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Thursday, December 12: Day 234 – Boomers

Even though Kai gave us wonderful suggestions for our day prior to a 2:30 pickup to go to the airport, I was very sick so sleeping in was the best choice.

My brother, Russ, had a birthday on the 11th, and I had scheduled a Skype call with him and his wife, Denise. Our early morning is yesterday evening for them. They live in Las Vegas. It is a tradition to receive phone calls from family members who will sing Happy Birthday.

They are reading the blog and think that we are so brave. Denise said that she would have run out of hand sanitizer on the first day!! Russ thinks that I am driving this trip. Au contraire! Rob is the travel driver!! He makes the plans. I just write about it. That is probably why I am sick.

We have noticed that many men have a very long pinkie fingernail. Saylom told me that it is for ears, nose and teeth picking!! Gross! As a microbiologist, under fingernails is a whole cesspool of bacteria. That fact was the reason that I stopped biting my nails and keep them short.

An Internet search said that the long fingernail is a symbol indicating that the man does not do manual labor. Also, this fingernail can be used to snort cocaine and is sometimes called a coke fingernail.

The next oddity is that we have seen several men in jobs dealing with the public who have extremely long hairs growing out of facial moles.

An Internet search revealed this oddity is considered lucky. It was said that Asian cultures often regard any rarity as lucky. A facial mole is rare, but one growing a hair is even more lucky. And a mole “beard” is the luckiest of all…the more hairs the better…and the longer the better.

Hinduism, Buddhism and Animism faiths are intertwined in Laos. People practice all three together. This syncretism seems to be embraced. Maybe that is why a local is more than eager to say the Christian response to a sneeze: God bless you. Maybe the thought is to cover all the bases.

Animism was here first followed by Hinduism. Buddhism followed Hinduism as he is called Lord Buddha and was the culmination of the Hindu religion. It sounds a lot like Paganism to Judaism to Christianity.

I was told that Buddhism is considered the New Testament of Hinduism. Hmmm.

Animists are praying to ancestors and spirits to bring about luck. The latter is often embroiled with dreams and animal sacrifices. On the Bolaven plateau, ethnic minority still sacrifice animals. An animist has a spirit house, dream house (built by directions from an ancestor in a dream), and a gate (to go to the dream house).

A spirit house (this is located in the corner of our hotel and the owners make sure that theirs has ample food available to keep spirits happy).

The house for the ancestors.

The gate to the house.

Buddhism teaches forgiveness and pardon and not revenge. We have been told that it is a philosophy, not a religion.

In 563 BC, Buddha was born in India. He was a well-known king. When he was 29, he stopped eating and drinking for 49 days. Indira came down to feed him.

Buddha heard music three times. The first time the music was bad. The second time it was beautiful, the third time it was loud and unpleasant.

From this Buddhist teaching says that the middle is best. Westerners might sum it up as everything in moderation.

Buddhists believe that desire is bad and is the root of all pain and suffering. When desire has stopped, one has reached enlightenment. This happened at the age of 35 for Buddha.

He is called Lord Buddha. Buddha is always pictured with long ears. He wore heavy earrings from the time he was young as it was his culture. Statues most often represent the meditation.

A hang hod is a curved hollow decorated wooden trough used to transport holy water during the New Year in April. The holy water falls onto the Buddha image to clean it. Women are not allowed to do this.

Holy water is made with plumeria, marigold, turmeric, ginger, and French perfume. Chanel is popular!!

The Story of the Naga snake goes like this: A Naga snake approached Buddha who realized that the snake had magic power and could change into a handsome human.

The snake wanted to become a monk. Buddha said if the snake could be human for one month, he could be a monk. After eight days, he started to become a serpent. After one month, the snake was completely a serpent. He apologized to Buddha and asked if he could become his guardian instead? Yes was the answer.

One day while deep in meditation at the river, a hurricane came. Buddha called on the naga who coiled his body like a chair for Buddha and used his hood to protect him from the storm.

I think that the naga snake was the inspiration for the movie, Alien. Buddha died at age 80.

Dams facts

They are building lots of dams in Laos. By 2021 there will be 100. Two-thirds of the electricity is exported. They want to be known as the Battery of Southeast Asia. Seven villages were wiped out in July 2018 when a dam broke. This year will be a pivotal time when the rainy season arrives.

We watched the Lao movie entitled The Rocket, and it alluded to all the displaced people due to dam building projects.

Even though we are suffering from colds, if any food sounds good, we go out to eat it. We have come to the conclusion, that no matter what your culture is, you need to have familiar tastes even if you might think that it would not sit well.

I thought that these were called comfort foods. By definition, comfort foods are high calorie, high fat often fast foods that are eaten when one is feeling negative emotions called emotional eating. The quick satisfaction of eating this food often ends up as guilt later!! We have all been there.

I really needed Campbell’s chicken noodle soup and a grilled cheese sandwich, but that was not going to happen. We opted for Mexican food.

We decided to go to Amigos Mexican Restaurant, the one and only Mexican food restaurant in Luang Prabang. It was Taco Thursday. Tonight was the first night that they built a fire and were planning to roast marshmallows!!! Ah! The ultimate comfort food!!

The owner, Alicia, is Australian and she has an amazing story of traveling the world, falling in love with the Lao people (not to mention her husband), and she is the only certified swim instructor in the city.

Her dad, Malcolm, who now lives in the US, has come for the first time to visit and meet his two granddaughters.

He brought them an Aussie nativity set. There are hedgehogs, a duck-billed platypus, emus, a cockatiel, kookaburras, koalas, and kangaroos.

Malcolm told us that the weather is so hot at Christmas that by the time Santa gets here, he changes into a swimsuit and the sleigh is pulled by boomers (those are male kangaroos and not US children born in the 1950’s)

Listen to the whole song on YouTube about how Santa helped Joey find his mother on Christmas:

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