April is a special month for Lao people as it holds the biggest holiday of the year. This holiday is called Lao New Year and honestly it’s beyond description. Just imagine what it would be like for every person, both child and adult alike, to be armed to the teeth with anything that could get you wet and you would have a small idea of what it’s like. It doesn’t matter who you are, no one is safe from being drenched. Carrying a wedding cake down the street? Wet. Wearing a 3-piece suit (who does that in Laos anyway)? Wet. Delivering an ancient manuscript holding the secrets of the universe? Wet. You’re also going to be baby soft for a couple of days from all the baby powder being thrown at you.
Because this is such a big holiday for Laos pretty much everything is shut down, including schools. What did I do with my free time? I went down south and visited old students and friends. To be honest I was a bummed about missing New Year here in Luang Prabang because supposedly the city throws the best party in the whole country, but going south ended up being a great decision because I had one of the best weeks I’ve ever had in Laos.
Why was is one of the best weeks ever? Because, as I have said time and time again, the highlight of this country is its people and I got to see some Lao people who have permanently taken up residence in my heart.
I split up my time between Attapue and Champasak provinces visiting two of my closest friends here in Laos and as wonderful as my time in Luang Prabang has been it did my heart so much good being back in my old stomping grounds with these guys. These guys know me well enough to drop all the respect teachers always get in this culture (which I appreciate) and are actually themselves around me. It’s a wonderful thing because Lao people are some of the most fun and relaxing people you can be around.
The first part of the New Year was in Attapue (one of the most isolated provinces in Laos) with this guy. We had a blast swimming in waterfalls, traveling around the countryside, hanging out with his family, and just catching up.
I refuse to get a selfie stick. Ever.
I’m telling you guys, Attapue is out there. I was there for 4 days and not once did I see another foreigner. After living in Luang Prabang and seeing hundreds of foreigners every week that was quite the welcome change. The lack of foreigners also meant English pretty much didn’t happen. In four days I probably spoke 10 complete sentences in English (my friend is a former student so I couldn’t let him get off without speaking some English). I love speaking Lao and so it was wonderful.
As you know, no trip in Laos is complete without a waterfall.
Standing at the top getting ready to jump down into the pools below. (I’m just joking, Mom)
Probably one of my favorite waterfalls (and mostly because tourists don’t go there)
On the way back from the waterfalls just before I dropped my phone off the back of the motorbike. Lifeproof case, you have earned my business for life (the phone was perfectly fine)
After Attapue, I made my way over to the neighboring province of Champasak, which was my home province before moving to Luang Prabang. It’s a special place for many reasons but one of the biggest is this guy right here. If you’ve read this blog for any amount of time you probably recognize him. Him and his family are as much family to me as the ones back in America. Yes, this is him with his son. So now, not only am I a brother in Laos but I’m also an uncle. He has his dad wrapped around his finger and it’s almost too much to watch. This kid is going to grow up with tons of love and I couldn’t be happier about it.
Here he is with two of his uncles. When he can actually talk he will have to call me a different word than what he will call his uncle on the right. There are different words for “uncle” depending on if you are the older or younger brother of your dad (there’s a whole other list for the brother of your mother. It’s just as confusing at it sounds).
Here I am with “Mom”. I’m telling you, the entire family loves that kid. I barely have any pictures without him in it…and I’m totally ok with that. I know I’ve talked about this lady before on this blog but I just have to reiterate that she is one of my most favorite people on this earth. Few people are as kind-hearted and generous as this lady and I am so unbelievably fortunate to call her Mom.
The actual days of Lao New Year (it’s officially only three days of the week but in reality it happens the whole time) happened while I was in Champasak and so there was a lot of water. All three days. I don’t think I was ever dry.
This was from my last adventure in Champasak. Another student had stopped by the house to visit and out of nowhere he asked “Teacher, do you want to go into jungle and find a rare fruit?” Heck yes I do. So we starting walking through the jungle to find this mysterious fruit that apparently Chinese people will pay a lot of money for (it’s supposedly super healthy for you). There were actually quite a lot of them but according to my students they only grow in Champasak province.
All in all, it was actually a very normal trip in Laos but without fail the Lao people you spend time with make it so very special. And that was definitely the case for this trip.