sokdee boun bang fie!

Happy Rocket Festival!

So, this is my basic understanding of the Lao Rocket Festival.

At the end of the dry season (May), Lao people build rockets from PVC pipe and bamboo and laundry detegrent and god-knows-what-else to shoots into the sky in order to, essentially, piss off the skies and make them send down rain.

Here are some pictures.

men holding some rockets they have built
men holding some rockets they have built
here you can see the trajectory of a rocket by it's smoky trail
here you can see the trajectory of a rocket by it's smoky trail
a banana and some oranges
a banana and some oranges

This also has something to do with fertility and the whole relationship between the rockets penetrating the skies, the rain penetrating the earth, rain making the rice grow, etc etc.  So there’s a lot of cross dressing and strange phallic symbols happening at the same time.

This Sunday me, my friends Valerie, Tracy, Sack, Luck, Sai, and Kham drove in Valerie’s car to Luck’s brother-in-law Nat’s village, about 2 hours south of Vientiane, where they were having a big rocket festival.  Everyone got drunk on Lao Khao (rice whiskey) and the entire village was celebrating.  They had set up a huge stage and a festival-area around the temple in the centre of the village, and we all danced Lao Lamvong together.  Luck and Sai, along with the village naibon (chief) polished off a litre of the stuff, specially distilled by Nat’s father himself.  When Luck get’s drunk he likes to repeat a phrase he learned somewhere that goes  “You don’t smoke the cigarette, the cigarette smokes you!”; or “You don’t drink it.  It drinks you!” and gestures to the Beerlao.  He also likes to exclaim “What’s up man!” at various intervals and things that sound like this “I know you don’t know but I know, and you know I don’t know but, it’s ok, I know.” .  At this point I usually start repeating my favorite Lao phrase: kee mao (alcoholic).

the rocket launch pad
the rocket launch pad
crickets, beetles, ants, take your pick.
crickets, beetles, ants, take your pick.
Sack and Luck, sitting in a tree...
Sack and Luck, sitting in a tree...
the launch pad at sunset
the launch pad at sunset
see above.
see above.

Another spectacular Lao sunset..

sunsetrocketsValerie let me drive her car back to Vientiane on the way home… terrifying but exciting, and I’m pretty sure totally illegal since I don’t have an international driver’s license… but who cares ?!  It’s been nearly a year since I have driven a car, and the last time I drove one it was the long-haul straight from Montreal to Chicago with a stop in Ann Arbor.  I’m always trying to convince my director to let me drive his car but for some reason he never lets me.  Maybe it’s because I don’t know how to drive a motorcycle they all think I must be completely useless with motorized vehichles.

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