Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Don Det Notes, Continued

With my last post, Bière de Route (Road Beer) blog just went past 7,000 views! I would celebrate with a Lao-Lao shot...

I was supposed to call Ken today at 8pm (8am one day in the future for him) but Skype wouldn't open... Bo pa nyan.

Without wasting further time:

Friendship Bracelets

When you do something nice for someone here in Laos, they tie a little colourful string bracelet to your wrist as a way to say thank you. I noticed that trend in Cambodia too, to a lesser degree. I really like the concept.

I got my first bracelet (pink) in Angkor Wat after praying to a Buddha statue and making a donation. A Cambodian woman, all smiles, grabbed my arm before I could leave and tied skillfully the string while chanting softly.

I got a head rush from the sheer spirituality.

During my Bolivan plateau loop I stayed in a bungalow by the side of a small, quiet river. The place was very clean and calm and left a nice impression on me.

When I checked out at reception (a desk under a bamboo roof) the next morning I took the time to thank the staff for their welcome and told them how nice their place was.

The lady seemed very happy with my remark: she let out a very american "awwwww", grabbed a small straw pot hanging from the ceiling, reached inside and produced 3 bracelets, 2 bright yellow and 1 half yellow and half brown, which she tied softly to my wrist. She then joined her hands together to her chin and said a cheerful "Kup Chaï Laï Laï" (Thank you very much) to which I replied by joining my hands together up to my nose - the respectful height for a salute to someone older than you - and repeating my best Kup Chaï... they apparently don't have a word for "You're welcome".

I think the mother of the family actually makes them herself and to me it makes them even more significant and symbolic.

I received a lot of those bracelets while attending Don Det parties and weddings (there seemed to be one every week) and sometimes had to take them off because they were tied too loosely. At some point Ken remarked that I was starting to have a lot of them and compared me to Manni, a man from England that had been on the island for 2 years and was pretty much running Happy Bar.

"Have you seen Manni's arms? He has so many friends! So much time for so much friends".

On my last day on Don Det I was eating at the neighbors' restaurant (which had become tradition since I was feeling guilty at making Ban cook for me during her ever-rare time off) when I announced to them that I was leaving. The mother of the family seemed very sad and gave me another 3 bracelets and we took family pictures. The eldest daughter came to me and talked very softly in Lao for a minute - the grandma seemed intent on us getting wed one day - and the kids all laughed.

4 days ago I cut loose my bracelets. I was still carrying most of them to the point where I have a paler spot on my wrist where they were. I had to cut them because I got a new job dishwashing at a friend's bar and I didn't want them to get ruined by the constant water.

They had been a constant reminder of my good times now past and the ones to come as I sometimes struggle to get up in the morning.

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