Life in Laos through the lens of a diplomatic wife raising twin toddlers.
I really wanted to incorporate a local Lao tradition into our birthday celebrations this year and decided to organize a surprise Lao baci ceremony for G with his colleagues. Since he manages over 100 local staff I figured it was a good way to involve them and show interest and respect for their tradition. So I enlisted the help of a few key colleagues to organize a meeting for him outside the office that morning while I set out to buy the fresh flower centerpiece (“pha kwan“) and strings, and bring the supplies of candy, hard-boiled eggs, and folded money stuffed with rice – all symbolic of health, wealth and happiness to be used during the blessings.
The baci is such a wonderful tradition that brings everyone together and literally connects us all in the well wishes given and received. During the ceremony as a senior member (“maw pawn” or “mohkwan“) recites the blessings (“kwan“) while everyone is touching a string attached to the centerpiece or by touching a person’s elbow who’s holding the string and so on throughout the room. Then afterward, each person ties a piece of the string to the wrist of the person being blessed (in this case they did both of us since our birthdays are so close). As the string is being tied, other people hold on to your elbow to add more connectedness and conveyance of community. I love the physical, emotional and spiritual connection that this displays.
It was wonderful to feel a strong sense of community with one another in this way. We both came away from it feeling truly blessed with friends. It turned out to be a special birthday celebration for both of us!