Investing in your relatives in Laos

Investing in your relatives in Laos

When is it enough to do something for your family members or relative in Laos? I have not asked myself this question yet. Ever since I have found my Grand-Mama late last year and went to Laos to meet her, I have been doing my best to help her. A relative once said you can go to a poor house if you keep on doing something for your relative in Laos. I have never met this relative in person yet but to him he has done enough for his mother in Laos.

I won’t even go into details on how much money I have spent on my Grand-Mama and all my aunts so far. I see what I do as an investment on their future. At times I forget about myself and too eager to help. I could have easily said it is not my responsibility to help them or feed them. After all their own sons and brothers are not doing their parts to help their family. Why should it be my task since my parents were divorced and I have just met these people for the second time in my life?

It would be easy to just walk away and live my own life. After all the only relatives I knew about are on my mother’s side of the family. Most of them are well to do and the rest well I have done my part without even being asked to help. I no longer sent money to those in need once I found out they are addicted to gambling. Here I am a hard working student, not making much in income and sending money to my two uncles so they can throw party on the weekend and play card. I need the money more than they do to pay for my health insurance for start.

Now, with hardly anyone to help my Grand-Mama, I can’t just walk away. I have been sending packages to Laos with clothes, purses, towels, medicine, and other basic things such as lotion, candies, and chocolate. It’s a heavy burden but if I don’t do it, who will then? Even my Papa told me to only help with building a roof for a house and not to build a roof over a rice field. It must be some sort of Lao proverb. I found it to be a simple excuse to not do something. No one is building a roof over a house here. We are talking about feeding and caring for his almost 88 years old mother. Even if I am trying to build a roof over a rice field, it is still possible if all the villagers would pitch in. One can always find an excuse to not do something, rather than to find reason to do something.

Why am I spending so much time and money calling Laos and doing things for these people that I don’t know much about? I still don’t know the answer to this question. Perhaps it is guilt for not knowing about their existence all these years. It could also be that I am trying to repay the debts of my Papa and his sins for abandoning his parents and siblings.

What am I getting out of this? I really don’t know. Sometimes all I hear is about their harsh life, this and that. I tried to tell them about my harsh life, having to leave home at 18 with no parents to help with anything and all those years of hardship and starvation. But do they really know or care? Do I really need their love and approval? Not really. I just want to tell them my side of the story and not that I have had such a happy life, just because I was able to come to the US. Life is a struggle, no matter where you are. Having faith and hope can make a difference.

Perhaps I am giving them hope, hope for a better future. My Grand-Mama said that I am like a new bamboo shoot that just sprung out from nowhere. No one could have thought or imagine that I would come into their life and would give them a helping hand.

I don’t see a big deal with helping my Grand-Mama and my aunts. I’ve been spending many years donating to my favorite charities, starting as a teenager. Now I am just focusing my resources on people that are close to me. I don’t have much but I share what I have with them and I told them that. When I have a full time job and more income, then I can help them more. As of right now, it is one thing at a time.

When I heard the news about my Grand-Mama waking up to a snake in her bed three weeks ago I was grateful that nothing bad came out from that incident. She was really frightened and said a ceremony must be done to get rid of bad luck or something. I don’t know much about Lao superstition and since I am a Christian I can only respect my Grand-Mama’s belief and her religious customs. I did my part by sending her a small amount of money along with a care package with clothing, paracetamol, chocolate, and a digital camera. Last Saturday and Sunday my Grand-Mama, my aunts, and my cousins were busy with some sort of boun with the morning alms giving and chanting ceremony by the monks from the local temple.

When I called them on Monday, they were so happy to have tum boun over the weekend. They took so many pictures for me as I requested. It was wonderful to hear the laugher of my Grand-Mama and the rest of the family. They took turn asking to speak to me and had so much to say. My Grand-Mama and an aunt told me how they used part of the chocolate candies I sent them for the morning’s thak baht. They wanted the best as offerings for the boun and were happy to share their chocolate. Who would have thought such simple thing as Dutch chocolate can be so important and meant so much to them.

In a way I think they are trying their best to please me. Perhaps I am their last hope and they fear I might not want to have anything to do with them like the other relatives in the US. My aunt told her son to rush to the local school to take pictures of the first day of class. This is the school that we sent one of our Book Box Library to. I told my aunt how I wanted update photos of the school along with pictures of the rice fields and food pictures so I can share on Laocuisine.net and Laovoices.com Gallery.

If I didn’t sent the camera and spent all those money on my relatives in Laos, then I could have more clothes and more shoes. I have only bought one pair of booth this year. I told myself to just think of when I was a kid in Laos and only get one pair of flip flop per year if I was lucky enough. For a new school year, I will just buy one new outfit. It’s all about choices and making some priorities in life. When I died, I can’t take the money with me. I could save my money for myself but I can do that later. My Grand-Mama needs me and I want to do my best to help her with no regrets.

I think it is a good investment on my part. Now I can share more stories and more pictures of Laos with all my readers. I can ask my aunts about the Lao dishes that they prepared and can share the recipes with people all over the world. Sharing is caring.

4 Comments

  1. When I wrote that post at Laovoices.com, not meaning to rush you to update the photos, It has been bothering me for sometimes, and I’ve had some friends that ask me why I didn’t tell them about it, they could have help, now it’s posted but I’m not holding my breath. I think some people would just say things to be nice but they don’t really mean it, which I can understand, I did the best that I could to bring to people’s attention, they’ll find it in their heart if they want to help or not.

    About investing in relatives in Laos, sending money to help them is not a bad thing, I knew how hard it was for us living in Thailand and we had some help from perfect strangers and we didn’t forget to pay them back. I think you sending your money to your grandmother and aunts shows that you are a caring person, not many people are doing this, most people would think of themselves first.

    What you’re doing, I’m not sure if it’s investing; it’s more of helping to help feed them, when money spend on everyday necessity, it doesn’t grow, and investment in my eyes has to grow, or at least their ways of helping themselves in making a living has to improve.

    The way that I see as investment is if they’d use that money toward education or profession training, using the money to start a business. I think you can help them some if you have interest, such as selling Lao goods on e-bay, setting up a site and even link to your blog, benefits from visitors, I’m thinking about it myself, but it’s just a thought, might not material to anything. We spend many hours on the Internet, scouting for news and such and are aware of what’s out there; we’d understand how things work more than those that never work with the Internet before. On-line store has low overhead cost, and it could be an experiment, you’d benefit and this might be a way to help your relative in Laos also. I think this might be a better investment, something to think about.

  2. Hi Nye,

    I wasn’t thinking you were rushing me at all. I am pretty anxious myself and have been waiting for a package or two from Laos today. Nothing yet.

    I helped my Grand-Mama and the others by paying off their debt. Then I bought things for them that they can use, like DVD player, DVD writer for the computer, and later a new printer.

    They can feed themselves with my cousins working but if half of their income went for paying interest, then there is not much they can do.

    I only feed my Grand-Mama but I am sure she spends money for the entire family. I also sent medical supplies like Blood Pressure checker and things they can’t buy themselves.

    When I spoke of investment I didn’t mean in terms of investing in a business for them but more like investing in them as human resources, giving them an extra push, and helping my cousin for example to study English that they can’t afford on their own.

    With digital camera, my cousin can also take pictures for others for a modest fees to help him pay for gasoline for example. He has a DVD burner that I bought for him so he can burn pictures for them. I also bought him two 2G USB stick so he can pick up documents from an office to print for money with his new printer.

    There are so many businesses in Laos at the moment. Someone has something to sell, even at the market, the problem is not enough buyers to go around. It’s very competitive over there.

    Education also doesn’t give you a job. You have to know the right people and also pay a fee to get hired. Most people in Pakse don’t even go to school because they can’t find job afterward. Their options is to go to the city or Thailand. There is no factory, nothing at Grand-Mama’s village. To get to the center of Pakse for a job, you need transportation, even to the market. It’s 50 US cents one way for a fee of tuk tuk. So, going to a market daily is 1 dollar a day.

    There is no simple solution. I have not thought about e-bay or about an online store. I don’t want to deal with customers, and I don’t know if I can rely on products from Laos, having a trusted supplier that will give you what you want all the time. What can I sell that will meet international standards and that is something that others are not selling already?

    Bay’s sister ships clothes to New Mexico on a monthly basis. Her husband has a relative who sells the finished products like Lao skirts and Lao tops. She is making more profit than selling to the local merchants. Shipping from Laos is very expensive.

    I didn’t study business and won’t make a good business woman. For now my priority is to complete my study, get a job and help my relatives in ways that I think I can, without digging myself a hole. I don’t think it is not my job to feed them forever. Sometimes when you do too much, the more you are expected to do because people think you are supposed to.

  3. I’ve a business background, but to think of doing something that I’m not familiar with, I’m just not so sure. My GI Joe sister, and younger sister do a lot of unique antique chairs, and pillows, and I thought about helping them set it up, but first I have to study a bit more.

    It’s great that you’ve relatives in Laos, I have none, but reading about your grandmother and relatives, made me feel like I have some and will definitely meet them one day. You’re a good judge of character, you’d know what to do when the time comes, as Sid said, you must first help yourself.

  4. The thing is that one of the aunt has children who are well off but they are not doing much for her. Sometimes they make me feel like I am their hope and dream. I can’t do everything for them. I don’t want them to depend on me too much. It’s not good for them I think.

    I don’t have much at the moment. I didn’t get to go home this year for summer vacation. I spent the money on my relatives. I don’t regret what I am doing for them. When you do something that you want to without anyone telling you what to do, you do it with a full heart and just let it go.

    In the end I have to help myself first, when you can’t swim, you can’t save other drowning person.

    I’m sure you’ll meet my relatives someday. 🙂

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