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March 2011

Winter has left Luang Prabang though it had hardly made an appearance. Its presence however was enough to dramatically cut our electricity bill for about 4 months, not requiring the luxury of airconditioners that our classrooms are equipped with and which simply need to be working during classes during the non-winter months to create a more bearable climate to study in other than the furnace that Luang Prabang is most of the year. Our students come to MEC for English classes but there can be no denying that the prospect of a cool classroom provides additional motivation. It seems that the 'airconditioning season' has started again.

Besides the weather there have been a few other developments related to MEC of which the main event must have been the start of new English classes at a second location in Luang Prabang. As from December 2010 MEC rents a former dormitory block opposite the local Souphanouvong University where today Mr Claus and Mr Sakthavy teach beginner classes to university students, for the moment using 1 classroom of the potential 4 that can be established on the premises once we have funding. For now 4 classes are being taught at MEC-U (as we named the location) by two teachers. As December and January are major holiday months for many students MEC-U was not immediately swamped by too many students but it knew a gradual start suitable for the capacity that we currently have and today just over 50 students attend classes at MEC-U. As April is also considered a major holiday month because of Lao Newyear we hope that we can manage with the one available classroom and come May we may be able to afford getting a second classroom equipped for more classes. This basically means having a concrete floor installed, a wall pulled down, and facilities installed such as a whiteboard, tables and chairs, a fan or 2 and most importantly, a data-projector as it is a vital component of our teaching method.

For the moment US$ 750 has been generously provided through the MEC-supporting foundation ELK in Holland in order to improve the schoolyard at MEC-U so that it won't change into a mud-bath once the rainy season is in full swing come May/June. Courtesy of the Openbare Basis School Numansdorp and Ms. Jeannet Kooi, thank you very much! We will keep you posted on the work in progress on this project. Be confident that the project will be handled with customary Lao thoroughness, determination and swiftness. With that in mind I paid a brief visit to the MEC-U location this week to inquire on the status and monitor any initial 'constructions'. When I arrived at the gate however, I saw a schoolyard as I had seen it a few months ago when I decided that we could do well with a donation for 'fixing up' the place a bit. I walked over to Mr. Sakthavy and just when I was about to ask him when construction would start he asked me: "When are you starting construction?"

Classes at MEC are popular with our students. This is so because of our great Lao teachers, our student-friendly and effective teaching-method, but also to some extent because of the regular appearance of foreign volunteers in our classrooms. For the Lao students a foreign presence adds an extra dimension to their hour of learning English at MEC. The organisation GVI works with MEC to provide the opportunity for volunteers to experience English classes for Lao students by MEC as it provides the oppurtunity for Lao students to experience real-life practice in a 'safe' classroom environment. Over the last year or two the participation of volunteers in our classes has become a valuable aspect for us and something we wish to nurture and further develop.

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Schoolyard MEC-U today, pending improvement....