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Photo by Sampor Burke, Mekong Semester.

Host Family Goodbyes and New Adventures


The fab Mekong team is currently heading north towards Vientiane, excited for our next few weeks of travel!

Sunday was our final day in Don Donh – I hope that everyone has been following the Don Donh Diaries for a glimpse of what our daily life looked and felt like! We celebrated our final day with a Laos basi ceremony. All students and families gathered in the schoolyard; each family arrived with bags and baskets full of sticky rice, chicken, vegetables, soda, and many brightly colored bracelets, which were promptly hung on the folded palm leaf sculpture in the center of the gathering. Before the ceremony, each student had the opportunity to say a few words of thanks to their family and the Don Donh community, and vice versa. Then, the local priest opened the basi ceremony with a prayer, and families and community members began offering blessings to their new sons and daughters, tying a string to their wrist to secure their good wishes. We wished one another, and our Lao families, many thanks and well wishes, tying string after string around one another’s wrists. By the end of the ceremony, everyone’s wrists were thick with brightly colored bracelets.

Following the basi ceremony, we participated in an early Lao new year celebration. We won’t be with our families for the new year in a few weeks, but the community still wanted to celebrate with us! On the new year, family members splash one another with perfumed, flower-filed water, offering cleansing well-wishes for the upcoming year. Each of us received a bowl or cup of perfumed water, and we all had the opportunity to offer more thanks, blessings, and gratitude to all of the families in the community as we poured water into their open palms.

Following the ceremonies, we all ate dinner together, sitting on mats in the schoolyard. Dinner was promptly followed by a fabulous dance party — many of our host parents and siblings joined! It was a beautiful, magical, and meaningful final evening in a community that we are all proud to call home.

On Monday morning, we departed Don Donh for Konglor Cave, a 7.5 km long cave, and one of the largest in Laos. We spent the afternoon swimming, and exploring the otherworldly stalactite and stalagmite formations by boat and on foot before heading back to our guesthouse that evening.

We are currently on our way to Vientiane, where we will have our second student-led expedition phase. Students have planned a series of NGO visits and site visits across the city, and they will work together to plan transportation, organize meals, and much more. We’re so excited to see them take on this next challenge!

With gratitude and excitement for our upcoming adventures,
Mekong Team