November 3, 2007

It was a bright, sunny early morning at Nasaykham Village, Southern Laos. The motor bike was overloaded with last minute supplies for the ride out to the village. The 16 kilometer ride created a welcomed cool breeze, helping to calm the anticipation of the day.  It was only and a number of people had already gathered at the school.  “Where is Teacher Lat?  He has the keys.”  “Teacher Lat is at Km.19 buying the cow”. Fortunately, the preparations for INDIGO THREADS special formal Donation/Dedication Ceremony to ‘hand over’ their first built primary school to the District Education Department went as planned without a ‘hitch’.  The brightly colored tents were set up.  Folding tables, red plastic chairs and tablecloths were delivered as scheduled.  Huge chests of ice arrived just in time to cool the libations. Teacher Lat found the cow enabling the village women to continue their traditional Laotian food preparation.  Mr. Orahan, District Education Foreign Investment Coordinator, using his imagination, magically created a podium and stage with a few tablecloths and a desk turned up side.

This was a very special day for INDIGO THREADS and the guest of honor, President and Director, Mary D. Meyer.  Assisting in Laos for just over 2 years, on September 7, 2007 at , INDIGO THREADS proudly donated their first 3 classroom school to the people of Southern Laos.  The construction was completed in record time allowing students to attend school in September. With donated village lumber and labor, the building costs stayed within the projected budget.

The ceremony was attended by 75 invited guests, village chiefs and government official representation from the District and Provincial Education Departments, the District Governor’s office and the District Culture Department.  Each representative expressed their gratitude to INDIGO THREADS for their help with education in Southern Laos and the unprecedented educational opportunities and support INDIGO THREADS has given the students and their families at Naysakham Village. The keys were formally handed over to the District Director of Education.  On behalf of INDIGO THREADS, Mary graciously accepted the certificate of appreciation from the Governor of Pathoumphone District.

Following the ‘hand over’ ceremony, the traditional Buddhist baci ceremony took place.  Earlier in the day, the village women prepared the ceremonial tray with champa flowers and other offerings.  It is an elaborate arrangement called a ‘Phakouan’, taking hours to make. A former monk or elder presides over this ritual while the guests gather around the ‘Phakouan’ on a floor mat.  The blessing master conveys his blessings on the honored guest and expresses gratitude for life’s generosities.  Each guest takes two strings from the ‘Phakouan’ and ties it around each of the honored guest’s wrists, whispering good wishes.  The guests then tie strings around each others wrists with wishes for good luck.  To be effective, the strings should remain on the wrist for 3 days.  The baci or baasii ceremony is one of the most important rituals in Laos.

. . . . . . . .And the party begins. Following every ceremonial event, guests are invited to join in celebrating the special occasion. The party was dedicated to the Taoy ethnic people this new school serves and the other ethnic people living in this area.   One classroom displayed the handicrafts made by the people of Nalath Village---basket weaving, wood carving and hand woven Taoy traditional textiles from INDIGO THREADS supported village development program.  A donation of bright graphic primary books, hand made colored blocks (scrape wood left from the construction site), puzzles and art supplies were added to the anticipated new school library/recreation room for the students.  Ten ethnic Laven musicians from Phout Samphan Village, in full traditional clothing, entertained the guests with their traditional hanging metal hand drums.  As the party progressed, guests enjoyed dancing to the beat of the drums.  One of the Laotian traditional dances is swaying to the music with gentle hand movements.  Women move their hands in a different configuration then men.  A more vigorous dance is the ‘buffalo dance’.  By late afternoon, the libations and food were but a  memory of a great party.  A good time was had by all.

 "When is Grand Mother Falong going to build another school?"


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