Friday, April 15, 2005

Lao New Year - still!

Lao New Year officially started yesterday. In the morning, people walked to the wat to offer food to the monks then wash the cheddhi housing the ashes of deceased relatives. Many people have Baci (string tying ceremonies) in the late morning. That's when the fun (?) begins - haut nam meaning throwing water, using the same word for watering plants. It usually starts with using a tree branch and flowers to dip in perfumed water and sprinkled on the guests for wishing of good luck. Later, one pours a little bit of water down the back of a guest's shirt and rubs the back of the shirt to rub in the good luck. Just a little bit later (and just a little bit more alcohol later), the container with the perfumed water gets dumped on someone's head. That's the signal to pull out water pistols, complicated Flash Gordon-style water canons and hoses for a free for all. Everyone gets drenched. The next step after that is to take the water fights to the street.

Yesterday, I drove home from the office and cut down a side street. Some kids stood in the middle of the road. I stopped and one young lady asked if she could give a small water offering. So she patted some water and perfumed talcum powder on my face. Another girl joined her and did the same. I didn't notice that a third person snuck up behind them until a whole basin-full of water entered the truck. Agghhh.

As I drove back to the office today, parties of drunk kids of all ages were throwing water all along the Luang Prabang road. My plan was to leave the truck then take a tuk-tuk, a small open sided motorized vehicle, back to the airport. I realized that the water fighting was not a good thing for my computer, so I called a friend who was making the circuit of parties and temples. So I ended up at the airport three hours early - but dry. I sat, drank a beer and wrote, even got in two hours of editing.

It's lovely up in Xieng Khouang now. The sky is clear, the stars are out and I'm happy to be in my little house. The kids are doing an amazing job with planting all sorts of flowers around the house. And I was relieved to find that Khamdee had not cut down the big trees behind the house, just trimmed back the branches a little.

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