Friday, May 8, 2009

the gods drink whiskey

Who would have thought that the ultimate cleansing and renewing would come from nasty moat water? April 13-15 is the celebration of the Thai New Year – Songkran! Originally at this time people would cleanse their Buddha statues and the water left over from that was supposed to be a blessing when you put a little handful on the back of someone’s neck. Now, the holiday has turned into complete and total madness, a ridiculous and unbelievably fun free for all. My first time getting soaked was on the Saturday before the holiday officially started – I was riding in the back of a songtaew (communal cab with bench seats in the back) and a van pulled up next to us. All of the sudden the windows flew down and 5 guys with water guns just nailed me with freezing cold water. They had such child-like glimmers in their cheery eyes and I was doubled over with laughter. Loved it. Then we stopped at another light and seeing how much I enjoyed the first round they decided to go for part duex – after a relentless bombardment I hit the floor of the songtaew and covered my purse, laughing so hard I could barely breath laying there on the disgusting floor where thousands of people have had their grimy feet. Good times!

Monday morning met with some friends bright and early, locked and loaded with the best water guns Baht can buy. We had been told that the east side of the moat was filled with farang, the south side was pretty quiet, the west side was more ‘family friendly’ and the north side was hard core Thai. The description could not have been more apt. We started on the west side and I realized if that was the family friendly side then the north side must be a wet, watery war zone! People set up stands selling big trash cans and enormous blocks of ice – the thing to do is set up shop somewhere along the moat and fill the trash can with ice and moat water, of which there is an endless supply. If there were thousands of people who had done this along the moat then there were also thousands who had done this in the back of their trucks. The traffic was at a near standstill, but every car on the road was a truck with no less than 10 people in the back – every one of them with water guns and buckets to rein terror from the road. It goes without saying that you are beyond soaking wet the entire day, there is no safe or dry place in the entire city. Even inside my apartment with the door locked I wouldn’t have put it passed someone to find a way to drench me. It took hours to walk up the west side of the moat, but when we made it to the north side it was all worth it. OHHHHH my!

Now the people in the back of the trucks have on helmets with goggles so there is no phasing them and their resolve to destroy you with their intense weaponry. Hoses and freezing cold water became the norm. I learned the phrase yen mak (very cold!) very quick. After a couple more hours of battle we stopped off for a bottle of vodka to celebrate being part of such an exuberant and superb holiday, even if it was just in a marginal way. After that, thoroughly enjoyed a couple more hours of lunacy on the north side and eventually made our way to farangville over on the east side. Laaaame! I have been so saturated with work and the friends I have here I’ve almost forgotten how many tourists come to Chiang Mai. That night I slipped down a flight of stairs at a bar. Not my finest hour. The combo of being as wet as when you just get out of a shower, flip flops, hard wood floors and alcohol should be averted.

Tuesday, back in action again – this time spent half of the day listening to live music at the stages set up near a mall just outside the city center. The people on stage had hoses and were spraying the crowd (and the million tangled power lines) all day long. I lost my Marc Jacob sunglasses but still had a severe inclination to boogie all night.

Wednesday – only the strong survive. Nearly all of my friends bailed on going because the first 2 days were so draining. Waaaah. Songkran happens just once a year (and maybe once in a lifetime), you gotta buck up. Hit it hard, again. Standard.

When the week ended and it was back to regular life and work I have to say it was quite disheartening. I wish every day could be a day to ‘play Songkran’. I am not sure I’ve ever had such a good time in my life!

Have been teaching so much lately… private lessons every day for 2 weeks with a girl named Erika from Japan. Her and her daughter are getting ready to go to India for 6 months so she wanted to get some serious English practice in before she left. An unbelievable person, so happy to have met her and spent so much time with her. Either they really love me at my job or they love that my hourly rate is low since I’m new, but I have more classes/hours than almost anyone else. Definitely more than any of the other ‘new’ people…. Have moved on to teaching college students and its incredible! They love to talk, it’s so easy to get creative and have fun with them and it’s great to watch them improve and be able to carry on conversations. I have realised how lucky I am to be a native English speaker – everyone wants to learn the language and it’s not easy, especially coming from a tonal language like Thai where they don’t use the Roman alphabet.

About 2 weeks ago I moved into a big house with 3 other friends. It’s just near the University and the foot of the mountain – the location is excellent and the clear view we have of the mountain and Doi Suthep (most important Buddhist temple in the north) is majestic, to say the least. The food and bars near here are cheap because of all the students and it’s about a 20 minute walk to work. Our house has a literal bar inside of it, which we’ve dubbed “4 Nations” as we’re from Sweden, Canada, England and America. Me and 3 guys – it’s been insightful. Today is Buddha’s birthday – and also the day that he reached Nirvanna and the day that he died after 80 years of living. Last night at midnight thousands of monks and people from all over walked up the mountain to visit Doi Suthep and be there at sunrise. Slightly different from the birthday of Jesus, which is celebrated with materialism and money.

Some of the temples here have BB gun shooting practice on the weekends, some have massive amounts of food stands set up with all kinds of tasty provisions. Some have temple parties and near cabaret shows for special occasions and others are as tranquil and serene as any place you could envision. People leave little glasses of their best liquor outside as an offering of thanks. I am so glad the entire world is not blanketed in Jesus uniformity, because this is an oceanic feeling of cultural solidarity!


ksauto said...

Nicole, you make me feel as if I am there with you...I wish that I was.
love you and miss you.

Flat Foot Floozy said...

This is great. Reading about your travels is so much fun. Beats your Cicero's stories all to hell! Enjoy Sister. Looks like you are doing great.

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