[EDITOR'S NOTE: March 22, 2008: 7pm EDT, pictures posted...enjoy!]
Yesterday I had one of the most surreal experiences of my life. We had spent several days building a concrete floor for a school in a small, local village, and had finally finished. The villagers wanted to thank us, so they held a ceremony in our honour.
We sat down, in a circle around some sacred Buddhist offerings, and the village elder lead a prayer (in Lao). The leader splashed some rice whisky on our hands and then offered us some bananas and taro to snack on. After the blessing, I felt the hands of many villagers come around me, as they turned me around, said a few words, which I couldn't understand, and then proceeded to take white strings, and tie them around my wrists. Apparently it was for good luck, and to ward off evil spirits, who am I to argue.
Afterwards, they offered us some chicken (which I refused -- vegan), and some rice whiskey (which I also -- teacher, in front of students).
They then began a series of call and answer songs, and then the old men started to drum, and play a variety of string instruments, which I couldn't tell you the name of for the life of me. The oldest man got up, bowed in front of one of the female teachers and picked her up into the centre of the circle. This set off a chain, as several other old Laotians rose, bowed in front of a Westerner, and brought them into the circle. Next thing we knew we were all dancing around, very slowly and dramatically, sometimes my partner (a Lao woman in her 60s...at least) and I would change places in the circle, to the great amusment of the locals.
This process was repeated time and time, again, by the 5th time or so, we deciided that we needed to show the Laotians some "Canadian Dance Moves", and myself and an other student proceeded to demonstrate the shopping card, the lawnmower, the robot, chruning the butter, the dice roll, the macarana, and a variety of disco moves. It would have been a great promotional video for "Dynamic Inter-Cultural Exchanges" to say the least.
Afterwards, we talked, even though we didn't share the same language, we shared some laughs. As we drove off from the village, I looked at all of the students and I asked them a simple question "Was this real, or just another Malarone Dream?".
Looking back at my camera, the pictures tell me it wasn't a dream, but I still need a bit more convincing.
Until next time,
P.S. Here is the finished product for anyone interested