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Signs of integration.

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I arrived in Vientiane a couple of weeks ago. The city greeted me with heavy rain and a thunderstorm. Obviously it was a very heavy thunderstorm as they said in the local newspaper the next day that two elephants had been killed in the outskirts of the city by the lightning (!?). Now the weather has improved though and we haven’t had any rain this week (so far). One can hope the rainy season is over. Wishful thinking? It was great to come back to Vientiane- this time long term as I’m planning to stay here for the next year and a half. In comparison to other Asian capitals with millions of inhabitants and endless traffic chaos I must say Vientiane is a quite atypical Asian capital with a slow beat and almost a sleepy feeling (although the number of vehicles has increased a lot just during the past few years here as well). A few signs of slight integration into the Lao way of life are probably 1) wearing a sin which is a traditional skirt Lao women wear and can be found in various colours and embroideries. Yesterday I got my first sin done and it’s a beautiful sin! 2) Walking under an umbrella, not because it’s raining, but because it’s sunny. The 3rd step for me will be learning the language. On Monday I’ll start a 4 week crash course studying 3 hrs a day, 5 days a week. That will just be the beginning of it but I’m hoping I’ll get some basics. Luckily I have Dorn, Boua and Bouasy, plus night guards to practice with! Work-wise I’ve so far mostly been fixing all kind of pratical issues related to the office and bureaucracy. Met some people from other organizations working in the same field, and on Wednesday I attended ERIA’s (Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia) ”1st East Asian Summit Energy Efficiency Conference” which was hosted by the Ministry of Energy and Mines of Lao PDR. The conference was held at Lao Plaza and there were probably around 200 participants from various countries around East Asia. It was interesting to learn how the East Asian countries with varying levels of economic development have coped with energy efficiency issues. The presentations of the conference elaborated the different energy efficiency policies some East Asian countries had implemented, which I hope other countries can learn from. The conference also draw scenarios on future energy demand in the region, which obviously is increasing due to economic development, as well as pointed out challenges and opportunities for energy efficiency. In most countries energy efficiency was important firstly because of energy security issues and economic development. On 3rd place was climate change. One of the presentations (by UN ESCAP) underlined also the social aspects of energy and energy efficiency and its importance for development issues. Energy efficiency was also seen as an important source of energy as improving energy efficiency will give more energy out of the same amountof primary energy. Lao PDR’s hydro power potential was highlighted during the conference and the country was recognized as “the battery of the region” having substantial reserves and potential to feed the region with renewable energy.. Phob kan mei! (see you soon) Hanna