Sunday, May 27, 2012

A send off to remember

Year 5 students perform a tradiitonal dance

 On Friday we participated in certainly the most personally moving and wonderful basi ceremonies I have had the pleasure of an invitation to.  GVI staff and volunteers were invited as special guests to attend the blessing ceremony to mark the end of the school year at the small village school, and give the students and teachers an opportunity to thank GVI for our teaching and involvement. 

GVI volunteers and staff get into the swing of Lao dancing

The first hour was spent teaching one final class with years 1 – 4, and it was wonderful to see that the enthusiasm we’ve seen from the students throughout our short time has not waned at all!  Following this we had an extended wait for the other GVI volunteers to arrive (the tuk tuk got a bit waylaid it seemed!), and we were entertained with traditional Lao dances and songs performed by various kids from the school.  Some Lao-style line dancing was up next, which everyone could join in, along with the circular partner dancing so common at any kind of party or celebration.  Volunteers got into the spirit of things and the kids were so eager to invite each person to dance, it was really adorable! 
Holding the 'nop' while the elders recite blessings

Pineapple (the famous crop of the village) and cool water was shared out while we waited.  We then sat around the pakhwan (offering tree) and the school sang songs of thanks to their GVI teachers.  Next we participated in the basi itself, complete with much string-tying by over-eager students desperate to give their foreign guests a blessing.  My wrists came away laden with over 40 threads!  The offers of sok dii (good luck) were so touching, and I found myself rather saddened to be farewelling this lovely little school over the summer vacation.  Unfortunately I personally won’t have the opportunity to return due to my departure from Laos in August. 

Watch out for the Lao Lao whisky!
The celebrations continued with 2 rounds of (almost) obligatory Lao Lao (rice whisky) shots...for good luck!...and ended with some very local style noodle soup, complete with chunks of blood...not everyone’s favourite but a kind gesture all the same from our hosts.       

Village elders lead the basi 

We thank Kok Gniew for their hospitality and invitation into their community through our work at the school.  GVI very eagerly anticipates our return in September for a new school year.