by Chris Taylor
I answered the knock on my door to find two of my new volunteer friends waiting with a card, Lao sandwiches (you’ll find out) and a rendition of Happy Birthday. I could not have asked for a nicer wake up that morning and really appreciated the thought. After breakfast I headed down to Xayadeth English College
to teach my class of 2nd year students. It seemed appropriate to build a ‘birthday’ element at the beginning of the class which, conveniently, let everyone know about the special day at the same time. I noticed that two of my students slipped out of the classroom but thought nothing of it. Around 10 minutes later, much to my surprise, I came back into the classroom to find a Birthday cake, complete with my name, age and candles already lit. It was a very sweet thing to do and something that I would have never expected to happen. After giving all 16 students and my teaching partner a fairly tiny slice of cake we took some photos, joked around for 10 minutes then went back to learning English!
I was lucky in that the day ended just as great as it began. In the evening I taught a small class of Novice’s at Wat Pasaviet (a temple school). After being informed it was my birthday, the Novices gathered round and gave me the gift of a Birthday Chant or blessing. It was a truly unique experience and one which I am unlikely to ever forget. If that wasn’t enough, after the chant I was blessed individually by numerous Novices who each tied a bracelet onto my wrist; by the time I left I probably had around 30.
Luckily for me I actually got to celebrate my birthday twice as it fell on the day when some of the volunteers were leaving the program.
A meal had already been planned but I didn’t mind at all. Despite it being for those leaving, I was still treated to ‘Happy Birthday’ sung in at least 6 languages (seven if you count ‘Australian’ as a separate language). For my actual ‘Birthday night out’ we all went to a restaurant near to the guesthouse and ate more food than you would think possible. It was nice to have almost all of the volunteers together, as well as my Lao Language teacher, Xay, and the Lao teacher from Wat Pasaviet, also names Xay. Great conversation, great food and, of course, Beer Lao.
It was a truly excellent Birthday and I cannot think of any place I would have rather been!