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  • Writer's pictureREI

Applause in Laos

Updated: Feb 13, 2020

Years ago when we were finishing up our time in Kenya, I had a dream. I was in another country, and people were clapping for us. When I woke up I thought, “If only I could have known which country that was, we would know where to go next.”

Last year I thought I had finished teaching surgery here in Laos because there was nothing else I saw that they needed from me. They are doing laparoscopic procedures themselves and are teaching others also. But a couple of weeks ago, one of the surgeons here, who I think so highly of, asked me to do surgery for the new residents to observe as they rotated through the hospital. He said, “The way you do surgery is so clean, we can clearly see all the anatomy.”

A wave of new residents came in January, so I was called into the OR. A number of regular surgeons were there, too, including the chief of surgery. When I finished, I left my assistants to close the wound, and they all begin applauding. At that moment I wanted to be anywhere but that in room, yet I knew that we were in the right place.

Dr. Kent passing on dissection skills to surgical residents.

I was near the front watching my friend, Mrs. Phouvy, co-lead a workshop at the yearly Lao TESOL* conference in our city. The topic? “Modeling life-long learner habits.” Phouvy had worked with another American colleague to create the presentation. I’d helped Phouvy go over the pronunciation and was there to cheer her on. She was excited and spoke confidently before a room full of English teachers from all over the country and from other countries as well. Phouvy also teaches classrooms of more than 100 medical students four days a week, creates curriculum, revises lessons and meets with me to practice her English and help me with Lao language. Recently we’ve begun walking together in the early morning to help each other stay fit! She is the kind of person who always wants to know more. She cares deeply about her students and invests in others. She’s just the kind of noble-hearted person that I am pleased to call my friend!

Oh, are you wondering about the five habits? A life-long learner:

1. Sees mistakes as part of the learning process

2. Is curious

3. Interacts with a learning community

4. Reflects and improves

5. Enjoys learning!

TESOL—. Mrs. Phouvy (fourth person from the right) with Patsy and other colleagues who work with staff and medical students at the University of Health Sciences.

The REI Lao team is happily anticipating three or more new teammates in the fall of this year. They will join in training medical professionals and English teachers and teaching English to hospital staff and students.

English is now a necessity for many in the medical and educational community here. Everywhere we go we meet people who ask if we can help them learn English, as their opportunities for higher education, training and advancement are limited without it. But native-English- speakers who are willing to come here and invest deeply in relationships are scarce! We are actively looking for more people to come and join us.

*Teaching English as a Second Language

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