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Photo by Sampor Burke, Mekong Semester.

Sand Kingdom

Night fell swiftly over the shores of the Mekong. The group had recently landed on a secluded area in Pakbang, Laos, and after a long day of lounging on the boat — reading, sipping hot chocolate, or (in Mikey’s case) hammocking — along with a refreshing swim in the Mekong, we were all happy to relax around the warm fire to play a few group games.

Seeing as I was on Brit’s team for the first round, I didn’t feel the need to try that hard, since Brit is very serious about games (which is the highest compliment I can give anyone) and would definitely take charge. So when the other team was taking their turn and Nick, who was sitting next to me, started to bury his feet in the sand, I thought, “why not?” and joined in. As it turns out, I was getting myself into something much bigger than I first anticipated.

We started slowly, sweeping sand over our toes and the tops of our feet, then packed it around our ankles. Steadily, our separate piles grew higher and higher with every handful. By the time the rest of the group decided to start another game, called Werewolf, Nick and I had dug giant holes in the ground that circled us like makeshift moats. Both of us clawed frantically for more sand, each trying to make our own pile taller than the other, loudly patting our creations and giggling throughout the game, like kids at the beach, no doubt annoying everyone around us who actually wanted to play the game. I admittedly began to steal from Nick’s much larger pile until we eventually called a truce and combined our two lumps of sand into one monstrous mountain.

Once the game had finished and we’d freed our feet — now almost entirely numb — the sand managed to reach past Nick’s chin when he was sitting down. It was quite the accomplishment, and even though no one got a picture, I promise the whole thing was majestic. Will, who had remained by the fire while most had gone to bed, helped construct two seats from the huge pile, complete with backs and arm rests.

As the fire began to die, Nick and I sat on our thrones and surveyed our kingdom in the moonlight: empty sand and cow dung, a handful of tents scattered along the shoreline, Wes and Lae stargazing beside us, as well as Will, who was “entertaining” us as our jester, and beyond, the great Mekong, with our lone boat floating upon the gentle waves. And what a glorious kingdom it was.