Monday, August 1, 2011

An impromptu but age-old 'blessing ceremony' for volunteers!

I can’t tell you how special it is to have a Bacci (‘blessing ceremony’). The Laotians hold them frequently for all manner of special occasions, but it is quite something to not only be invited to one, but for it to be held for you!
Hence, we were touched when guest house owners, Joy and Ot, offered to hold a Bacci for the volunteers as a way of saying thanks and farewell to some long-stay volunteers, welcome and good health to some of the new ones. In fact one lucky volunteer got off the bus just that morning and was able to come along!
The auspicious time of 10am was chosen and we all arrived in our traditional sins (Lao skirts) and scarves tied in the traditional manner. Everyone looked resplendent in their Lao best! Village elders initiated the ceremony, which starts with uttering (Buddhist) prayers and blessings, before moving on to tying of the white strings onto each others’ wrists – a signal for our body’s spirits to return home to keep us safe, well and protected. These strings are left on for 3 days (or more).

Following the blessings with the strings, we gather around the ‘alter’ tree once again for chanting – a truly moving experience – and share around the offerings....sweet sticky rice packages, rice cakes, a traditional Lao sweet, fruit etc.
Guest house staff had also been up since dawn preparing a feast for lunch...a delicious curry courtesy of Ot (with plenty of help for veggie preparation!), salads and rice. My biggest regret is not being able to eat more! It was amazing :)

Suffice to say it was a wonderful morning and one of those special, unplanned occurrences that make being in Luang Prabang such a profoundly moving experience.