Sunday, April 19, 2009

Happy New Year!

It was a long journey to get to Khon Kaen and now we've been here just over a week. I'm glad that we rushed back for the Songkran festivities. I've never experienced anything quite like this holiday. I'm sure in the past and with certain crowds there was/is deep rooted spiritual significance to Songkran, however, things have been somewhat updated. It's not uncommon for monks to sprinkle water on people as a blessing. Well, this happens a lot during the new year and now it's turned into a massive 3 day (5 this year since Songkran fell on M-W and therefore Saturday and Sunday were thrown in for good measure) waterfight!

It was really fun and pretty phenomenal to walk down the street and see all these people laughing, dancing, singing, drinking and drenching eachother. They also wipe baby powder on your face (which is apparently also to bless you). Great fun! The people have so much endurance too and even on the fifth day they still hadn't lost enthusiasm. The downside to Songkran is the heavy, heavy traffic and that it's impossible to travel on foot (or have your car windows rolled down) if you don't want to get wet.

Since Ali and Byrun have made a lovely group of friends out here, we were invited to two different parties. The first one was at a small village nearby Khon Kaen and we got to visit their temple and afterwards had lunch. This was really cool and I felt honored to be there. They brought us into the temple and proceeded to bless us in a friendship ceremony. They also tied strings around our wrists as lucky blessings. You are supposed to leave them on until they fall off (or some say you can remove them after three days- mine aren't bothering me so I still have them on).

After the friendship ceremony they treated us to an amazing lunch! Before we went home we went into the kitchen area to thank the women who had cooked for us. They were sitting on a mat on the ground chopping meat. Matt decided to get right in there and help them out which they thought was hilarious. I was just lingering a bit when one lady grabbed me and hauled me down excitedly. They didn't really speak English but what I understood of the situation was that since she and I were of similar sizes she saw me as a friend or sister. She kept hugging me and everyone was grinning and laughing. Then she grabbed the bloody meat clever and promptly cut the chinstrap off her straw hat and starting tying it around my wrist. She gave me a piece to tie around her wrist too. It was an interesting experience!

The second party consisted of another huge, delicious Thai meal and a karaoke machine! It was so much fun! Of course we also spent a fair amount of time walking through the streets getting soaking wet and spraying water onto people. The Thais were delighted and we got quite a bit of attention as a result. One katoy (ladyboy) even kissed everyone in our group! I tried to get some pictures but understandably this was challenging (I didn't want my camera to get wet). You can see them over here. If you ever have a chance to visit Thailand during Songkran- do it!

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