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April 14, 2005

Songkran in Kura Buri

It was a fairly quiet Songkran yesterday. Nice to have a relaxing holiday. The setup in this small town is that all the kids take up posts in front of their houses with big buckets of water and bowls. They stop the cars and motorbikes that go by, and throw water on the people. The adults are very accommodating, pausing to make sure they can get doused properly.

Usually farang, foreigners, are targeted, but the kids all were really polite with us. Some actually poured water into our hands in the old tradition. The ones we live with made sure we got good and wet, however. I repaid the favor by accidentally "slipping" with the bowls of water they gave me. It was fun. The water was nice and cool.

They also put powder and strange colored things on your face. Red and green water, anything sort of gross and funny. But most of it perfumed. I think you are supposed to say some kind of Happy New Year blessing as this goes on, but we never figured that out. Kid-to-kid, it's pretty much all-out water warfare.

Early class was canceled because the kids were all out celebrating. I hung around camp a bit, tried to chat with some of the model boat builders, but they all seemed pretty engaged.

In the morning, I had spied an American guy in town. When he waved Hi at me from a restaurant I walked over to say hello. Jonathan and three others are here with the Crisis Corps(slow link), a division of the Peace Corps. They are spending six months in Kura Buri to create a database of project work needed here.

Please click continue below to read more about Wednesday's first day of Songkran.

***All three of the volunteers I met (Saundra, Kerry + Jonathan — Peter was in BKK for a long weekend) had previously been assigned to Thailand through Peace Corps. They were asked/decided to return because they could hit the ground running — having some of the language and cultural issues ironed out. They've only been here two weeks.

Peace Corps seems to have quite a lot of guidelines for them to operate under. If they want to take a day to explore around, they have to get permission in advance from the Peace Corps and the Thai government. They aren't allowed to ride a motorbike, hitchhike, or ride in the back of a truck. All of this seems sensible on the surface, but it completely precludes any mode of transportation except walking. And it's bloody hot to be walking from village to village. I'm not sure how they're going to get around to do any work.

We arranged to meet them for dinner, which was really nice. They all are good Thai speakers. Lisa and I had to rush back for our 7pm class. When we got back to camp, Nanon giddily informed us that everyone was too drunk to come to class tonight, so he had canceled it. Songkran is the biggest holiday of the year, so we were surprised they were interested in classes this week at all. But I think there was a slight overestimation when it came to the holiday.

So we all re-met at Saundra's apartment in the government complex, armed with chips, beer, soda, cake and a deck of Uno cards (I lost every round). It was a nice night. We gave them some info on Tsunami Volunteer, and all traded travel stories and No-I've-Eaten-Something-Grosser Stories. Saundra won this one. She previously worked at a Thai national park, where the poorer workers ate meals of cooked/uncooked BUGS daily, because they were free.

On the way home around 11:30, a pickup truck stopped and asked if we wanted a ride. Turned out it was a Burmese shop owner Jonathan knew. He was able to take the ride because there was a seat for him in the cab. Lisa and I rode in the back for the roughly 5 blocks home. The Burmese guy had seen all of us walking around to get our chips and beer, and had been watching for us to come home. When he saw us, he got in his truck to come get us so we wouldn't have to walk at night.

That's just how it is in Thailand.

Posted by sedda at April 14, 2005 08:31 AM