VIENTIANE, Laos (MindaNews/19 October)–In Ban Sai Fong Neua, 17 kilometers south from the city center, at least 40 women, each holding a wooden oar, trekked down a steep slope into the Mekong River barely an hour before sunset on Tuesday. Children and husbands of the village women lingered at the cliff and watched a long traditional boat advancing as the river flows slowly.
The Lao-International Women’s Boat Racing Team prepares for its 20th year of joining the race in Vientiane. MindaNews photo by Lorie Ann Cascaro
They composed the Lao-International Women’s Boat Racing Team, a mixture of the village women and falang (expatriate) women from different countries who are living in Vientiane. Even before the race could begin, the team has already “won” this year’s Dragon Boat Racing Festival Women’s Category.
That is simply because the team has remained intact for 20 years now.
Starting today (Saturday) until tomorrow, they will paddle in unison along the Mekong River near the Vientiane Capital not just to compete with the other teams but most importantly to celebrate the sisterhood that they have strengthened for two decades now.
The boat racing has tightened the connection of the international women to the village people through the years.
“We have never won a race but the women continue to participate,” Ruth Foster, an international teacher in her 50s, told MindaNews during the team’s regular practice at the river bank near the village.
Although they trained hard, the women give more value to their friendship and experience, she added.
Foster had been rowing for the team since she arrived in Vientiane almost a decade ago and years later became the coach for English instructions, while a primary school headmaster, Mr Kibou, who has been training the women for 16 years, commands in Lao language.
Lao Women’s Union members, particularly Khamphao Phimasone and Amphone, are key people who have kept the team going through the seasons, Foster said.
The veteran Khamphao recalled the Lao-International Women’s Boat Racing Team first joined in 1993 with already non-villagers and foreigners as members.