Tag Archives: Lao Rugby


city scape
I’ve been helping out at the Lao Rugby Federation for a few years by now, but last month, I got to be a part of one of their most exciting accomplishments yet.  They have been winning their tournaments with Cambodia for several years now, and as such, were promoted to a higher division of their competition, Division IV of the Asian 5 Nations.  That means that for the first time their competition moved out of Southeast Asia…into the desert.  This year the Lao men traveled to Dubai to take on Uzbekistan and Pakistan in competition, and I went along.

In preparation for the trip, the men underwent 6 strenuous weeks of training 8 times per week, and I underwent the slightly less strenuous task of recording their journey:

…and then, compiling a video of all of the other people cheering on the team from all corners of the world:

Finally, during the first week of May, we were off to Dubai!  For more on the rugby, check out updates on the website and facebook.  In the end, the team did not win, but made an excellent debut in a new and challenging division of competition.  It was also my debut in the Middle East, although Dubai is one of those cities, somewhat like Singapore in my opinion, that feels like it could be anywhere.  It reminded me of Singapore in other ways as well–good shopping, good food, clean, modern, air-conditioned, extremely diverse with many immigrants, efficient, but not a whole lot of unique character.
Granted, I didn’t get out that much in Dubai, so there is still a lot more to discover.  And it is undeniably an impressive city.  It is quite astounding to look out at the glittering skyscrapers and realize that it is all just built on sand.  Anywhere that is slightly unkempt–an unpaved lot, or untended alleyway, is filled with sand, and driving on the highway out of town (as we did to go out to all of the matches), the urban jungle quickly recedes into the sand dunes.  The wealth it would require to keep the city going in the middle of the desert must be immense.  We took the highway through the desert, eventually ending at a tree-lined boulevard and the most beautiful grassy sports complex with free flowing water abound.  Clearly a lot of effort goes into the city’s many luxuries.
the creek
And there are plenty of luxuries indeed–the bus stops are air-conditioned, the artificial Palm Islands lay off the coast, and the Burj al-Khalifa, currently the world’s tallest building at 829m (2722 ft), looms impressively above the city.  We went to one of the natural public beaches for an afternoon (photography strictly not allowed) and the view of the Persian Gulf in one direction and the skyline in the other was rather surreal.  This followed by an evening with incredible hummus and hookah along the Dubai Creek made me realize that although somewhat artificial, it is a city worth revisiting.

On our last day in Dubai, we went to the Dubai Mall, an impressive town-sized complex of every store imaginable, with their logos imaginatively redone in Arabic (I LOVE logos in Arabic), plus a shark tank, waterfall, and who knows what else.  I missed the indoor skiing and desert safaris this time…but next time, it’s a given.


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The Lao Nagas

Last year, a Lao rugby team, called the Lao Nagas, traveled to Hong Kong for the first time to compete in the Kowloon 10s tournament and watch the world’s most elite 7s tournament.  The team invited a videographer from Lao New Wave Cinema to join and make a documentary of the event, which has been well-received in both Laos and Hong Kong, and was featured at this year’s Vientianale film festival.

Thanks to the success of last year’s tournament, the team is on their way to Hong Kong for the second time this week, and I invite you to cheer them on by watching the full length documentary, or the 5 minute trailer version on YouTube below, which I edited from the original film last month.

Let’s go Laos, Lao sou sou!


Filed under Hong Kong, Laos, Vientiane

Holiday Greetings from Lao Rugby

Happy holidays from Lao Rugby!

Check out the latest video I made for Lao Rugby highlighting all of their great events from this year.  I’ve loved being a part of lots of these events and taking photos of them, and am looking forward to their 2013 schedule.  In order to make all of this, and more, happen again next year (including more hilarious music videos) they need your support!

A little money will go a long way, so even if you can’t give a lot every bit counts:
$10 is enough to pay for a new rugby ball
$20 can provide new rugby boots for a Lao player
$30 can provide transportation to a training session for 25 kids
$50 can provide pitch rental and set up for a club game
$75 can sponsor one youth player’s full participation for one year
…and even more generous donations can help with admin costs, staff salaries, participation in international competitions, and more!  Donate and find out more information here.

And it’s not just about rugby…Lao Rugby’s programming also helps develop healthy living, leadership, and local capacity building.  It provides its players with access to new opportunities through their participation in sport.

Hope everyone has a happy and healthy holiday season!

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Lao Rugby Style

You know Gangnam Style?  That’s right…that catchy, obnoxious, K-Pop song that’s been literally everywhere for the past month.  It’s been on Ellen, I saw Japanese tourists dancing to it in the Kathmandu domestic airport, and my Lao students keep asking me to do the dance.

This weekend, in the grand tradition of the hit cover video “Call Me Maybe” the Lao Rugby team took to the field once again to show off their ridiculous dance moves in a cover of Gangnam Style–“Lao Rugby Style.”  I filmed and edited this one myself, and I must say…these guys have got a sense of humor.

Watch it.  Love it.  Share it.


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Call Them, Maybe?

If you’ve been following pop music in the States for the past few months you may have noticed a certain infectious,  irresistible song, by previously unknown Canadian singer Carly Rae Jepsen, skyrocketing to the tops of the charts. Justin Bieber popularized it with a cover.  Then the Harvard baseball team covered it with a hand-held video of the team rhythmically hitting the top of a van on the way to a game.  Inexplicably this YouTube video got millions upon millions of views.  Then another college sports team.  Then another.  Suddenly it has become a full-on “Call Me Maybe” meme.

Lao Rugby was not about the be left out of this international phenomenon.   Sure maybe a lot of people can’t find Laos on a map, but the teams were determined to make their mark on the “Call Me Maybe” YouTube scene.

It took a few evenings of planning, and a long, sweaty, sun-burned Sunday of filming, but the product turned out amazing, if I say so myself (and I am only partially biased from being a co-director of the video)!  The Women’s National Team is preparing to go to the Philippines to compete very soon, and the Men’s National Team is on the way to Cambodia for a competition in a few weeks and they need all the help they can get!  Rugby is a relatively new sport herein Laos and they are always in need of more funding and support, so they’re hoping to drum up some sponsorship with this new viral video.  Or at the very least, get a shout out from Justin Bieber.


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February: Playing with Fire, etc.

Back in Vientiane, Term 1 has been chugging along like a refurbished tuk-tuk; it’s moving faster than usual, more smoothly than before, but is still not immune to the occasional pothole that rattles its newly painted frame.  While I don’t plan to recap this term’s entire professional development experience, one focus of our recent workshop was questioning our assumptions.  We thought about our assumptions in the classroom–the things that seem obvious and self-evident–and how we could examine them, try to see them from the opposite perspective, and think more critically about why we do the things that we take for granted and whether or not they have the effect we intend.  As a teacher, especially one communicating across language and culture barriers, I find myself constantly wondering how others see me and asking: how does what is lost–in translation, in cultural context, in the simple complexity of communicating between two people–change what I am trying to say?  While grappling with this idea in the classroom, I’ve found my thoughts comparing this to what I do day to day.  Now that I am comfortable and well-established here it’s the perfect time for me to question my assumptions in daily life.  What do I think I know about living here…and how can I examine it from an entirely different perspective?  I’ve been trying to approach this familiar place with fresh eyes.  Though I may not have any revelations as a result, it’s keeping life interesting.

An unusual weekend sunset, as seen from my porch.

Often I don’t need to try to make things interesting though.  Last week, for example, we had our first fire drill at school to test a new alarm system.  The alarm rang–this was familiar from all of my years of schooling.  Students and staff filed outside.  Again, business as usual.  As it was our first test, police/fire “experts” were at hand to monitor and provide a “fire safety demonstration.”  This is where things got interesting.  The police took out a compressed gas canister and opened the valve, to create a fiery plume.  Then another officer poured out a line of gasoline and lit it on fire as well.  Holding up an extinguisher, the officers asked from student and staff volunteers from the audience to attempt to put out the now blazing parking lot.  Applause broke out when the flames subsided, and the officers promptly lit another fire and looked for another volunteer.  This continued for 30 minutes, until the entire gas can had been used up and the parking lot was filled with the haze of low-hanging gases.

An intense moment during the Vientiane 10s tournament.

When not contemplating the efficacy of my teaching or learning which of my coworkers is most efficient with a fire extinguisher, I’ve gotten increasingly involved with the Lao Rugby team lately.  I’ve been volunteering intermittently for the team, mostly doing photography, but dabbling in facepainting, all year.  Since January, I have rarely missed a big team event.  It’s a win-win–I love any excuse to take photos, and if I get to do it while also practicing Lao, spending time with some of my favorite people in VTE, helping out an organization that’s doing great work in the community, and watching some awesome rugby…well it’s been a great time.  The guys are training and fundraising to go to the Hong Kong Sevens in March (if anyone wants to sponsor a player, check it out…I took the headshots), and I’ve done a few promotional photoshoots for the team.  More fun, though have been the games: Laos hosted the Vientiane International Tens at the beginning of the month, and a few weekends ago I joined the team in Bangkok, where they competed (and placed) in the Bangkok Sevens Tournament.

Lao Nagas--men's national team traveling to Hong Kong.

The slow descent into the end of term has already begun, with only three weeks left, and there are numerous adventures to look forward to in the month ahead, including some more travel on the horizon, and visits from some dear friends from abroad.

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Rugby World Cup

Last Sunday was the final match of the Rugby World Cup, an event that generated excitement in countries across the world, in the expat community of Vientiane, and among friends of Lao Rugby.  In the US, I’m guessing, this event was hardly on most people’s radar.  The LRF had been hosting viewing events for weeks, both as a fundraiser and to support their larger goal of increasing interest in rugby in the Lao community.  For the culmination of the cup, a match between France and host-country New Zealand, they staged a large-scale rugby “festival” last Sunday outside the National Culture Hall downtown.

Children waiting for rugby games outside the cultural hall.

Before the game, there were a number of sports-related activities for the LRF’s youth program, called “Champa Ban”–stretching, passing practice, touch rugby, lineout competitions, and other rugby shenanigans with a visiting Welsh team that inexplicably came dressed in a hilarious array of intense, weather-inappropriate costumes.

I attended as a volunteer photographer and face painter, which sounded like a fun and easy job.  Little did I know that face painting was actually code for being accosted by a pushy mob of disorganized and demanding children (luckily many of them were redeemingly cute).  We set up the face paint (actually poster paint…we’ve got to work with what we’ve got) under a tent to shade us from the sizzling midday sun.  My friend and I had sketched some design choices, so kids could point to the one they wanted–a butterfly, a rugby ball, French flag, NZ fern, Lao flag, Maori face tattoos, a champa flower–and our first “customers” were the guys from the Lao national team.

As soon as the first child caught sight of what was going on, however, these guys were promptly pushed aside by a stampede of children.  For the next two hours I saw nothing but a sea of children’s faces, as I was surrounded on all sides by a clamoring group of Lao kids who wanted their faces, hands, arms, whatever, painted.  Luckily there were five other people helping, but still we were overwhelmed by a hoard of kids who refused to form any semblance of a line.  The kids probably would have continued this for an additional two hours, once the game was underway, we painstakingly extricated ourselves from the mob of children, and shut down the facepainting booth for the night.  I relinquished my volunteer duties and joined the crowd watching the game on the big screen from the shade of the Vientiane College sponsor’s tent, where we watched the second half of the close match (which NZ won).


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Lao Rugby: Mekong Cup

Flag-bearers welcoming the Lao team onto the field.

My friend and fellow PiA-er Maggie works for the Lao Rugby Federation here in Vientiane.  She’s one of the hardest working people I know, and though I don’t remember her official title, it’s something involving a combination of managing both the men’s and women’s national teams as well as coaching, playing, and organizing all sorts of community programs.  I’ve attended several LRF games over the course of this year, and a few weeks ago was one of the biggest– Laos vs. Cambodia in the men’s Mekong Cup final.  Maggie asked me to photograph the event, which was a great opportunity to get up close to all of the action.

This little guy just wants to know when the game starts!

What began as a light rain at the start of the game soon became a full-on rainy season deluge (that ended up lasting about 48 hours in the end).  Luckily the Lao team’s fans were already gathered, waving flags and noisemakers in the stands, and I had my friend Sam as my trusty umbrella holder to shelter my camera and I from the downpour.  Whenever it seemed the rain couldn’t possibly get any harder, more sheets of water came down, until the field and the platers were an indistinguishable muddy mass.  All of the sliding and faces full of mud were worth it in the end for team Lao, who emerged triumphant as the Mekong Cup champions!


Filed under Laos, Vientiane