I met JP in Luang Prabang, a delightful town in northern Laos. He’d already been there for four years, running his own English language school. When he told me he had signed a 10-year lease for the school after being in the country for less than a month I was interested in finding out more about this fellow-Canadian.
Actually, JP has been working internationally for some time. Before Laos he taught English in South Korea for seven years. The job there was great, he said, but it was time to move on. So following a recommendation from a friend, he “just appeared” in Laos and fell in love with the place immediately. “It felt like I was going back in time. Luang Prabang is a paradise, just drop-dead beautiful.”
“I vacationed for about a month, met some great people and ended up in the village where I am now living. I found a dilapidated place that I renovated and refurbished to be a proper school. And I got a great deal on this 10-year lease.
“I knew I was done in Korea and also knew I would not return to Canada for I had invested none of my professional life there. When I was in Korea, I always fantasized about having my own school, about how I would do it if it were mine. So when this great deal became available a door opened up and I was able to make that happen. Since it is a private school it is considered a business and I am able to write my own visa so staying here is not a problem.
May I introduce Tom Harrisson, the barefoot anthropologist of Borneo
May I introduce Jesús Lopez, my driver in Mexico
May I introduce Rigo, a tour guide in Todos Santos, Guatemala
May I introduce Jim, a Tibetan who runs a hotel filled with westerners in Dali, China
May I introduce an Aussie who runs a B&B in Cambodia
“It is a completely private school and students have to pay. I find that if they get it for free they don’t take it seriously. I offer two-month courses and the lessons are very cheap, about 75 cents per student per hour. So if there are 25 students in a class I am doing okay. It’s cheap to live here and when I’m busy I don’t really have time to spend money.
“People from countries such as Canada are so fortunate because our passports are welcomed everywhere. I think westerners can make a success of living abroad and experience Asia in a positive way if we integrate a bit as a citizen of the world and not just be a spectator.”
This interview has been condensed and edited.
© Riding the buses 2012