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Vientiane, Laos

Written on: Saturday December 23rd, 2006

A journal entry from: Southeast Asia

We are soon to end our 30 day Visa stay in Laos. How we have loved this country! Never before have we been to places where the people have exhibited such serene and calm qualities. Perhaps it is the result of their belief in Theravada Buddhism.  Perhaps it is their limited exposure to capitalism and western culture. Perhaps they have really been able to avoid psychological stress. Interesting to think that it is possible, considering anyone over 50 would have lived through such difficult times ? political uprisings, series of coups, Indochina war, U.S. secret war, agent orange and carpet-bombs (dropping an average of one planeload of bombs every eight minutes for nine years),  reeducation camps,  escape, and now the continued fear of UXO?s (unexploded ordinances).  But, in the Buddhist way of thinking, ?Nothing whatsoever shall be clung to?? and so the people live their lives with a sense of muan (fun).

As we leave this country for Vietnam we will take with us such vivid images of monks?
At 4:00 am you can hear their morning chanting as they start their day.  On special days they combine the gong and cymbals rhythmically with the drum.  At 4:30 am they begin prayers and meditation and at sunrise they line up in procession to file through the streets barefoot in single file carrying their alms bowls. It?s such a solemn, serene and spiritual moment ? see our photos in Luang Prabang album.  The villagers have cooked sticky rice and other offerings to give to the monks as they parade by.  At l0:30 am the gong signals the monks to eat their last meal of the day at 11:00.  At 4 pm the gongs signal the end of the day and at 4:30 ? 5:00 pm villagers bring offerings of incense, candles and flowers for Buddha.  Between 5:00 and 6:00 the harmonic chanting ends the day. Beautiful! I felt so honoured to be in the presence of the monks teaching them English in Luang Prabang.  So curious and eager they are to learn. For five years many of them will study and when they return to the ?outside? they hope to have an education that will give them the advantage to enter college.

And so, here we are in the last days of our visit to northern Laos, celebrating Christmas in the quiet capital city of Vientiane. It is said that this is perhaps one of the most quiet capital cities in the world.  We will look for the ?spirit? of Christmas in all the sights around us, in the people we meet, and by helping out wherever we can.  Missing you all!