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The road on the other side of the river

Updated: Feb 9, 2023 By Laexerkou Keokhamdy Print
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[Laos] Laexerkou Keokhamdy, Chengdu Textile College

When I was a child, I lived in a small village in Luang Namtha, Laos. In front of the village there was a small river and on the other side of the river was a winding path. Whenever it rained heavily, the path became muddy and the people there were likely to fall down. But at that time, this path was the only connection between the village and the outside world. My peers and I used to walk on this road every day to school, and we often climbed up the hill next to the path. We would play hide-and-seek and pick wild fruits. As a child, I did not find anything hard in life but fun.

Laexerkou Keokhamdy [Photo provided to]

One day I looked at the path on the other side of the river and asked my dad, “Where will we end up if we keep going up that path?” He put down the newspaper in his hand and said thoughtfully, “We will get to a super big country named China, and it is good for you to go there if one day you become good enough!” That was the first time I got to know “China”, and what my father said planted a seed of dream in my heart. As I was growing up, this dream became clearer and clearer.

There is a saying “when you long for a place in your heart, go there yourself!” After graduating from senior high school, I did go to China to study construction engineering. My first stop was Chengdu, “the land of the abundance.” I still remember the day when I received my admission letter. My father was so excited that he even shed tears. Perhaps it was because I had been looking forward to it for so long a time and when the dream came true, he felt it a little too wonderful to be true. However, this was just the beginning of my bond with China.

Fuxian Lake in Yuxi city, Southwest China's Yunnan province [Photo provided to]

I will never forget the first time I left home for China. That morning, my dad took me to town. From there I took a bus to Luang Prabang, together with some Lao students who were also going to China. The bus was very slow as the road was potholed so it was almost dark when we arrived. We had to stay in a hotel for the night. The next morning we took a bus from Luang Prabang to the southern passenger terminal in Kunming. It was a thousand kilometres of narrow mountain roads, so bumpy and it was so hot a day that I almost got carsick. The excitement of travelling for the first time was totally gone. After a long journey of more than 20 hours, the bus finally arrived in Kunming, Yunnan Province.

Xijiang Miao village in Southwest China's Guizhou province [Photo provided to]

It was my third day away from home when I boarded the train from Kunming to Chengdu, but the rest of the journey gave me a whole new experience. As soon as the train left the station, the landscape opened up before me. As the train got faster and faster, the tall buildings of the city flew backwards. Then came the golden fields, the wide highways, the distant villages surrounded by trees, the small stylish buildings... one after the other. The train travelled over a thousand kilometres, in just five hours! It was my first time on a high-speed train and I was deeply impressed. With great longing I stepped into this mysterious land. Yet I couldn’t help but feel a bit inferior and timid.

From the first day I arrived in China, I kept encouraging myself to work hard. Fortunately, the Chinese teachers and students were sincere and kind, and although they knew where I came from, they did not seem to look down on me. Chengdu was a very welcoming city, with not only cover-bowl tea in leisure time, but also the spicy hot pot and lively Sichuan Opera. On the streets, everyone had warm smile on his or her face. I often think that going to study in China is presumably the best choice I have ever made in my life.

Chengdu Textile College [Photo provided to]

In addition to my learning in classes or from textbooks, I also tried to broaden my horizons in many other ways. During my four years’ stay in China, I have enjoyed various sceneries in China, each of which I remember fondly. The most memorable part was the roads different from one another. In Chongqing, I saw the bustling Nanbin Road. At night, neon lights and street lamps glittered, and tall buildings row upon row were all around. The clear-green Yangtze River was like a dreamlike landscape, with sparkling waves when boats passing by. In Qinghai, I saw the new-style and magical over-sea highway, which was like a floating ribbon laid on the sea, dividing the gentle West Taijinar Lake into two shades.

As the car drove along the road, I saw the sea stretch far into the sky with egrets flying in the distance, water lapping against the shore and flowers blossoming in the near distance. Such beauty was so breathtaking. In Chengdu, I saw the special poetry avenue in Huanhuaxi Park. The stone path underfoot was engraved with famous lines from ancient Chinese poets in various scripts, and each step forward was like turning a page of a Chinese history book. The feeling was both dignified and romantic. These, are the Chinese roads, the combination of nature and humanity, the harmony of history and modernity. There are both the beauty of the landscape and the cultural connotations.

The Student Activity Center of Chengdu Textile College [Photo provided to]

I made up my mind to study hard and bring the advanced technology back to my country so that more people could benefit from it. The Chinese culture is extensive and profound. Although I had a lot of professional classes every day, I still took many courses of the traditional culture---ancient poetry, calligraphy, seal carving, etc., all of which I really enjoy. Under the guidance of my art teacher, I once carved a seal with engraved characters “Chang Xiang Si (long-lasting lovesickness).” Dipping the seal into the ink paste and pressing it onto the paper, I was immediately revealed, on a vermilion background, three magnificent white characters, which I felt best expressed my feelings for China.

I was often amazed by what I had seen and experienced in China. I seized every opportunity to gain knowledge. I felt that each day I spent was particularly fulfilling. But when I was alone, I would miss my family and the little village of Luang Namtha. Whenever this happened, the little road on the other side of the river and the various wide roads of China flashed alternately in my mind, real and illusory. I realized that although the path was not well paved, I had come to China along it. What could I do for it? Expectation for the future often accompanied me late at night.

After graduating from university, I returned to Laos and found a job related to road and bridge engineering in the Mohan-Moten Economic Cooperation Zone. It is closely connected to the Mohan Port at the southernmost point of Mengla County, Xishuangbanna Prefecture. It is a prosperous spot in the China-Indochina Peninsula economic corridor of the “Belt and Road”, and it is also the nearest place to receive China’s production output and economic radiation.

With the help of China, Laos is now undergoing rapid changes, with roads being built and buildings constructed one after another. I am proud that I can make my own contribution to the construction of my homeland, and I am even more looking forward to the future of Laos.

Lake side of Chengdu Textile College [Photo provided to]

At the end of 2021, with the help of Chinese constructors and after nine years’ hard work, the much-anticipated China-Laos Railway opened to traffic. The railway runs from Kunming in China to Vientiane in Laos, linking numerous cities and villages along the way, not only boosting Laos’ economy, but also witnessing the friendship between China and Laos across the mountains. As we all know, the terrain in Laos is very complicated, building a road here is not that easy, not to mention the construction of railways.

Facing the spread of the epidemic and the continuing global economic depression, the difficulties in completing such a massive project can be imagined. The sea is understated, even though it is so vast; the mountains are silent, but it doesn’t diminish the fact that they are so majestic! China’s efforts in building a community of shared future for mankind are believed to be appreciated by every peace-loving person in the world!

My four years’ study abroad has made me deeply attached to the land of China. She is like a clear stream gently flowing through my heart; she is also like the brilliant sun that warms everyone’s heart! I am very grateful to have spent a couple of years when I was young in this beautiful country, acquiring knowledge and the meaning life. I used to be the one with low self-esteem. Now I am confident and cheerful. The road in front of the village is still there, but I am sure that it will eventually be changed in the near future.

It has been nearly a year since I returned to Laos, but the moments of my study in China still linger in my mind as if I have never been away. Today, my work and life are still closely linked to China, and I am still imbued with the Chinese people’s kindness, which allows me to step out from my mountain village. I deeply understand the mutual complementarity between my personal values and my country’s destiny. I have in my memory the words of a Chinese poet, “There is no mountain that one cannot conquer, and there is no road further than one can reach”.

Yes! Thanks to the appeal of China, I have had the opportunity to come to this land along the small road, across mountains and seas. My road ahead is getting wider and wider. No matter how the international situation might change in the future, I believe that the people of China and Laos will walk hand in hand on a golden path of mutual prosperity. I will do what I can to make my own contribution to this road of hope!

The story is from "My Beautiful Encounter with China" Essay Competition organized by the Chinese Service Center for Scholarly Exchanges (CSCSE).

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