Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Sawadee Songkran! Len Nam!!

So maybe purposefully, maybe just ironically, immediately following CIEE's water unit is Songkran, the Thai New Year. A celebration of new life, and as a means to relieve everyone of the scorching and mildly unbearable heat of mid- April in Thailand, Songkran is the holiday we all wish we celebrated when we were little. It's a festival of water-- people are either standing on the sides of the streets soaking anyone who drives by with water (sometimes ice cold) or you're in the back of a pick- up truck throwing water at anyone on the sides of the street. I have not been dry for more than 4 hours at a time (the longest I've slept) but I've also managed to keep cool in over 100 degree weather.

Although the Songkran festivities didn't truly start until the 13th, our vacation started on the 11th, so we got a head start. We've explored downtown Khon Kaen, visited communities we've stayed with, and spent all day in the back of a pick- up truck and in different lakes and reservoirs, playing with our landfill families. And now, granted that it's still the 13th, I'm off again.


My last night before I have to get back to reality of school life at KKU. I have just returned from Yasothon, visiting my family from the Agricultural unit. The past 5 days have blurred together into a sort of timewarp that feels like both an eternity and a millisecond of my life. As I try to recount the events of each day to myself, I will do so for you as well.

Saturday, April 10:
- finished classes before break
- program sponsored bowling, with steph and i splitting a turn and failing at complementing each others' bowling skills or lack thereof. there was a point where we went three frames without hitting a single pin between the two of us. but when we were on, we were on, i guess.
-headed out to Rad Bar, 1/3 bar, 1/3 dance floor, 1/3 strip club. Cait's 21st birthday, Jenna obsessed with terrible punk rock singer, and Shayne finding out that we thought she and Miles were dating. Mit, Aj. Dave's daughter hangs out with us. Gianna and Barrie fall asleep on the TukTuk back to KKU.
 Panda's a pro- Girlfriend, not so much

Sunday, April 11:
- a group of us head down town Khon Kaen to get our water throwing started
- walked around and sat at this really cool bakery and cafe (tried to songkran Jenna but could not figure out how to collect water in my hands and turn off the sink at the same time- i was in no way about to waste water letting the sink run as i splashed her)
- found some kids on the street corner and joined in their fun
 some kids we found for our first water throwing fun
- ate salads at central soaking wet (much needed)
- wandered around Khon Kaen looking for the slums we stayed in during Unit 2- made it to Nong Waeng where I stayed. visited Sam's family first, and len nam'ed with her host sister and friends. as soon as we showed up, they switched their music from traditional Isaan to American Pop, including Party in the USA, ironic as we were not in the USA. Chilled with my chillens
 back in Nong Waeng
- made it back down town in some random kid's paw's song taew. on the way back some peeps with amazing aim managed to hit our song taew and every person in it as we flew by
- some went to watch the Thai equivalent of Step It Up 2: The Streets, but I went home to change before coming out again
- went back to change and came out again down town
- Sam, Becky, and I meet Gianna, Ben, and Abe at Cha Bar, our new best friends- confusion ensues regarding whether we can drink our own drinks there, but my ben rai fixes everything in the end- were told to return at 2 pm the next day to really start the Songkran water fun
- get a random ride to UBar from people who figured it'd be easier to drive us than tell us how to get there- thank you
- girls hang out and chat at UBar for a bit, then leave to find the boys. Ben, who's on a "real- life exchange" kick finds some norwegian guy to chat with who is unimpressed that i do research on finnish babies, so i hang out with a 19- year- old from holland who got screwed by the dutch university lottery system so he's just traveling before starting school next semester. we talked politics and before we knew it it was 4:30 am and time to go home. the 5 americans still out managed to pile into a tuktuk and called it a long day.

Monday, April 12:
- CIEE Sustainability meets to further investigate the spreadsheet we will use to create our Climate Action Plan. After getting through all 40+ tabs, we figure out what information we have, what we still need to figure out, and what is irrelevant to our project. We split up some Next Steps, including budget info, gas efficiency, staff commutes and travel, and particular student air travel to and from the program.
- head downtown again. meet up with our new found friends at Cha Bar and splash water over anyone who passes by
 getting ready to soak an innocent couple on a motorcy with a bartender from Cha Bar
- April, Ilse, and I decide to go on a tour of Khon Kaen via back of pick - up truck with some people
 Ilse on the back of a pick- up with a new friend
- after hanging out getting soaked on Cow Neow Road, we realized we were starving and headed to a nice restaurant in our tour guide. i had an amazing curry, but poor April ordered her food four times and never got what she wanted
- although most were exhausted and headed back to KKU after dinner, I stayed out with April, Ben, and Gianna and met a group of Thais who we dubbed "orange shirts." they were super drunk but super fun and actually spoke a lot of english. we talked with them for 2 hours-  some were super nice, but a few were super creepy, especially of course the two guys who decided to talk to me
their shirts say Stop War on the front in English, Love Peace on the back in Thai
- an elephant came by and everyone started running in between his legs
- april and i spied on gianna when she walked to the bathroom with some guy that she was flirting with. completely infantile
- april and i got tired eventually and got a ride home. gianna and ben went to some party at a mansion
- didn't realize european time had switched so i missed my skype date with molly :(

Tuesday, April 13:
- met becky, barrie, april, and gianna at 6:45 am in the lobby of our apartments. i did not let jenna or maggie get away with not going, and gave them a guilty look until they came. appreciated 100%.
- kind of knew how to get to the landfill but not really, so we asked a songtaew driver who agreed to take us all the way there for 30 baht each- head ache saved!
- shuffled to a wat to give tamboon as soon as we got to the landfill. flip flops - fail. tank tops- fail. loose low cut shirts- fail. shorts- fail. eat breakfast- success.
- maggie is openly talking about how hot she thinks one of the monks is, not knowing that he is actually from bangladesh, speaks perfect english, and no thai.
- Meh gives us all new clothes since we were not dressed properly for the amount of wet we were getting
- back of caged pick up truck with 3 or 4 different families heading to the dam behind the wat with  Buddha on top of a mountain that CIEE brought us to months ago
- witnessed one of EGAT's community projects, releasing fish into the water behind a dam via slides
- rented inner tubes. of course dam water is absolutely disgusting, but it was fun to relax and dump people's tubes over so they fall in
 Shompoo and friends play in reservoir
- headed to our next destination, god knows where we were. it was a type of festival, where we ate lunch- there were hundreds, maybe thousands of people eating and playing with water. there was some man made weir and man made lake lined with stones. it's so hard for me to describe, it felt like a water park. hmmm... there was a slanted plane, with these stone structures standing there. water was rushing so intensely, you'd get pushed between stone slabs down to the bottom of the plane. stone lining was so unfortunate for me, i ripped the entire butt out of my pants. crisis. meh had to switch shorts with me, so now i was in a completely new outfit than when i began. meh also told the entire festival that i had a hole in my pants and everyone was laughing at me
- some really drunk guy fell down a slope into the river
- grab some canomes and leave the festival. we head to another wat to give tamboon again, leave incense, and splash some water on the temple. fed some huge, huge catfish
- our landfill families bring us back to KKU
us, our families, and our mode of transportation
- i have become a lobster, and realize that from smiling (and also squinting) I have tan lines from my eye creases
- although exhausted, we manage to muster up the energy to go out downtown for Amy's 21st birthday

Wednesday, April 14:
- 9 am: meet at the office to head back to Yasothon to visit our family there (with April and Bijal - Megan and Becky came too but went to see their family in a different village)
- we all PASSED OUT for the three hour bus ride there
-  upon arriving, Paw, Meh, Im, and Oom were excited to see us. we ate and played with the girls for a little bit, and chatted with Paw. He was impressed with how much our Thai had improved since our last visit, but made fun of me for having lost my voice.
- abla all fit on the back of paw's motorcy and we went on a bai teeow (trip) all over our village. we  spent time with some of paw's friends and family. some were nice, but i wasnt the biggest fan of one of paw's friends who thought that b was a prostitute because she said she was going to work in a hotel in India this summer
- a and b were geening j (eating vegetarian) so all the food with meat in it got put on me. there was this chicken dish that was black and it really looked like just bones with no meat on it. there were a few pieces that had hair on them and i almost vomited into the bowl but managed to keep my cool and just not eat them
- after meeting all of paw's siblings, we returned home. we checked in with the cows and the pigs. we watched paw pick out and kill a chicken for that evening's dinner. he held its beak closed as he cut open its throat and let the blood drip into a bowl. the wings kept flapping because the nerves were still active. he put the chicken in boiling water and picked off all its feathers, chopped it up, and cooked it. fresh chicken. arroi mai? arroi! sep!
- i told meh the story of the piece of chicken with the hair on it and how i really didn't want to eat the chicken's head. she laughed and laughed and told everyone the story of the chicken's hair.
- we were talking about playing with water the next day and paw told us that meh couldn't play with water for some reason we couldn't understand in thai. he asked his daughter for the translation and she said "menstruation." so paw just told us that meh was on her period. tmi much?
- the daughter gave us each a stuffed animal. end story.
- the daughter showed us pictures of her younger sister who is getting married on the 23rd and 24th of this month. the daughter doesn't like her sister's fiance because he's bisexual, we think. he used to date boys and now he dates girls. paw really really wants us to come to the wedding and has the world out to convince ajaan john to let us do so.
- the daughter gave april two dresses that don't fit her.

Thursday, April 15:
- woke up at 7:30 from a really good night's sleep
- met the daughter who is going to get married and her fiance, who looks like worm tail from harry potter, no joke.
- filled up the huge tub for water- killed a baby duck in the process
- managed to get huge tub out to the streets and spent all morning throwing water on anyone who passed
- came back, ate lunch, SEAFOOD (clams and squid!!)
- said bye to meh and paw and headed out on a 6 hour long journey home
- paw didn't want us to get soaked on the motorcy so his friend took us in his pick- up truck to the main city in their subdistrict, then we took a bus to yasothon city, then a bus to khon kaen, ate dinner in khon kaen, and took a taxi home
- people are watching quantum of solace as i type here

I really didn't get one moment's rest over my five day vacation, nor did I travel to any of the places I hoped to. However, I see the sleep in sight tonight and I wouldn't trade any of the time I spent downtown with my CIEE friends or at my families' homes for time away or spent resting. I wish I could take more pictures without fearing for my camera's life, because Songkran is something everyone should experience. I'm sure these stories sound bizarre but the actual experience is indescribable. I could not imagine how much fun it'd be as a small child to just throw water on everyone, but I'm pretty excited to be dry for more than the time I'm sleeping. I say that now, but once 120 degrees starts feeling like 120 degrees because I'm not wet, I'm sure I'll be signing a different song.

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