Monday, 8 August 2005

Party Lao style

Having finally recovered from the emotional rollercoaster of coming face to face with death, I’m going to mention the rather happier start to my evening on Saturday night.

Tim and Song were holding a party for Song's nephews who were heading back to Paris after a month visiting their relatives in Laos. The age range was 5 months to 80+ years.

In true Lao style, the entire community had got together to prepare for the evenings events. When I arrived just gone five, there were groups of people sat in circles preparing vast amounts of food, a gaggle of lads setting up some giant loud speakers for the must-have Lao music and crates of Beer Lao stacked up in piles in every corner. Needless to say, it was a bit of an event.

To kick off the evening there was a pre-Buddhist Basci ceremony. A rug covered corner of Tim’s house was host to a golden shrine, placed in the centre of the floor and lovingly decorated with flowers and pieces of string. Everyone sat in a circle around the shrine and I was made to sit up front to hold one of the five pieces of string which had been draped off the shrine. Then, with the distinct melodies of Thai pop music wafting through the window from the speakers below (Lao singers had yet to arrive), the elder of the house began to chant. The words banished evil spirits and wished good luck to all those present, especially the two boys heading back to Paris (as translated by Song). Mid chant, the inevitable happened. Yep, you’ve got it…..a mobile phone went off. Not only that, but the guy whose phone it was decided to answer it whilst the ceremony continued around him. A couldn’t quite contain my need to giggle. What a mosaic of old an new!

Part of the ceremony involved pieces of boiled egg and rice placed on the head and shoulders of various people. These were then eaten. My wishing that I could be excused from this section of the ceremony obviously worked, as I managed to miss out on the eggy-hair experience (either that, or I just wasn’t considered worthy).

Finally, everyone tied pieces of white string around each others wrists. As they tie the knots they wish the receiver of the string luck in all aspects of their lives. I now have six pieces of string tied around my wrists that I am unable to remove should bad luck be bestowed upon me. It’ll look great in any job interviews I may have coming up.

The rest of the party was pretty average with copious amounts of Lao food, Lao music, Lao dancing (I have discovered my Achilles’ heel) and a life supply of Beer Lao. A great evening, until the bike ride home!

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