I came home...

I, Claus Haumer, started the then called MANO ENGLISH LANGUAGE CENTRE when I found out that I could teach English language in a way that Lao students can relate to really well and I could help them to improve their English language skills.

German born (1965) Mr. "Galau", as the Lao pronounce it, is not a qualified ESL Teacher ...
I studied Drama at the University of Frankfurt/Main and I've worked my way through five different German theatres as an actor.
Thus was I determined to do with my life, when I left my distraught parents in "Meschede in Westphalen" - the very settlement where I was born and bred. What I got was a smooth middle class stage career with ups and downs, even highlights - never fruitless and never scratching the edge of fame.
Good enough to go on until the end of my days - or to quit the scene after 15 years and not to regret it.
"The theatre won't ever release you!" head of "das Theatererlangen", Frau Dhein, had solemnly said when I made it for a sabbatical year to Laos: "Not you! You are an actor!"
And there's nothing much to be added to this: "I am an actor..."

I came to Laos in 2002 and fell in love with a whole and entire country - and with Luang Prabang in particular. Equipped with a backpack and a tourist visa valid for one month, I came back in July 2003. In August 2003 I taught English to novices in Wat Aphai. The village police get to know about these activities and wanted to see a license. I applied for a licence to teach English with the Department of Education in Luang Prabang - and the licence being refused... I studied Lao Language and was soon able to make myself understood in this language ...

And then the head of the Provincial Luang Prabang Traffic Police (Mr. Khamngeun), had decided it would be rather useful for him to get to know his share of English - and I had an assignment! He and his staff became my first students - and many others followed.
"Mr. Galau" on the backseat of a motorbike with a uniformed driver was a well-established image in those days: "Did they arrest him?"
"No, they didn't arrest him - he teaches them English..."
"He does what???"
"He teaches them English!"
"I can't believe it !"
"Your bribes are education..." my friend and Laos veteran Ruth had laughingly said. "No one's ever done that before!"

"Is this somewhat similar to an English language class?" I asked highly respected librarian Carol, who I had beseeched to attend the "Claus Haumer-teaches-English Show" in Mr. Khamngeuns's living room.
"What else should it be?" she said.
"But is it right that I do it?"
"No one else does it..."
"Well then...", I came to think, " No one else does it..."

Teacher...

And then UNDP set up an 8 month English Language course for Luang Prabang government officials. Three guys had applied for the job - two of them were qualified ESL teachers. The UNDP had decided it would be me.
Only God knows what drove them...
"A natural born teacher!" Ruth said - and: "Why don't you do what you do the best? Why don't you stay in Laos and start your own English school?"
Ooops...to have the idea was one thing! But to obtain a licence for a private language school in a country like Laos was another pair of shoes - and in particular for a 'falang', as the Lao call foreigners. The authorities would do their best to extinguish the idea before the take-off...
But an English Language School run by "Mr. Galau" was the very thing they really wanted: against all odds I got my licence in the record time of three months! It might have helped that the officials in charge were busily studying English with me at the building site, which would become the MANO ENGLISH LANGUAGE CENTRE

But why Laos? Why Luang Prabang?

When I took my first meditation retreat in the "new world", Venerable Pra Ajahn Plien spoke to me the rather mysterious words: "You were born in the wrong place! - You just came home!
But you've gained some benefits over there in good old Europe. It's high time someone gives something back to the people here..."
Well, I don't know if there's something about it: The Pra Ajahn is by far more enlightened than others I've met. But I couldn't put it any better! It feels right in a way:
I just came home...

Claus Haumer

From another volunteer...

"It was great to be so welcomed and to become part of the MEC school community"

Caroline Bendixsen, Tasmania

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