On Saturday I went to a Bascii ceremony for the wife of one of the people I work with at the library. She got a visa to go to America, and is moving to Rockford, IL for a year. So, they had a big celebration at their house. I missed the ceremony part, because I had to teach, but I invited one of my students to come with me, and we had a lovely time! Even though there was no electricity or water, they trucked in a generator and there was a live “band” performing. Lots of Lao Lavong dancing, and the usual Lao line dancing happened. I drank a lot of Beerlao with some old men and then went home and fell asleep at about 7 pm.
And then on Sunday, I went over to my friend Luck’s house, where they were having a Chinese New Years celebration. Luck had told me to come there at noon, but I had some stuff to do around the house, and my bike had a flat tire, and I accidentally left my phone turned off, and at around 12:45 some one came knocking on my door. It was Luck, insisting that I go to his house as quickly as possible. I assured him I just wanted to finish drinking my tea and I would be there soon. When I finally got it together to leave Luck’s sister had already called me like 4 times to find out what I was coming. I showed up at Luck’s house around 2:00, and everyone was SUPER MAO already. This is how they celebrate Chinese New Years in Laos:
Boys getting shirtless and trying to flex their muscles! It was a lot of fun, but somehow I managed to pull myself away by 6 pm, as Monday mornings following a the typical sunday Beerlao drink-a-thon tend to be rough.
Speaking of Beerlao drink-a-thons, now would probably be a good occasion to discuss Lao and their love for the Beerlao.
In Lao culture, nearly everyone drinks. It’s OK for women to drink, and they like to. There are two main ways in which beer is drunk.
1.) The “sophisticated” method, and
2.) The “get-as-drunk-as-possible-as-quickly-as-possible” method. (Lao Style)
In the first method, a large bottle of Beerlao (660 ml) is placed on a table, or in the middle of a mat on the floor if no table is available. Everyone drinking has their own glass. Somewhere near the centre of the table is a cooler, bucket, or bowl of ice. The beer is poured into everyone’s glasses along with a few ice cubes, and everyone drinks at their own pace and refills as necessary. Usually it is a pretty young girl or “Pusao” who does the pouring, carefully being attentive to the drinking paces of all of the other drinkers, and refilling everytime your glass is less than 3/4th full. When the bottle is empty, it is replaced with a full bottle, and the cycle continues, sometimes for hours and hours. Usually some food is involved at some point. Every 3 to 6 minutes some one will say either “Sokdee!!” or “Nuoc!” which mean “good luck!” or “drink!” respectively, at which point everyone is expected to clink glasses, or “cheers”. The Lao love “cheers”. Occasionally, some one will say either ‘Moot!” or “Ha sip!”. “Moot!” means “it’s time”, in which case you are expected to down your entire glass of beer and then pound your empty glass down on the table. If you cannot or do not want to “Moot!”, you can say “Ha-sip!” which literally means “50”, meaning “I will drink 1/2 (50%) of my glass”, after which you must again cheers with everyone present. If your fellow drinkers don’t think you are keeping up well enough, they will encourage you to drink more by pouring your glass entirely full and yelling “Moot!” after each refill. If you cannot keep up, you may get some comments about not being “strong” and will probably be humorously harassed until you drink enough to satisfy your friends.
In the second method, one glass is shared among a group of people. One person acts as the pourer, or “presenter”. He or She puts some ice, and about 200 ml of beer into a glass, and shows it to everyone, as he or she says “Senou”, or “I present”. The presenter then chugs the beer as quickly as possible. He or she then refills the glass with a simmilar amount of beer, or more or less, depending on how he or she feels, and hands it to the person next to him or her. This person then downs the glass in one go, and passes it back to the presenter. The presenter then refills the glass, adding ice if needed, and passes to the next person in the circle, until it comes back to the presenter. More bottles of beer are opened as needed as the glass is refilled. When it reaches the presenter, he or she “Senou”s again. However, it’s a bit more complicated than this. If you have a large group, you may have several “presenters”, thus several glasses going around at once. Often you may find yourself double-fisting two glasses of beer at the same time, and be expected to down one right after the other. Or, if some people are slow drinkers, you may wait 10 minutes to get a glass. Also, any of the drinkers can claim “Baw Senou!” at the beginning of a round, meaning, “I didn’t see you “present”, now you must do it again”, causing the presenter to drink a second glass. There are also some tricks to getting out of getting too drunk – if you see a glass almost on your way, discretely run to the toilet to escape! Chances are everyone will be so drunk they won’t notice that they skipped you.
Regardless of which drinking style you find yourself engaged in, you will surely get drunk, and the beer is always served with ice.