After the goat feast, the festivities continue with music and games. Behind our table is a long strip of dirt where men gather for a petang match, one of Lao's favorite past-times. It's a holdover from French colonization, known there as boules or petanque (in America, it's bocce ball). I've played once or twice, but I don't know the rules.
It seems like whichever team gets closest to the smaller ball wins, but there is more nuance to it than that. The score is kept on an aging wooden sign, and the game is presided over by the same serious man who refereed the soccer match. Competition is anything but fierce, and the stakes are low: whichever team loses has to put beer money into the pot.
After the first round is over, Pete and I form a team with a really friendly guy named Deat. He is alarmingly cross-eyed, but incredibly good at petang and the depth perception it requires. Try as we might, Pete and I never really figure out the specifics of the rules. In the end, it doesn't matter; we toss the heavy silver balls wherever Deat deems the most advantageous.
Thanks to beginners luck (or Deat), we win!
Amidst the laughing, teasing and pleasing "ka-thunk!" of the petang balls, the people still sitting at the long table begin to play music, creating instruments from basically anything in sight. A boy uses an upturned bucket as a drum, while his father taps out a rhythm on a beer crate. Silverware on glass creates a "ching ching ching" noise, and several men unearth guitars from who knows where.
Everyone uninhibitedly belts out lyrics, as if they've been singing them for their entire lives, like they've all been friends forever. The resulting music is as lively, carefree, and breezy as a summer's day. Soon, people are inspired to get up and dance. Save for a brief encounter in Greece, we've never meet such jovial, open and musical people!
We will cherish the memory of this vibrant welcome to Laos for the rest of our lives!