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Our personal highlight: A special early Lao New Year – by Jessica Deißler & Alyssa Weber

During our amazing time in Laos we got the chance to gain some fantastic new experiences. We want to share one of our favourite moments in Laos with you now.

Several times we talked with our tandem-teachers about how sad we were about not having the chance to be in the country for Lao New Year, which was to take place just a few days after we were bound to leave in April. But once again the Lao teachers showed us how hospitable they are – they organized a pre-Lao New Year celebration for us!

As the farewell party for Madame Engel, who was about to leave for her regular summer retreat in Germany, was to take place in Ban Sikeud Primary School, the school was simply closed for this day. It was decided this was to be a farewell festivity for us as well. The pupils of grade 3 and 5 as well as the teachers from Sikeud and Phang Heng Primary School were invited and they all showed up in colourful Lao New Year shirts. The different colours are to symbolize their happiness, excitement and anticipation of the next year. For team spirit, every school chooses one bright colour for their T-shirts every year.

When we arrived at the school early in the morning on Friday 7th April, some of the teachers were already waiting for us to do our hair and give us our own Lao New Year shirt as a present. Dressed up, we went to the dancing room, where the Baci ceremony “inaugurated” the festivity. Even though this was not our first Baci, this one was very special and emotional for all of us as we knew it would be our last one. On the one hand, we felt very sad because the Baci showed once again how welcoming the Lao people are, whom we would have to leave in only 3 days. On the other hand, we enjoyed our last moments with the amazing people we got to know within the last two months, and we were also looking forward to seeing our families and friends back home again.

Afterwards, the celebration was relocated to the schoolyard, where the directors handed our certificates over to us.

In the meantime, the pupils lined up with some water carried in little cups. There were a number of us: Alyssa, Jessica, Venetia, Madame Engel, her guests from Germany, and the schools’ directors – we were all arranged in a semi-circle and the students poured water over our hands to wash away all of last year’s burden. After the pupils emptied all their cups, the ceremony turned into a very funny water hose fight, which was very welcome in temperatures nearing 40 degrees.

Wet all over, we sat down in the tent which had been organized for this occasion and set up in the street. We celebrated our time in Laos with the teachers and the people of the village with traditional Lao food, Beer Lao, live music, show acts and a lot of dancing.

Summarizing our stay in Laos, we can say that we are more than glad to have had the opportunity to get such a direct and intimate knowledge of the Lao culture and we hope that we were able to enrich Lao school life with the help of our individual competences. Furthermore, we can say that in the two months in Laos we learnt so much ourselves from our Lao partners that we were able to develop ourselves personally and professionally and will always keep our stay in Laos in our minds as one of the most personality-forming experiences of our lives.

Text by Jessica Deißler & Alyssa Weber

Photos by Mittaphone Sichampa & Phovang Inthavong

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