7/2/17 - 7/2/17
I’m catching up again! Yay! I’m still working out the best way to do all of this. Writing about my day isn’t so bad, it’s the part where I have to pull in photos that slows me down. I have photos on my phone, but those won’t upload to this website for some reason, so I have to send them to my ipad to be uploaded. And the photos on my camera have to be synced to my ipad as well before they can be uploaded. And then you have to pick the ones that go with your story, etc. etc. Have you ever tried to upload photos over a shitty wifi connection in the middle of Asia? It’s an exercise in the specific type of patience I don’t have. It’s all very time intensive. I know it’ll be worth it in the end, so I’ll just keep plugging along, but sometimes there will just be gaps.
Yesterday I went to another cafe in town for the morning, because I know it has air conditioning, which is pretty hard to come by in food places here. I learned very quickly, however, that their aircon is on steroids, and 20 minutes in I was shivering because I was so cold. I moved to a spot outside and worked on blogs until I was sweating, and then headed off to the Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre. This is in an old French colonial house and consists of only three rooms, but you learn so much in that small space! There are basically four ethnolinguisitic groups in Laos, each with several subgroups. They all have different textiles, beliefs, and customs, and I learned a little about each, which was awesome. They had samples hanging up of all these different items, and they were stunningly gorgeous.
I love a good Pom Pom also.
Back Strap looms
They have a class where you can learn to weave a basket, which I would love to do, but there’s absolutely no way that can make it home with me.
One of the things that really impressed me is the creativity and adaptability in all of these textiles. Small change coins are used as decoration, vines are collected from the forest as strings, there was even a needle case made from pen caps!
They also had a whole section on Job’s Tears, a plant that produces seeds that are used as beads (the rest of the plant is used in many other ways as well). There were tons of examples of this plant’s seeds being used all around the world, and for some reason this was a huge “Duh” moment for me. Of course seeds were used as beads! Seeds, carved pieces of wood, things like that. I don’t know why I’ve never stopped to think about this before, especially given the amount of beads I’ve worked with in crafts over the years.
There was also a sign at the end of the exhibit that I really loved. Here’s what it said:
“These exhibits provide some insight into the cultural wealth of Laos’ many ethnic communities to promote an appreciation for their history, knowledge, traditions, and arts. However, this is only a brief introduction to cultures and peoples which are multidimensional and dynamic.
Ethnic communities in developing countries are not frozen in time as historical or ’traditional’ icons. In fact, they are developing and changing as much as cultures in Europe, the Americas, or even Vientiane, and have been transforming for hundreds of years. Ethnic people in Laos live in cities, own businesses, hold government positions, and travel overseas. In rural villages, they listen to the radio, trade with other ethnic groups, frequent town markets, adopt new crops, and build cement houses. People adapt their lifestyles and traditions to changing circumstances, globalization, and opportunities to improve their futures.
Economic development and modernization does not require abandoning one’s traditions or ethnic identity. However, with changing livelihoods and lifestyles, upholding elements of ethnic identity such as language, clothing, religion and rituals is a challenge. Through learning and exchange, we can foster appreciation and preservation of Laos’ multi-ethnic heritage while still looking towards the future.”
Love every word of that.
I went back to my room to nap away the hottest part of the day, and then emerged for dinner up the road at Utopia, a zen garden and river view restaurant. I got a delicious dinner, a cider, and sat and read my new book while the Mekong River flowed by and it was wonderful.
I have basically 4 days left here in Luang Prabang, and an increasingly shorter list of things to do before I go. It has been a really nice chance to slow down and think and eat and not worry about anything and sleep a bunch before the chaos that is Vietnam. There’s going to be about 5 weeks of total madness soon, and who knows how I’ll ever be able to describe it all! Until then…