When Pete returned from Luang Prabang with his friend Josh, he told me how much he fell in love with the UNESCO protected city. And he told me how he met Aeng, a tuk tuk driver which became tour guide and friend.
Aeng is from a small and poor village just a bit outside Luang Prabang. This is s story typical of most people in Laos. His father is much older, about 70, Aeng is only 21. He has a handful of brothers and sisters. His mother is deceased. Upon being widowed, his father was called to the temple, where he is now a monk. One of Aeng’s brothers is also a monk at that temple. And Aeng was a monk there for several years, as well. (You can remember from my monk chat in Chiang Mai that not all boys/men who join the monastery stay on as a monk.)
Aeng now drives a tuk tuk to make money and pay for his schooling. He wants to study English. His story is similar to others in that most young people are working in hospitality and tourism to pay for their schooling. While Aeng is fortunate to live pretty close to Luang Prabang, others are from villages which are four, seven or more hours away by bus. Those students are usually working seven days a week and live in a shared room (like six people to a small apartment).
After Pete and Josh first met Aeng a few months ago, they decided that they wanted to sponsor him and his education. Now that I’ve gotten to know Aeng, have met his father at the temple, have visited his family, I am really glad Pete and Josh found Aeng and that they are equipped to help him. When Pete goes back to Luang Prabang in December with his mom, I think I’m going to chip in as well because I believe this young man needs a chance to make his life better and is responsible enough to see his plans through and assist his family as well. I’m really thankful to know him and to have him as a friend. In the least, he keeps me humble.