After doing some chores around the house, I walked over to the garden Fred and Lea left us to care for and harvest vegetables from. I heard a commotion of people at the top of the little hill and the rice field road. There was white string crossing here and there. Normally, we’ve seen that the Laos people will put a white cotton string around a house if someone is sick to protect them from the “Pi”, meaning spirits. Many of the men had big spools of white cotton string. This string seemed to go everywhere. As I reached the top of the hill and was in the gathering of about 15 Laos men I asked one man that I knew could speak a bit of English what was going on, but he was so drunk on khao lao that I couldn’t understand much of what he said. I did catch that they were surrounding the whole Island of Don Det. I walked on down the other side of the hill in the direction of the garden. I could see they had been here already by the string in the trees, zig-zagging the road and up past the garden. Mr. Aek was coming down the road towards me. He speaks good English, so I flagged him over to a stop and asked him what was going on. He told me that they were protecting Don Det from the spirits. They were mad about something and had begun killing some people. Too many people dying on the island lately. I asked if it was COVID-related. No, they all died from other various problems. I thanked him and went on to the garden where I harvested a few tomatoes and some okra. On my way back a Laos man I was not familiar with asked if I wanted to know what was going on. Sure! He told me pretty much the same as Mr. Aek had, but then asked where I lived. I told him and realized we were not inside the “protected area”. I asked, “Should we get string around us down there, too?” He said it might not be a bad idea and called over my drunk friend and told him to get us taken care of.
We walked up and over the hill to return towards our house when we saw Mr. Kang, an old friend from our previous island neighborhood in Taka Ban. Mr. Kang took control of the situation tying a spool of string to the main string circling the island and off we went across the rice field in the direction of our house throwing the spool over some tree branches and tying to our electric pole we made our way to the house. We continued, arriving at the back of our house and in through the side door feeding the spool through rafters until he finally reached our bed. He asked for a small plate and went outside to collect some budding Champa flowers. Then he needed some of the small yellow candles they use in ceremonies. We knew we had some somewhere and after a bit of searching, Donna found them. We knew we had some because Boasee had brought us some in a blessing to us one day recently. We were to leave this protection from the spirits at the head of our bed for three days after which we need to circle the house three times with the string. He left an extra spool to make sure we had enough. We thanked them, made a donation and they left.
I went to our neighbor’s to ask if I could get a bit of sand for a project. We talked a bit about the string. He explained the spirits were angry because of two things. The recent boat races were not done with proper reverence to the spirits, and the other is the new construction of the road on the island. When the construction crew came in they just started tearing out trees and bulldozing through without any consciousness or regard to anything. They didn’t ask permission from the spirits. The spirits are angry, and now eleven people on the island have died, this is not normal for here. Some of you may scoff at their belief in these spirits, but we have seen some very strange things here. Oh, no one can come to or leave Don Det for three days. Good thing I already did our shopping a few days ago! We figure having the string around our house for protection doesn’t hurt anything and why take chances?
Three days later…
After three days we took the spools of string and circled our house with them. We weren’t sure if we were supposed to circle the house or the yard, also. Were we supposed to go clockwise or counterclockwise? A friend happened by and straightened us out on it, counterclockwise around the house. While I was putting the string up we heard a noisy parade of people banging pots, pans, and yelling as they made their way down to the end of the island. This was to chase the bad spirits away. Donna took a few pictures which we loaded below.