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“My personal highlight” by Jule Reissig

Most people probably wouldn’t pick a farewell as their overall highlight, but the Lao farewell was an outstanding experience hands down. Although the whole stay in Laos was totally unique, the last days of my stay were truly an impressive time.

The thought of having to leave this beautiful country and its warm-hearted inhabitants soon depressed my mood somewhat. However, the Lao teachers easily managed to draw a smile back on my face. For almost one whole week we celebrated the farewell – or to put it more positively, the last days we got to spend together.We had dinners and feasts together and went on a very impressive trip to Nam Ngum.

Souvanh with a rice basket for about 20 people

Farewell

Our Baci, a traditional Lao ritual, was the peak event during these wonderful days. All the teachers gathered around, gazed at us in our Lao skirts and traditional Lao clothing, and of course seized the last chance to take pictures with the “falangs”.

Baci

Baci

Some pupils sat there and watched the whole ceremony while others were involved in the entertainment program and performed some traditional Lao dances for us. For me, a very emotional situation came when my principal called me up front to present a certificate to me and thank me for my work. Standing there, in front of the others and knowing that this meant seeing most of them for the last time was very moving.

On the last day of our stay, I went to Ban Sikeud Secondary School where I had worked for the past 7 weeks to finally say goodbye to my dear pupils and colleagues. My plan was to stop by and get it over with within a few minutes so that it wouldn’t get too emotional.

However, I had made this plan without my Lao teachers. When I arrived at the school, my cooperation teacher Souvanh asked me if I had 10 or 20 minutes to spare. Of course I could spare 20 minutes, and suddenly he ran out of the office after he told me to stay there. He returned shortly after and told me that I could now say a few words to the pupils and say goodbye to every single one of them. At first, I wasn’t sure whether I had understood him correctly. But when the principal handed the microphone over I knew that this was not another communicative misunderstanding (of which we had had so many).

After stammering a few words I was placed in front the pupils, who were standing in rows in the schoolyard as they do every day before the first and after the last lesson. Souvanh gave them some instructions in Lao, and only when the first row of students started walking towards me I realized that “saying goodbye to the students” literally meant saying goodbye to EVERY SINGLE ONE of them. It took me about 10 minutes to shake the hands of roughly 600 pupils. I felt somewhat between overwhelmed and dizzy at the same time.

On my way home I couldn’t stop smiling because this farewell just represented my whole Lao experience so well – the hospitality, desultoriness, spontaneity and most importantly the Lao kindness.Therefore I would like to take this chance to thank all the Lao people I’ve met and especially all my new friends.

Text & photos by: J. Reissig

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