After the China-Laos Railway opened cross-border passenger services in April, China Daily reporter Wang Yujie took the train from Kunming to Vientiane. When traveling from Laos’ capital city Vientiane to its northern city Luang Prabang, a group of children caught the reporter’s attention. They are students from the China-Laos Friendship Nongping Primary School.
Nongping Primary School is located on the outskirts of Vientiane. Funded by the China Foundation for Peace and Development, the school upgraded its facilities in 2013. Since then, China has sent volunteer teachers to the school and provided teaching materials. This school is seen as a symbol of friendship between the two countries.
"I want to take a train to China"
In 2017, the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation was held in Beijing. Some teachers and students said they wanted to visit Beijing, and take the China-Laos Railway there. Now with the cross-border passenger service, that possibility has become reality.
“Hello!” The students greeted the reporter in Mandarin, loud and clear. According to Lin Jieyu, a volunteer Mandarin teacher at the school, the students had only studied Chinese for about two months. They only knew a few simple words and little about China itself. However, when asked whether they would want to visit China, the students all said “yes” enthusiastically.
With the help of the interpreter and reporter, the students began to practice “I want to take the train to go to China” in Mandarin. Although their pronunciation was not perfect, they were still willing to speak Chinese if necessary.
Inexperienced Face, Grand Dreams
While talking with the teachers, the reporter learned the children on this train all have good academic records and different family backgrounds, with some from financially struggling families. Asked by “What do you want to do when you grow up”, some of them dreamed big.
“I want to do logistics work, and help our people with better solutions,” a fourth-grader answered. Seeingthe youngest of the group with such a big dream and patriotism, reporters were touched.
"I hope that children study hard and, in the future, join us in building railways."
After arriving at Luang Prabang Station, the teachers and students were allowed to observe the maintenance and management process. The little boy I talked with was enchanted by the staff members as they carried out their duties.
There are 155 Laotian employees in the maintenance and management center. Kaifa Keosingthong is one of them As a graduate student of the Shanghai Institute of Technology, he is able to communicate in fluent Mandarin. He said he never thought about working in the railway industry when he was a child, since he didn’t know what a railway was then.
“This railway not only connects China, but will also connect to Thailand,” Kaifa said. “It has brought a lot of benefits and created jobs for local people.”
“I hope these children can study hard, learn Chinese and build railways with us in the future, just like what people do in China,” After learning there were students who came to visit today, Kaifa expressed his hope.
"A Steel Silk Road:
Building a Bridge between Lao Dreams and Chinese Dreams"
Bounmi Vilaiysan, ex-headmaster of China-Laos Friendship Nongping Primary School, was also onboard. She participated in the first Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in 2017 in Beijing. She said she’s seen growing cooperation and friendship between China and Laos over the past six years. “The railway has improved people’s livelihoods, local education and transportation. It is very good,” Vilaiysan added.