Danish Mother & Son Thrive In Laos

“It’s not so very complicated,” she smiles.
Pernille was born and grew up in Kolding in Jylland. She left Denmark for Laos in 2003 when she was still going through a divorce from her American husband, father of her son Matthias.
She has an education as an environmental planner from RUC university and got the job as an adviser to the FAO foodstuff security program covering agriculture development in Laos.
But she did not take the job to salve her western guilt or to be any kind of hero.
“You don’t say “yes” to this kind of a job for idealistic reasons,” she explains, “but for purely professional reasons. The volunteer concept does not apply in this area of professional ability.Nowadays if you are really going to help, it has to be about technical qualifications.”
But the challenges which came with the job in Laos have also fulfilled a dream for Pernille, because now her job means she can provide the knowledge and expertise to convince the poorest people in the most remote areas of the countryside to start new production, growing new crops to eat and to export.
“This is political in the real sense,” she says. “To me this is not a question of first aid. It is all about structure.”
And how to develop the poorer farmer districts of Laos and help them as structured societies to help themselves, is precisely what Pernille studied at university, and now through her work she puts into practice.
Even Pernille though enjoys every day in this poor but very charming country, she has no plans to stay in Laos when the contract with FAO runs out, she says.
“As you grow you become more realistic,” she says, acknowledging that her educational background and her in Laos are worth gold.
“But I believe there is a fairly limited market in Denmark for my kind of experience,” she reckons, “So I think soon it will be a case of going back home where I will try to use what I have learned so far. You have to know when to stop”.
“I did it and I don’t regret it. And life is not so difficult here. I have a maid for cleaning and there is a kindergarten for Matthias. But I prefer to do the shopping myself.”
And one of the great advantages about living abroad with a child, Pernille points out, is that Matthias even at his young age already speaks a few languages.
She is also unfussed about the fact that she is a Danish woman living alone in this very male dominated society, and rather more mystified by the reactions back home.
“When I talk to people back home about Laos they look blank and lose interest very quickly. They don’t even say ‘what?’ or maybe ask ‘where?’ But that’s life, right?”
As we sit in the calm evening air on the banks of the Mekong River in Vientiane, you know she is sincere about her life and philosophical about the lives of others.
Summing up what’s most important to her about her life in Laos she says:
“Just think how I felt when Matthias reacted as he sat on the back of an elephant for the very first time in his life! Priceless,” Pernille smiles.

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