Shopping – Lao Style

Greetings from Laos.  Jordan filled you in yesterday about the business meeting we had with the local school officials in preparation of our Big School Build.  (As an aside I need to tell you that I wanted to make her headline “Make a New Plan, Stan”.  She said her generation wouldn’t get it, but I knew my baby-boomer peeps would.  Since it was her entry, she got to pick the headline.)

After the meeting, she and I, along with our entourage of three Catholic Relief Services (CRS) representatives, and a  driver (our government official escort remained at the school) headed to the local village to purchase materials we needed to build the school.  We were a little bit nervous because the price we were given at the morning’s meeting was almost double the price we had budgeted based on preliminary  pre-trip estimates that had been sent to us.

DSCF0969 - Shopping - Lao StyleThis is a shot of the “local” lumber yard.

Our first stop was a small business – think of your locally-owned lumber yard.  We were greeted and seated, and the negotiations began.  While children played and dogs wandered around,  we negotiated for a good price on the sand and cement we needed.  Although we didn’t end up with the price we wanted, we struck a deal, and hopefully, several tons of sand and cement will be waiting for us Monday morning.  We asked about an electric cement mixer, but the lady could not give us an answer without her husband’s approval, and he was away.

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Jordan is seriously watching our interpreter add the figures for our cement and sand purchase.

We have between 1200 and 1500 square feet of cement flooring to mix, and an electric mixer will make this back-breaking job go so much faster.  We tried to hire a cement mixing truck, but they consider our job too small.

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This is the aisle of the local version of a Home Depot.  We had to maneuver over the rebar and tubing that was in the middle of the walkway.

After leaving the first business, we headed to another store – think Home Depot.  Although the shop’s design and lay-out would be OSHA’s (Occupational Safety and Hazard Administration) nightmare, we were able to have a friendly meeting with two sisters who own and run the business.

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Ah, paint samples.

They, along with their adorable children, seated us and were able to come up with excellent prices – some well below the estimate – for most of the remaining supplies we needed.  Great!!  They were happy!  We were happy!

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Everybody was happy after we made a deal.  This is the family that runs the big lumber yard.  The little boy in the back is 11 years old and has very good English.  When we arrived, there were some English sentences on the chalk board beside the table.  One of the sentences was “There is a goat in the school yard.”  After seeing the cows wandering around the school yard that morning, his sentence made perfect sense.

They, too,  promise that the supplies will be waiting for us at the sight on Monday morning.  There will also be a truck full of bricks for us to unload, but unfortunately, no cement mixer.