Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Just Anther New Year Post

HAPPY NEW YEAR!! Now I know what you’re thinking. “Dani, you’re a little early. Yes, I know you live in Asia and you’re a few hours ahead, but it’s still 2014.” And all I have to say to that is… not if you are Hmong.

Soon after I began teaching here in Luang Prabang I quickly discovered that a majority of my students aren’t actually Lao. Most of them are ethnic minorities coming from Hmong or Khmu families. And if you are either Hmong or Khmu you have already celebrated the new year. From what I have gathered between a lot of broken English and Lao is that both cultures mark the end of the year by the end of “working” season. At the end of the season everyone takes a month off for some rest and relaxation. Oh and of course a two week long celebration for the new year because one night is certainly not enough.

I have also been told that because the new year is based on working season that the official day the new year begins varies from province to province and from village to village. Here in Luang Prabang the new year was celebrated on December 20th. There was a big festival that lasted from that Friday night before to just this past weekend. Being the ever so popular teacher that I am (but not really) I was invited to go twice.

The first time was the Sunday after the new year began, and I tagged along with a friend and her student. The festival was filled with people in a variety of traditional and colorful Hmong clothing. (Though upon interrogating some of my Hmong students this clothing is only worn for the new year, and not day to day life).

Hmong new year is also the time for securing oneself a boyfriend/girlfriend. However, instead of talking to get to know the person of interest you throw a ball back and forth. If someone drops the ball they must sing a song. Not going to lie but I think the Hmong are on to something here. You’re forced to sing a song and potentially embarrass yourself; therefore, you know if the person doesn’t run away they might just be a keeper.

Fortunately at this festival there was no pressure to find a special someone to toss the ball with and playing with just your friends was perfectly acceptable. And fortunately for everyone’s benefit I was not forced to sing a song despite dropping the ball several times. Other than ball throwing, there was dancing, singing, throwing darts at balloons for prizes games, bounce houses, dressing up in costumes and taking cheesy picture booths. I even ran into a couple of my own students who were there celebrating, and asking if I was going to come back the next weekend. Apparently the next weekend was promised to be even more fun.

I did go back the next weekend with a couple of girls from my year four class. One of the girls who was actually Hmong has made traditional clothes for me, my roommate, and my other student (who is Lao) to wear. I admit I was excited to wear the outfits but once I had them on I felt so silly. I clearly wasn’t Hmong or even Lao, but oh did everyone love it. Another student of mine who lives across the street from me and just so happens to be Hmong walked by and spotted my roommate and I in our costumes. He was beaming when he saw us. Also, somehow word must have spread fast to all of our neighbors that we were dressed up because they began poking their heads in our doorway to take a glance at us and to gush on about how beautiful we looked.

Once at the festival my roommate and I gained even more celebrity status. I’m just waiting for the moment when my picture pops up on some random Facebook page with the caption “white girl in Hmong clothing”.  Our picture was snapped so many times I lost count. Some pictures were taking discreetly while others mustered up the courage to ask. I can’t really blame them though and it didn’t really bother me. It was just fun and we were definitely a sight to see. Besides I was snapping pictures of all the locals dressed in their outfits as well. I even got to talk to Hmong family who lived in California for a couple years after I asked if I could take a picture of their adorable daughter.

Happy Hmong New Year Everyone! Cheers to 2015!


Noor Unnahar said...

haha! I can tell everyone would be completely shocked to see you in their traditional clothing. I am Pakistani and whenever I see some other natives wearing shalwaar Kameez (Pakistani national dress) I get more than excited.
Happy new year girl x

Dani said...

I did a Google image search of Pakistani national dress, very beautiful clothing. It was definitely fun to dress up though I felt so out of place and even more so with having my picture taking so many times. I already stick out like a sore thumb here in Asia even when i'm not wearing traditional clothing. Still I would do it again if given the chance.
Happy New Year!

Amanda @ Rhyme & Ribbons said...

Happy 2015 to you Dani! xx

Dani said...

Your definitely right about getting my pictures taken even without traditional dress. Is isn't so bad in the city i'm living in because its a popular tourist destination so they are somewhat use to seeing foreigners here. Actually the tourists are usually worse, most of them are from China, and they probably take my picture more than the locals do.

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