February 27, 2013

Story to Share: Culture! It's All Around You!

While in Laos, I often found myself chasing after Lao cultural books and impressive artwork, if I could find it, I'd be all over it.  And on the issue of Lao books, it’s funny how important books like these are to people like myself and others.  It reminds me how important cultural items such as books or cultural institutions are.

For example, if you live in a well developed city you might take for granted the multiple libraries, art galleries, performing art centers, or the museums that exist around you in your city.  However if you know Vientiane, especially in its earlier years, those types of cultural institutions either did not exist or if they did, they were somewhat inadequate (admittedly though, this is changing and that’s a good sign!).  Having experienced Laos and then returning to Canada, it really makes you thankful for those things though, among other things.  However I mention this because even for a poorer country like Laos, the main commodity this country has is not just its forestry products or the potential to become the “battery of Southeast Asia” but really its people and culture.  The incredible growth of the tourism industry illustrates this fact.

When I was in Vientiane I made it a point to check out the museums, libraries, art and photo shops, wood carvers, bookstores and temples.  Although I wish I looked more into performing arts places and for more Lao painters and artists – mainly because some of them are so talented but underrated and lesser known.  I did all this because I wanted to make sure I took in as many of the cultural offerings the city had to offer.  Anyone who says that Laos or Vientiane has little to offer by way of culture, I would argue wasn’t looking hard enough.

Because the truth is, even if there are no (or perhaps inadequate) cultural institutions in a particular part of Laos, if you get to know the people, traditions, food, language, etc., you’re learning about them and their culture and creating a new connection that you would not otherwise get from going to a museum or a reading a book.  So I urge visitors to Laos to really get to know and appreciate the  people and culture, even if cultural institutions may be lacking.

That’s my blurb for today!

- Submitted by VM

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