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Photographer's Note

Pet’s Story

Our guide, nick-named Pet, is truly a remarkable man. He was a child during the Secret War, but old enough to have vivid memories. He is one in a family of eight. When the bombs started dropping too close to their home for comfort, the whole family fled in panic. He and 2 siblings went with their mother in one direction; his father and other siblings went in another direction. His part of the family lived for 8 years in a cave together with other families. They never heard from the rest of the family until after the war 8 years later; all except 1 brother had managed to escape over the border into Vietnam. They thought the missing brother was dead, but eventually he was able to contact them in 1994; he had been “adopted” by a Hmong family and had gone to the USA. Pet said even today people frequently go to the airport and watch the planes disembarking, looking for loved ones returning. Pet told us his story without either self pity or rancour.
On the subject of caves, as most of their homes were demolished and to avoid the bombs, it was common practice for people to live in caves, but as they were also used by the Lao army for storage purposes, the US bombers deliberately targeted the caves using radio bombs. Many women and children were killed as a result.
With such an inauspicious start in life Pet was still able to overcome all difficulties, and speaks impeccable English; he used to be an interpreter for an Australian Company. Although not married, he has adopted 2 sons; one is now 18 and the other 10.
Every night Pet holds English classes in his home for local young people. They have become so popular he now has 2 classes a night. He asked us if we would like to visit his classes and speak with small groups so they can practise speaking English. We were glad to go and it was a truly memorable evening and very humbling.
I wish Pet, his family and his pupils all the luck in the world.
I know this photo of Pet is no more than a snap. It was taken at UXO Laos where he sat among the bomb casings. (The local people use them for fences and anything else they can think of.). I wish I had a better photo, but I want to tell his story, and at the time, as you can imagine, preparing a nice portrait for TE was not uppermost in my mind. As I said on my previous post, I don’t expect points but I would love to read your comments.

Please see here for information on the Secret War and here for its aftermath.
Alternatively click on the theme on the left.

Added 5th March 2012
I just heard recently that Pet died 2 years ago of a heart attack while coaching the local football team.

He improved the lives of so many young people. He gave them the tools and the confidence to take chances they would otherwise never have had. His community will be so much worse off without him and he will be sorely missed.

RIP Pet, a truly remarkable man.

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Additional Photos by Kath Featherstone (feather) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 7646 W: 399 N: 14391] (51130)
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