Airport Selfies

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Friday Night Lights

The start of a holiday weekend is always reason to celebrate, and even more so when the holiday lasts a week. We've heard of a brewery outside of town that makes an IPA, so the 'river office' is moved down town, where there's a bar with IPA on tap. We nibble Lebanese food across the street, Boon and Caden settle into a game of chess, and Declan and I settle into a game of "knock over all the chess pieces," waiting for the others to arrive. Our friends understand, the boys go where we go, so the boys are getting to know the various bars of Vientiane. 

Falong food is steadily on the rise in Vientiane. When Boon came in 2011, he was amazed to find proper hot wings. Since then, hot wings, rib-nuggets, and french fries have joined the menus of most bars, side by side with stir-fried morning glory and fresh pork rinds. Even so, it's a prize to find some place that actually has the food available, and then, does it well, so you find yourself recycling the same six or so places. But as Laos  becomes more of a back packers and visa-overstayers paradise, I'm sure this will change.

As the sun starts to set, we leave the comforts of friends and take a stroll to the river front, ostensibly to watch the sun set, but also to pick up some street food for dinner. And of course, if I happen to pass through the night market, we'll see what 10,000 kip sundress I walk out with... 

"Street food? Yuck! No! That will make you sick!" Caden exclaims with disgust.

"No honey, that's floor food. Street food is tasty." 

The concrete stairs that line the river bank are filled with people- getting off of work, hanging out after school, dancing at the free nightly zumba class, or just happening through. The food carts hawk meats on a stick, fried or grilled, greasy piles of noodles, and the eggy-crepes filled with sweetened condensed milk that I've only seen in Laos. We navigate back through these to pick up whole grilled chicken, flayed between three bamboo skewers, split just enough to hold the meat between. With that, fresh papaya salad, sticky rice, and of course, Beer Lao. The boys are antsy- there are too many balloon sellers tantalizing them with over-sized Picachus and airplanes, so we walk back to the car while Boon waits for the chicken. 

We cross through Wat Chanthaboury as a short cut and happen upon the lights celebration. The entire front patio was covered with little flower lanterns, in every color, glowing softly in the early evening darkness. Lanterns lined the ledge of the temple, and the front porch of the temple. Declan, who grows stronger by the week, broke free of my grasp to run up to the lanterns, stopping right before kicking one, to peer inside. He squealed with delight and turned to show me his new find, thankfully not picking it up. 

The Wats in this area exist in the midst of the busy riverfront markets, restaurants, shops, and hostels. They're a constant in the ever modernizing city. Maybe they're modernizing too- I've seen elderly monks clicking away on smart phones from their wheel chairs, though I'm not a frequent enough visitor to comment beyond that observation. They welcome in people without reservation; the gates aren't locked during daytime, and no one is questioned when they pass through. This week, the end of Buddhist Lent, they'll welcome in the Buddhists with the non-believers, the spiritual with the gawkers. Is it challenging? We wonder as we continue through the Wat, on the way to our car. 
Wat Ong Teu, by Riikka P. 

I didn't take any photos-- I'm just not comfortable taking photos at a religious cite during services. The photo below was taken by my friend, Riikka, of the lanterns she saw at a nearby Wat a few days later. 

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Let's Go to the Mall...in Thailand

Our new apartment needs some new things, just the basics, like towels, food storage containers, a tea pot, etc. I can buy them in Laos, but they’re expensive and 4th quality export from China. I’ve long since given up on finding BPA-Free products, but I’d like to at least have a chance at products that won’t leach chemicals into my kid’s fruit snack. As it would turn out, Boon’s brother’s fiancĂ© also needs wedding shoes, so we all make a plan to head across the Friendship Bridge and spend the day in Udon-Thani, Thailand.

When I mention our plans to our co-workers, who have lived in Vientiane for several years, there’s a mixed reaction of disgust, sadness, and helpful tips. One coworker states he’ll never step foot in Udon again, while another lets me know about a nice historical site nearby.
The border crossing and the drive take all of two hours, with little traffic before the city of Udon. At the customs counter, my brother-in-law runs into two people he knows (the same happens on the way back). Both are on their way to hospitals in Thailand, choosing to use Thai doctors to diagnose their colds instead of Lao doctors. Awkward. (My brother-in-law is a Lao doctor…). Medical tourism must be booming, because in the few downtown blocks we travel we see at least four different hospitals. I stopped counting clinics. I’d be indignant for my brother-in-law’s sake, but then I remember someone told me the literal translation for “ICU unit” in Lao is “Death Room.” So it kind of seems justified.

There’s not much to say about shopping, other than to say, I realize now how much time I spent shopping in the US. Wasn’t nearly every weekend spent at Target, the grocery store (or three), BJ’s, or any other store to pick up something I needed for the week? The options dazzle me, and for a few minutes, I get that tingly feeling that I really need this thing, and I impulsively grab a basket. But as I wander up and down the aisles, I fill the basket, and unfill it. I don’t need the tea strainer. My colander is working just fine. I don’t need a new teacup just because it’s adorable, the ones that came with the apartment are working just fine. I really don’t need these alphabet magnets- my kids didn’t use the set we had in the USA, why try it here? I narrow it down to the essentials, then bring Boon over for input. More items leave the basket.

Before we leave, we stop at the KFC. Udon has the fast food chains we’re used to, including KFC, McDonalds, and Auntie Anne’s. My mother-in-law only made one request: bring back KFC fried chicken. I get sent into the KFC to get the chicken, and again, sending in the falong leads to incorrect orders. My little Lao is useless in Thailand, and pointing at the menu doesn’t work either. At this point, I think they’re just screwing with me. The chicken is mild and soggy by the time we get it back to Vientiane, but at least I didn’t over pay this time.

On the drive home, I’m staring out the window at the Thai countryside. Between the roadside stores and gas stations, there’s wide open rice paddies and clear land. Land without landmines, slowly submitting to urban sprawl. The sunset, from indigo to copper, is glorious, and I try to take a picture. But by the time I get my camera app open, the fields are replaced with more sprawl.


My passport says I’ve been to Thailand twice now; both times for less than 24 hours. Next time, I’ll go to Bangkok, lay poolside with a Thai iced tea, and talk for hours with my friend who lives there. Next time, I’ll get Thai food, and admire modern and ancient Thai art. This time, I got towels and cold fried chicken. 

Wretch is gone.

I mis-read the signs completely. I thought he was hiding because he was feral. I thought he wasn't eating because he'd recovered enough to be picky. I thought he'd peed outside of the liter box because he was a jerk. So when I cleaned up the mess using clumps of tissues (we still don't have rags, the apartment is too new), I grumbled and swore, telling him "seems like you're nearly ready to go back to the wilds of the school yard!" He did his walking test- meaning, I'd pick him up, squirming and hissing, and move him away from his hiding place, and he'd crawl back. I'd watch to see how his back legs progressed, and by Tuesday night, his left back leg was functioning, while the right one still dragged but did flicker. I thought he'd be fine, just a few more days of R&R.



When I came back from cleaning up his food dish, he'd crawled into the clean litter and was sprawled like he liked the texture. Schatzi used to do that too, stretch across a newly clean surface, just to make sure she'd marked it. I thought it was kind of cute, and proof of his progress, so I took a picture to share online. He was still there when I checked on him in a half hour, but I thought maybe we were just too noisy for him to make any big moves.

When I woke up on Wednesday, I went to check on him, per usual. Except, the food was all still there. That's never the case. He's a midnight snacker. But both the chicken leg and the cup of kibble were in the same place I'd left them. Wretch, too, was just as I'd left him. Sprawled across the litter, only now he was face down. I scraped off the crusted litter from his mouth, and tried to get him to drink water. He was just limp in my hands. Too tired to hiss, too tired to scratch. He let me clean him up, but wouldn't or couldn't drink the water. I left him at the food dish to text my Vientiane friends chat, hoping someone could give me a ride to the Vet (Boon was gone early on an long errand, taking the car with him). I wrapped him up in a soft towel, and cuddled him, since he'd finally tolerate it. Declan and I were with him, stroking his head, when he passed. I wasn't even sure he was gone, but when he stopped breathing, his whole body stopped. Writers always say, there was a moment when the light went out of someone's eyes, and it's an obnoxious cliche. But in just a few moments, that's exactly what happened to Wretch. His golden eyes went black, and he was gone.

I tried to find a proper box for him, and cursed myself for not requesting the shoe box when I bought my new shoes.  I left him wrapped in the cozy towel. Declan gave me and Wretch a tight hug when I had to tell him Wretch had gone. It's his first animal companion to pass, and he's a lover of all things wild and furry. When Caden woke up, I told him too, and realized after the fact that I was far too blunt in the telling. We still haven't told Caden that Shatzi was put down, so of course his first reaction was, "well, you could have just taken him to the Vet to get better, mom." When you're five, there's always another option.

Wretch's last few days were probably something like the ten weeks of his life. Hard, hot, confusing, and painful. I wish I'd told that first Vet where to shove it, and insisted that she put him down. Instead of a quick and restful death, he spent his last week huddled in a strange and confusing back porch, hiding behind boxes, a machine, and a trashcan. Small beings kept trying to pet him, babbling in a harsh and guttural language he didn't understand. And some woman kept lording over him, telling him where to pee, what to eat, and to be grateful.

He deserved peace and quiet. Everyone deserves a little peace and quiet at the end.

It takes me a few hours, a lot of facebooking and messaging, but I finally find a way to bury Wretch. It turns out that not only is it forbidden in Lao Buddhism to cremate a cat at a Wat (temple), but it's also nearly impossible to get a straight answer from anyone on actually getting it done. Boon kept urging me to just "take him to the vet and let them handle this," but I didn't think that would properly honor Wretch. Moreover, what would the vet think if this Falong woman showed up with a dead kitten? With the exception of the person who offered to cremate him for 400,000 kip, I got nearly no takers. In the end, Boon's Uncle allowed us to bury Wretch on his property. I wrapped him in a baby blue cotton baby towel, and we dug a meter deep into the subsoil, hoping to protect him from stray dogs. A large log, three marigolds, and two morning glories mark the spot. In my interpretation of the Unitarian Universalist tradition, we lit candles of joy and sorrow for him, using the orange tapering candles that are pressed into monuments and Buddhist statutes, being careful to blow them out before they could start a backyard fire.


Lazy Days


We take long drives, wherever we live. It’s terribly wasteful for the environment, but still, it’s our guilty pleasure. Get a cup of coffee, set a good playlist, and pick a road out of town. This time, it took us outside of the city, on the newly paved road north. Follow it the whole way, and you’ll end up in Luang Prabang. This lazy day, we just follow it until we think we should turn around. We pass mansions that remind us of Star Island in Miami, and roadside fruit stands that tempt us with fresh coconuts or durian. The river is to our left, open road to our front, and the city is behind us. We hope to stop somewhere to eat, drink beer, and talk about nothing, but none of the restaurants seem open. Or if they are, we can’t tell, since we can’t read Lao (yet).



After returning to the city, we make a quick stop at Meh’s house, to drop off something or other. When we mention where we’ve been, she excitedly tells us to take her tomorrow—she wants to go on the new road.



The next day, we pick her up and drive north again. This time, she urges us past our last turn around, apparently having been here before. She takes us to a sandy ledge along the river, with cabana huts on the river side, and hut-restaurants on the grassy side. We pick a hut at random, which is apparently a tricky choice, since you can’t tell which restaurant has the better food. They all look the same to me, selling identical grilled chicken and sticky rice. We settle into the hut, stretching out across the grass mat and grateful we picked a hut with little cushions for seats. Beer Lao and ice appear, and I take in the view. Just river. The same river we’ve seen since we moved here. But with a little mountain in the back, and a little more green Thailand to the side, it’s new and familiar at the same time. Decky naps, Caden chats, and courses of food appear. Morning glory stir-fry, duck jaw, whole fish, whole chicken, and stir fried noodles. Hours melt by. We do nothing of importance. Our only regret- that we came too early to watch the sunset.




Deep fried duck jaw- don't knock it till you try it
Sun dried then fried liver (unknown origin) and
bacon, too hard to crunch. Goes well with beer.


We drive home, drop off Meh, and head to the apartment. We’ve done nothing, accomplished nothing, shopped for nothing. It was a good day.

Last Practice

The waterfront is in full festival mode- the usual night market stalls have quadrupled, and now every square meter is selling clothes, trinkets, linens, sinths, dress clothes, shoes, perfume, fried meatballs, Lao-style eggy crepes, bbq chicken, liver skewers, or anything else you can imagine. The boat racing team straggles into the Mekong River Commission parking lot, where we meet to stretch and get paddles before practice. Everyone has been caught in the festival traffic, and the coaches are clearly itching to get out on the water.
 
It doesn’t go well. It;s our last practice and we are just now figuring out where we should sit on the boat. We can’t hear each other count, so we lurch forward like an uncoordinated pony, getting used to new legs. The coach starts counting in English, and we’re too confused to keep up. Instead of starting when the coach’s paddle strikes the bottom of the boat, we’re told to start when he yells. Except we can’t hear, so again, there’s a command given, and the front of the boat starts, and the command trickles down the length of the boat, like a game of telephone.

Two minutes and 40 seconds to go 400 meters. Not good enough, we paddle back up river, grumbling to our bench partners about poor leadership, inability to hear, and general annoyance. We go again. Two minutes and 30 seconds to go 400 meters. Better, but not good enough. The sky has been steadily darkening as we practice, and black cumulus clouds are rolling in from the south. Should we go one more time? Some of us tentatively raise our hands; the competitor in us knows we need to practice, and if we go quickly, we can beat the rain. It’s settled. But instead of hustling up one more race, we argue about how to give the start signal, how fast to paddle, and other details that had been worked out weeks ago.

We start off again, in total blackness, still unable to hear the command and still at our ungainly pace. Half way there, the sky opens and had clumps of rain crash down on us. Still, we have to paddle. The Lao team that’s been trolling us in real time stops their practice, and gracefully turns the boat around to reach the dock. We stop, then shouts from all sides of the boat scream “backwards! Paddle backwards!,” “Forward, guys!” “Paddle everyone!!”

The boat is filling with rain and river water. The race is in two days. I picked a hell of a day to skip the life jacket.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Stray Cats and Suckers

Like most cities, Vientiane has a sizable population of stray animals. I've called them strays, but to be honest, they're feral. They have devolved from forced domestication into their intended wild ways. As such, the beasts roam the streets and rooftops without supervision, first scrounging for scrap bones as kittens, before taking their rightful place in the food chain as predators of rodents as full grown felines. Most homes seem to have a resident feral cat/cats/kittens, who take care of the food scraps and mice, leaving the home itself blissfully pest-free. Unless you consider the feral cats who may be seen wandering through the home at any given quiet time.


I've steeled my soft American heart against these free animals, and have managed to merely assign casual names to theses resident cats. There's Cutie, the starved looking grey and white spotted mama cat who lives somewhere on my mother-in-law's property, named by Caden within the first week of our stay. Cutie's tomcat and kitten don't have names, yet. Then there's Ume, Plum, and Passion, the three resident kittens at Laodi's riverside bar. Ume, the little black kitten, is my personal favorite- as the only girl, she constantly battling to get the last scrap of rib bone from the patrons.

Then there was Wednesday. I was minding my own business, trying to buy a taro bun during snack period at school, when one of my students ran up to me, all smiles, shouting "Teacher Amanda! Come! There's a cat!!" Why me, among all the other teachers, I'll never know. Teacher Sam has already declared his cat-loyalty, by importing two fat cats from the USA, then taking on two infant kittens whose mother had died. Nevertheless, I allowed myself to be diverted from my taro bun mission to investigate this cat. And there it was, all spit fire and vinegar,  hissing at the students from it's crouched position under a table. I bent down to get a closer look and it hissed at me, then sped off as fast as it's two front legs could drag it. It army crawled under four tables like a spinning top, not much control or direction, just pure rage and fear pushing it forward. I finally caught up with it, scruffed it, and curled it into my silk sinth. It was filthy, yellowed fur in patches and knots, wild yellow eyes glaring, claws bared like little needles to the silver weave of my sinth. So glad I decided to finally reuse my wedding sinth today.

The circle of students surrounding us only caused the cat more angst, as he struggled to get out of my scruff hold and back under the table. Another student brought me a printer paper box, and the cat finally got some peace and security. I purchased a hotdog instead of the taro bun, since this little wretch was all fur and bones, and badly in need of a meal. It snapped at my fingers before accepting the hot dog, then proceeded to pee all over the box while eating. I quickly named it "Billy/Billie," a fitting unisex name for a cat who was a bit too wild for the real world.


This was a poor start.

The cat stayed in his box (by now we'd assessed it might be a boy) under my desk for my next three class periods, before I could take it to a veterinarian. By this time, Boon had gone home to be with a fevered Declan, who now had a diagnosis of influenza and bronchitis. Caden and I drove through the city looking for an animal hospital, and I carefully explained to him that some injuries just can't be recovered from, and sometimes, being put down is the kindest of options.

The vet confirmed my assessment- the wretch was half dead. But only half dead. So still half alive. Sure, he was starving, dehydrated, had a belly full of worms and it's back legs didn't work, but it's spine wasn't broken, so he might live. The kind Ukrainian (not Russian, I don't think, but I'm stereotyping here) vet convinced me to give the wretch a few days of R&R. A little intravenous fluids, some pain medication, and a prescription for de-wormer were given, and we were off, pee-box and Billy in tow. "We're babysitting the ally cat, Mom!" Sigh. This isn't how this afternoon was supposed to go. We let released the Wretch to the back patio, with canned cat food (at 20,000 kip a pop!) and water, and he promptly scrambled behind the washing machine, poking out only a paw to scratch at us.

By Friday, Wretch was still not walking. The name Billy didn't stick, since this cat was definitiely too Lao to condescend to such a name ("Billy is my slave name," he'd hiss at me from behind the washer). Declan was only a few hours fever-free, so we had the sick day to resolve the situation. After delaying throughout the morning, sweeping this, cuddling the recovered baby, folding laundry, it was time to come to terms- the Wretch needed to be put down.

At the same vet, I was turned away, as no one could see the cat until after 4. Pausing at the glass door, I peered into the pee-stained box and the huddled Wretch, and considered paying for the service and just leaving him. He hissed in response to my thoughts, and it was just enough to convince me to try one more vet.

At Dr. Khamdeng's clinic, I walked in all sweaty faced, phrase-book and pee-stained box, and without a word, a nurse took the box to the Doc. I flipped through my phrasebook before Dr. Khamdeng quietly asked "what is wrong with this cat?" Ever so grateful for his English skills, I relayed the story of the last three days, and explained I was here to have the cat put down. A pull here, a tug at this, a few more yowls, and Dr. Khamdeng pronounces the cat  a possible life prognosis. Just another week of R&R. He will walk again. Release him to the wild after, but give him a few more days.

So like that, Wretch is alive. I walk out of the clinic with the cheapest bag of litter, the most expensive flea spray, and a bag of proper kitten food. The cat gets a flea combing and soapy bath, where I find the open cuts from the last dog-fight it was in, and I clear off only one possible flea. It appears the cat is too scrawny for even the fleas to want it. It army crawls and climbs its way into a car wheel well, and I'm dumb enough to go get it.

This is not a forever cat. We are not keeping this thing. I'm not even sure why it's still behind my washing machine, other than knowing I just can't stand knowing it was eaten by a feral dog. He doesn't have a name as of yet. Hopefully, he's released by to the wild by next week.
(c) Amanda Harris Souvannamethy 2017

Monday, September 25, 2017

Hong Mea Ya, the Boat Racing Team

The mud is sucking at my 5,000 kip (75 cent) rubber flip flops, threatening to keep one. The river grass itches my calves as I pick my way through the grass and muck, trying to step in someone else's foot steps, walking towards the Mekong. We are a messy line of rowers, some chatting in pairs, some, like myself, taking advantage of the moment's quiet, walking past the fried meatball stick and crepe cone carts of the night market, down the paved boat ramp, through the mud and grass, to the practice boat. At the river's edge, I hold back, waiting for the back of the boat to fill with the larger, stronger rowers, so I have a few minutes to look up from the muck and at the evening around me.

Dragonflies are swarming around our heads. 12, 18, more than 24 before I stop counting. Dragonflies as long as my hand, the smallest still as long as my ring finger. They are unperturbed by our unexpected presence, and land on our paddles, our life jackets, maybe investigating, maybe just resting. My mom would love this, I think. Not the muck. But the magic of the dragonfly swarm at sunset, watching them swoop and glide. "They eat mosquitoes, you know, so there's probably a whole lot out here," someone chimes in, and the moment is lost. 

 The sun is setting ahead of us, and occasionally a ray gets past the grey cloud to blind those of us without sunglasses. Glasses, any glasses, are just a liability on the boat. If they fall in, you're not getting them back, between the current, the paddles, and the perpetual river, pushing us further up river. If they are splashed by water, you're just stuck squinting through droplets, since you risk losing the count when you stop to wipe them down. Trust me- I wore glasses twice, and ended up working with just one eye for half of the practice.
photo by Seng Amphone Chithalath 8/17/2017


We struggle our way up against the current, which seems unreasonably strong today- probably because of the recent rains from the Vietnamese typhoon. My arms ache. The guy behind me is pouring sweat like he's in a sauna. I can't seem to get my butt in the right position on the narrow wood bench, and keep wiggling around like I need to pee. The paddle in front of me hits the water wrong, and a fat splash of water shocks me mid-count. The boat is filling with water from the countless cracks and splashes, and soon it's past my ankle. But we're counting as one. No one fumbles or mumbles through the unfamiliar numbers. "Neung, song, saam, sii, ha, hok, jet, bet, khao, sip, OH" belongs to us now. We've debated if it's "pet," or "bet," we've commiserated over mixing up "sii" and "sip." We aren't pronouncing it perfectly, but we're all pronouncing it together, so it's ok. 

I've never liked team sports. I've quit most teams I was on- from softball in 4th grade, to swim team in 9th grade, flag team (3 practices...!), lacrosse, hell, I even quit the Pestle Board* in a hissy fit during capping. I was hesitant to join this team, knowing I'm shy and anxious in new groups, and not a great team player. Now I'm realizing, the term "team" is inappropriate for this group. Teams have players, roles, playbooks, rules. There's very little of that in boat racing. You have to become a unit. You have to sync into one body, one fluid movement that brings you forward. You aren't important, as yourself, but rather, for what you can do to bring everyone forward. There is no star player, no MVP. Either we all succeed together, or we all fail. 
photo by Seng Amphone Chithalath 9/9/2017

Boat racing is the national sport here. It's the cause of much celebration and pride. Once, at a Lao dive cafe in Atlanta, I loudly announced "why the hell are they watching crew racing?? Ugh, that's so lame and weird." Boon and I had only dated for a few months, and if he'd been more Lao-pride that might have ended it then and there. I remember the glares I got from the older men, on their lunch break on a weekday, wondering what I was even doing in their restaurant. I didn't understand what place boat racing has in Lao culture, and I'm still learning. For a Lao person far from home, working in a foreign language, in a foreign culture, to watch a little piece of home during your lunch hour, to remember the cheers, the beer, and the smells from the street food carts, must have been special. 

Our unit finally makes it to Kong View Restaurant, our marker to turn back down river. The dragonflies are gone; bats appear in their stead. The first stars of the evening are appearing, and there's yet another lightning storm on the Thai border. There isn't enough time to ponder that or chug water before we're back to the count. Once, an assistant coach brought his khaen* flute to play the fast paced folk music from Laos while we paddled. But only if we were doing well enough to deserve that treat (we were rewarded). We're back to our starting place much faster, practically flying after struggling up current. We finish right next to the Night Market's nightly free zumba class. The reggeaton beats seem to infect everyone on the boat. Those of us who can still move their shoulders break into a shy kind of involuntary torso dance- who doesn't love Despacito

We paddle back to the riverbank, planning where to get burgers or beer. The boat is pulled into the bank by our assistant coaches, and it's time to respect to boat. Our paddles are laid across our laps, all hats removed, and we lean as far as possible over the paddles, prostrate to our boat. 

"OooEeOooEeeeOooo!!" calls out our unofficial Captain. "Whoooeeee!" we shout in return. 

"OooEeOooEeeeOooo!!"

"Whoooeeee!"

"Hong Mae Yah"

"Suh! Suh!"


"Hong Mea Yah"

"Suh! Suh! Whoooeeee"
photo by Seng Amphone Chithalath, 9/18/2017
photo by Seng Amphone Chithalath, 9/11/2017


Khaen: a traditional flute-like instrument, somewhat like a pan flute. Someone on the team got a video of him playing later at a restaurant, I'll add it when I find the video. 

Pestle Board: only an organization known to my fellow Scotties. Luckily, there's a wikipedia description: "Pestle Board A senior-only social and philanthropic society created to lampoon the campus chapter of the academic honor society Mortar Board. Whereas Mortar Board has strict GPA and extracurricular prerequisites for membership, Pestle Board's only entry requirement is the completion of a humorous initiation process known as "capping" that pairs junior "cappees" with graduating senior "cappers". Capping also involves Pestle Board's largest philanthropic fundraiser of the year."  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agnes_Scott_College