Lao Wedding

This past at week didn’t have too much I need to write about. We are still making progress with preparing our clean water filter distribution. I’m still working with the teacher training team to write a guide for those teachers who we won’t get to directly teach. I’m love every day at the office and there isn’t a morning or afternoon that goes by where I’m not learning something new. I found out that my 3 month mark visa renewal will be coming in a few weeks and I will need to go to cross the boarder to Thailand. So, I bought my plan ticket to Vientiane, the capital of Laos, and started planning my trip. I’m going on a weekend before a Tuesday holiday, so I’ll be taking Monday off to extend my trip a little bit. I have a whole list of things to see from a place called Buddha Park with all kinds of Buddha statues to a nice walking park on a beautiful riverside setting. There’s no question I’ll be spending a lot of that time walking around and exploring with no plan at all. I wanted the must see places and then the rest of the time to spend as how I like to really travel.

On Friday this past week wedding invitations were distributed to our whole PoP staff for the Nephew of on of the construction staff and somehow also related to Lanoy, our fearless leader and Country Director. Before coming to Laos I was told to bring a suit, just for weddings. I also brought my suit to Ghana, but probably haven’t worn it since a job interview in college. I really can’t remember the last time I wore it though. Unfortunately though it’s way too hot right now to wear a jacket, so I decided to chicken out and save it for the next wedding in the next few months when it will actually get much colder. This time I decided just to wear my nice button down, dress shoes, and a tie. I also haven’t work the tie I got made in Ghana, so I was trying to change the options around to fit that in. It really goes best with my suit, but I’d rather dress down a bit and save sweating the whole time. That means the only shirt that goes with the tie are either my plain white or black shirts. Since I can’t really wear black at a wedding, I picked the white shirt. I’m not really that good at dressing up, but this time I checked everything to make sure. My tie length was good, my pant length was perfect, and my belt matched everything. I guess that not so difficult to do.

Pavath and I leave the guest house to walk to where they just finished the Bosi (good fortune) ritual. As we’re walking I realize that I’ve made a really embarrassing mistake with what I’m wearing. Think about what I described for a second, I’m wearing my white shirt with my tie, black pants, and black shoes. What profile do I fit? I’ll give you a hint, I’m missing a big heavy book. Yes, I look like a Mormon going on evangelical rounds! The funniest part about this is that I saw them around so often in Ghana that I should have noticed when I saw the colors of the tie, or when Pavath and I looked exactly like the Mormon groups in Ghana. There was always a young man, who looked exactly like I do now, and a local Ghanaian dressed the same to escort the white boy around Ghana and help him with translations and that’s exactly what Pavath and I look like, but as the Lao version. After a few good laughs and some suspicious looks from the tourists, we get to the house. We leave soon after and go to the middle of town for the wedding. We go and sit with some other people from the office and start to dish out some food. It’s so fancy here they don’t even have sticky rice, just steamed rice. All other celebrations I’ve been to, we’ve always had only the sticky kind of rice. Of course after not much time the beer bottles start getting open and Pavath and Khamhoung have the idea of going around the circle with a cup that everyone has to keep finishing. It’s times like these that I’m glad I’m not a light weight. The bride, groom, and family all go up to the front and they announce some stuff in Lao and take pictures. Then they walk around to all the tables and give tiny shots of Johnny Walker.

I get up and dance a few times Lao style where we go in a circle and rotate our hands. I don’t like the Lao dancing because it’s so impersonal. Sure there’s no touching, which is fine with me. The problem is that no one looks at their dance partner. Mostly everyone just looks off behind their partner and to the side, almost as if they don’t have a partner at all. I’m not asking for a romantic salsa dance, but I want to be goofy and have fun with my dance partner. Then they do the Lao version of line dancing, which is always fun. Part of the group is doing the dancing in the circle and part is doing the line dancing in the middle and our PoP group keeps switching between the dances. I quickly get confused and bump into people. It was a great cause for everyone to laugh though. Then, close to the end some people close to the groom get up and start to dance like they’re ball dancing. Finally, toward the end everyone gets up and dances more like the western bouncing side to side in your place kind of dancing. I take my chance and go up with a few of the PoP Lao women and one of their friends. I quickly start off with a goofy variation of how everyone else is bouncing. They laugh and to my surprise come back with their own silly dance moves. Da, our house keeper at the office, who is normally quite shy comes up with the funniest ones. This is much more like the dancing I was looking for. We were all looking at each other and laughing as we made up new ways to be goofy.

Pavath and I finally decide to leave after most of our PoP staff, not related to the wedding party. We walk back because we’re not far at all from our guest house. We mused on a few of the things we noticed during the wedding. Like how great all of our PoP staff looked. Everyone really dressed up for the wedding. No suits though, thank goodness. Then, how strange it was that a young guy in his early 20’s would be marrying a woman in her 50’s. I hope it’s out of true love, but we thought maybe there was a power thing going on. I think the best part was just spending more time with the PoP family outside of work. Everyone is so wonderful in their own way. We laughed pretty much the whole time and when we weren’t we were eating and drinking. That sounds like a perfect celebration to me.

2014-11-16 06.09.53Here’s a picture of Lanoy and me at the wedding.

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