Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Luang Prabang, Laos. Day 3

Today we got up early (5am) and participated in the alms giving ceremony.  There are over 400 monks in this town and each day they walk the streets single file and people give them food or offerings.  They, in turn, give prayers to the givers and their families.  Dressed in orange robes, the monks provide a sense of calm and solemnity to the inhabitants of the city each morning. OAT had mats, chairs, rice ready when we arrived at our area of giving.  They also provided scarves since every one is to wear a scarf draped across their left shoulder and either tied at the waist or draped back over the shoulder.  It was a very quite, humbling experience.  Some of th monks were so young and a few very old.  It is a right of passage for SE Asia young men to become a monk for some time during their lives, usually when they are young.

After the alms giving we went to the morning market.  We had to buy everything we needed for lunch.  Each of us had a different item that we had to find and buy, and we only had the Laos name.  The market had fresh fruit and veggies, fish and meats, live chickens and ducks, eggs, dried fish, all kinds of rice, grasshoppers, worms, and even guienea pigs.  A very large market!

After a stop at the hotel for breakfast we set out to experience " A Day in the Life" of a Laos village.  This is an activity that all of the OAT trips have.  We visited the town of Ban Tin Keo.  First we were introduced to the village leaders and their families.  It is so nice to have guides who can communicate for us.  Then we walked to a blacksmith who was making knifes and he demonstrated how the knifes were made.  He does the hammering and his wife works the primitive bellows.  Some of the couples tried to copy the technique.

We met the young students of a local elementary school which is supported by Grand Circle foundation, at subsidiary of OAT.  These were first and second graders.  They were so cute.  When we arrived at their 3 room school house they came out, put flowers around our neck and took us by hand into the classroom.  My little girl was 7 and her name was Korn.  I had brought pencils, colored pens, and candy.  She kept eyeing my gifts until I let her pick a pen.  Some of the teachers in our group, me included, got up and taught the students some English words.  I taught eyes, nose, knees, and toes.  Then they sang us two songs and we all sang one together.  We went to the library where each student got a book and we helped our students with some English.  My little girl knew a lot.  When we left the students Korn hugged me and waved goodbye as we walked off to our next visit.

We passed from the Laos side of the village to the Hmong side.  These people were relocated to this village 7 years ago from the hills.  They live much more primitive than the Laos people.  Where the Laos people had brick walls and tile floors, the Hmong people had bamboo walls and dirt floors.  They believe in spirits and we visited the local shaman.  He explained how he became a shaman and how he could heal the sick.  He played his flute for us and then we went outside and everyone tried his wooden crossbow.  Some hit the target but most were high.  The shaman was dead-on.

We returned to the Laos leaders home where we participated in the cooking of our lunch.  We each added the ingredients we had bought from the market into the wok they had set up in the front of the house.  It was a wonderful Pad Thai.  We thought that was lunch but the leader's wife prepared sticky rice, pork wrapped in banana leaves, soup, and another rice dish in banana leaves.  Dessert was fresh fruit.

The above picture is their kitchen.  The only method of cooking is on the little stove in the corner.  No oven, no microwave and they have to squat down to cook.  My knees would be killing me!

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