This was the site for a new preschool in Lathsene Village in Xieng Khouang province, part of a “Schools Not Bombs” campaign. The village is somewhat remote, past the plains of jars site one, and nestled in farmland and cornfields. The village has no electricity and the earthy pastureland smell hits you as you step out of the car. This area of the province had only about 70% of the land cleared by UXO Lao. Last week the team destroyed 30 bombies alone.
This whole time I’ve been back in Laos, I can’t help but grin when I see little Laotian kids speak Lao. Back in America, most of them of course speak English by default, and you just never know what kind of piercing comment is going to come out of their mouths. Here it’s just funny for me to see little people speak the same way as older people. When they address you in such polite and cute ways, you can’t help but smile. We were greeted by the little ones, and some even performed a dance or two.
ST and PU handed out gifts to the children, writing books and reading books. Everyone also got some bubbles (yay!). The elders received used clothes to distribute amongst the villagers and also writing material. It was sweltering in that one room, but was an uplifting experience to see the kids. PU also did a fine Lao translation of, “If you’re happy and you know it…”
The village was kind enough to hold a baci ceremony for us, which is a Lao blessing used for many occasions, like a wedding, birth, or just to wish travelers safety on their journey. The children gave us all bouquets, with fresh flowers picked from the nearby fields and wrapped in paper they’d written their homework on. All the elders chanted and then began to tie the white strings around our wrists.
In customary Lao fashion, we ate together, while the village leader passed around laow Lao rice whiskey, which is about as strong as gasoline mixed with turpentine.