National Geographic : 1966 Jul
The construction of the fireplace, a wooden frame filled with sand, was entrusted only to the older men. At the lighting of the first fire, Pu Di and some elders sat down on one side of the hearth and a group of guests on the other. In a repetitious but pleasing chant, Pu Di then sang out a Lua song of welcome, requesting blessings of long life, many children, lots of pigs, chickens, and water buffaloes, and plenty of rice for the inhabitants of the new dwelling. One of the guests replied with a song raising ques tions about the hospitality: "Are you sure there is enough food to eat?" When Pu Di's turn came, he sang reassuringly, "Everything is going to be just fine; we have plenty for everybody." The guest replied, "We hope so, and we do wish that all the blessings come to pass." The singing banter, toasting, and feasting con tinued with great good humor into the night. Crisis Threatens at Housewarming About midnight teen-age boys and girls drifted onto our porch and were serenading each other when a worried messenger rushed up the ladder. "Khun Peter, come right away, please!" "What has happened?" "Kham Miiang is very sick." My heart sank. The boy had seemed healthy work ing on the house earlier in the day. Suppose he had appendicitis? I doubted that an anthropologist would be of help to him. Besides, I might be accused of bringing evil spirits into the village. Kham Miiang's house was full of people. "You need lots of friends around to help you get well," the Lua say. Friends, relatives, and spectators sat around. Some were massaging the boy's hands and feet. Some sat and gossiped. Some came with blan kets, prepared to spend the night. The old men were trying to divine the cause of the illness by counting grains of rice from Kham Miiang's bowl. The boy complained of a severe stomach-ache. I gave him some paregoric and kind words. To our mutual great relief, he began to feel better. A non Kunstadter spirit got the blame, and I was given partial credit for the cure. I had no sooner returned to our new house than an other emergency call came. Nang Mawng, a woman Lulled by the churring song of a spinning wheel, little Ee Kawng daydreams while her grandmoth er, Ee Nang, makes yarn. Turning the wheel with one hand, the spinner holds the fibers twisting from the whirling spindle with her other hand. Full spindle of thread ready for sizing and wash ing hangs on the bamboo wall. Well-behaved, eager-to-learn Lua children take part in the daily 130 work of their village at an early age.