Anyway, Lao New Year has been quite the interesting experience. My first taste of this water throwing festival happened a couple weeks before Pi Mai actually began when I was "attacked" by my little neighbors.
Fortunately, the rest of the city was patient enough to wait until it was closer to the holiday to start throwing water. The water throwing really began to pick up on my birthday. I already shared about how my students and I threw our own little Pi Mai/Birthday party, but after they left my friends and I headed to the pool. On the way I was doused twice, the second time I didn't even see it coming. All of the sudden I was soaking wet, good thing I was already prepared for swimming. After the pool we headed to dinner. We were all driving one right behind the other and I was in the middle. Groups of people were throwing water all around yet somehow everyone except me managed to show up to dinner dry. Every time we passed someone they skipped my roommate who was directly in front of me, hit me, and didn't managed to fill up their buckets in time to get my friend behind us. But being the obvious falang of the group with my blonde hair sticking out of my helmet revealing my true identity as a non-native I was a sure target. "Get the Falang", they cried not realizing that my half-Asian roommate was also a falang herself.
It stayed this way until Tuesday with just a few groups of water throwers scattered throughout town. Going out meant risking getting wet but there was still a slight chance you could make it back home as dry as you left. But once Tuesday hit it was all out madness. Music blasting from every home, trucks lined up down the street, crowds of people pushing their way through the streets, and Lao and foreigners alike dousing everyone that passes by.
Now let me back up for a minute to Monday and tell you about a random meeting with a Lao-French family at KuangSi. Two friends were visiting us here in LP for the New Year, (Luang Prabang is known for being THE place to celebrate Pi Mai) and so I went with them to KuangSi. I've already been to KuangSi a lot so I volunteered to hang back at the bottom and watch their stuff while they made their way up the waterfall. Meanwhile I was sitting alone at a picnic table (a big no no here in Lao, the being alone part, not the sitting at a picnic table part) just people watching when this family walked up to me. "Are you alone?" "Yah, well no, i'm just waiting on my friends" "Oh, do you mind if we sit here." "No, not at all." So they sat down and we began chatting. Next thing I know my stomach is stuffed with bananas, corn, and some strange yogurt type thing. I learned that they are now living in France and left Southeast Asia as refugees. We talked until my two friends returned and they handed me their business card telling me that if I'm ever back in Paris to call them.
On Tuesday morning, the city set up a huge market downtown. It was crazy crowded and since I hate crowds I was ready to leave quickly after arriving. But before turning to head back home my group decided to stop for coffee. While waiting in line, I saw them! The family I had met at KuangSi. In this huge crazy crowd there they were again. We laughed about how crowded it was and that it really is a "small world after all" before they went on their way into the bustling market.
Wednesday, we once again headed downtown to watch the procession. The procession was beautiful, but this quick and final story isn't about the procession. Since being in Lao I have learned that absolutely nothing is yours. What's mine is yours and what is yours is mine. I have also found that Lao people are really touchy, and not just in a romantic way. Friends are always seen holding hands, with their arms around each other, or just leaning on each other. I will never forget when I was taking a picture with a student and she grabbed my hand. It threw me off a little, but to her it was perfectly natural. With that being said I always felt that this touchy culture was usually confined to just people you know. WRONG. So i'm sitting there watching the procession and a little Lao girl is sitting next to me. I have never met her before but as she sits and watches she feels comfortable enough to prop her elbow up on my leg. Before coming to Lao I probably would not have let some random child use me as a support but then again a random child in America would never sit close enough to a stranger to be able to prop themselves up. Nevertheless, it was adorable and I
creepily snuck a picture.
For the record you can throw water on the monks, but not the police.
The streets of Luang Prabang over the past couple days and probably what they still look like right now
My co-worker and his son
Home from a day of water wars