply recommend that they make contact and send photos along to him so he could see. Beyond that, it would be a bit of waiting game to see if he would respond.

      There is always that fear or possibility of rejection but give him the benefit of the doubt and contact him. Don't let fear stand in the way because whether he answers or not, at least your friend will no longer wonder about "what if".

      Also even if he has an existing family now, it does not necessarily mean he will reject her.

      Best of luck to your friend.

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