We met Chanthy on our first day in Luang Prabang. He was our waiter at the restaurant where we had lunch. He said he was studying english at a technical college and worked at the restaurant to practice english.
So after lunch, Tomas offered to help him with his english. Ultimately this happened every day for the week we stayed in Luang Prabang.
Chanty is from one of the mountain shanty towns (Na Lim Village, Nan District)we passed on the bus the day before. His spirit is wonderful for someone with so little. Knock off Converse shoes perfectly white on top, but worn completely though in several places on the bottom. A borrowed bike from his cousin (when she doesn't need it) is his transport. The floor of his cousin's (weatherbeaten)beauty salon is his bed, along with another cousin.
It is very difficult to break the cycle of poverty but Chanthy is a shining example of someone who just might. But it won't be easy. He works incredibly hard learning english, but there are many kids studying english and all are competing for a few good jobs in the tourism industry. Luang Prabang is very expensive and earning roughly 15 cents an hour puts you at a disadvantage.
The days passed incredibly quickly and Tom looked forward to his time with Chanthy. But, after numerous conversations, with a lot of focus on pronunciation, a visit to his "house", meeting his friends and playing badminton, it was soon time for us to depart Luang Prabang. On one of the last evenings in LP, Chanthy stopped by the restaurant we were eating at. As we chatted, Tom asked if he had ever earned any money as a tour guide and he said 'no'. So Tom listed all the things Chanthy had taught him about Laos and said "you have been an excellent tour guide for me". Tom handed him 50,000 kip ($6) which he knew would be used to buy a new pair of shoes.
The next day Tom brought Chanthy to the cafe where Jill was having lunch. We chatted for a little bit and soon Chanty was off. But we both noticed his smile and pride in his brand new knock off converse tennis shoes, in teal, which matched his work shirt perfectly.