Home-stay in Ban Lad Khammune (Laos)

26 10 2012

Item’s I have learned today:

Ban: Village

Home cooked meals in Laos are the best meals EVER (well, I mean behind my beloved mothers cooking of course).

After a night in Pak Beng it was off to Ban Lad Khammune.  It was here that we had our remote village home-stay. I was literally amazed by the children here, so different from the ones at home,  or should I more accurately say from how I was when growing up.  First off, it took very little to put smiles on their faces.  A little attention, a rock, whatever.. it made them happy.  They didn’t need Teddy Ruxpin, My Little Pony’s,  Nintendo, Barbie and the Rockers, or She-Ra and all of her palaces (I am probably seriously dating myself here… but whatever). They just needed companionship.

The highlight of the day, which  was surprising considering Stray goes through this particular village at least once a week, was the “spice girls” taking digital pictures and then showing them.  I also loved the fact that if one kid fell flat on his/her face, he/she didn’t immediately start crying and run off for their mother (ahem.. I definitely wasn’t like that as a child.. cough, cough). He/she/it just picked themselves up, laughed and went right back to the game of tag, or jump off the rock or whatever it was the other kids in the village were playing.  SOOO different, and so cool to see!

The evening began by the men gathering around to drink their “Lao Lao” (a rice whiskey that they make… not for the faint of heart).

Lao Lao - Rice Whiskey being distilled lol

Lao Lao – Rice Whiskey being distilled lol

We all had a tour of the temple, and the school. We would have gone to the area where they generate their electricity, but it had recently flooded.  The school was funded by a Kiwi Charitable trust.

temple

temple

The primary school

The primary school

It’s crazy to think that not all villages have schools, but sadly this is the case.  This particular primary school was for all of the kids in the area, not just this particular village.  I asked about secondary school (anything above 6th grade for everyone back home), and was told that the closest was in Luang Prabang, which is about a 3 hour commute.  That the students would have to board there. So basically, unless you come from a family with money, your education ends at approximately 11 years of age. Crazy! The even more insane part is that this particular village was nicknamed “Lots of money village.” I think the name is a result of the people living there doing alright by Laos standards, and that this Kiwi Charitable Trust built the school.  Imagination what life would be if you happened to live in a village that wasn’t quite so prosperous?? It really helps to put things in perspective and be grateful of all the opportunities that we have back at home!

Another thing to note was the areas of the village where those not so well off live.  This was where I witnessed the children I spoke of earlier, they lived in huts, literally huts. I don’t think I saw a single toy. I complain when my heating doesn’t turn on fast enough in my apartment.. imagine living in a wood hut! It was so incredibly humbling to see these kids who had very little, running around, playing and laughing.

OMG.. I still think about this meal

OMG.. I still think about this meal

The evening concluded with literally the best meal I had in all of my 6 weeks in SE Asia.  I couldn’t tell you what it was other than spicy papaya salad to start, then some sort of curry, then veggies and of course rice and hot sauce. YUM. My mouth waters just thinking about it. I learned how to say “delicious” in Laos (of course 3 months later, I no longer remember it), and repeated it OVER and OVER again to the chef.

Set up for the Baci Ceremony

Set up for the Baci Ceremony

For the next few weeks, any local immediately asked if I was married/or getting married.  Insert marriage rant here. It took marriage question number 12 before I realized that it had to do with the numerous bracelets that I had on my wrists.  They were a result of the Baci Ceremony that night in Ban Lad Khammune. The Baci ceremony is a spiritual ceremony that has been around before Buddhism. According to my wonderful reference manual of Wikipedia: “The practice is linked to the ancient belief that Baci is invoked religiously to synchronise the effects of 32 organs of human body considered as kwan (KWA-ang) or spirits or the “components of the soul.” Its observance to establish as social and family bond to maintain “balance and harmony to the individual and community, is done in its original format in Laos, as a substantiation of human existence.”

Baci Ceremony

Baci Ceremony

Basically the elderly woman of the village prepared this elaborately beautiful tray.  A former monk opened up the ceremony, and what felt like the entire village came over and blessed/chanted over us, while tying these bracelets around our wrists. I don’t think words can accurately describe this.  It was a pretty incredible experience, especially knowing how rooted in Laos culture it is. It was an honor to have the people in this particular village doing this to welcome us/wish us well.

Granted, I know it happens with every tour that comes through, but STILL.. for me, it was definitely one of my highlights of my entire trip.

The Spice Girls... no autographs please

The Spice Girls… no autographs please

The spice girls performed afterwords (lol.. it was pretty bad, but we did make them laugh with our version of “call me, maybe”) and then it was off to bed, spending the night in their homes. Overall a pretty cool experience.


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