Friday, November 6, 2009

Loy Katong

Loy Katong is essentially the Thai Thanksgiving and is celebrated during the full moon in November (if it happens to be a month with two full moons, I guess it happens on the first one). This is when people give thanks to the rivers for the water and way of life they provide.

There are several parts to the celebration, but the big one involves floating lotus-shaped banana leaf constructions with candles and incense on the river, to be done with loved ones ("loy" means float and "katong" is the lotus-craft). Many people make their own katongs, and they range from pretty simple (like the one I made) to ridiculously elaborate.

The other parts of the celebration are the sending off of kom-fei (paper hot air balloons), which looks awesome when everyone does it together and you have a full moon for a back drop; a parade where each village in the area decorates a truck and has a girl (or girls) sit on it who participate in the ensuing beauty contest; and the parade ends at a festival with drinking and singing and dancing and the afore-mentioned beauty contest.

Just thought I'd do a quick little "cultural sharing" post to fulfill that third goal of the Peace Corps mission statement (to share the cultures of other nations with Americans).


Sunday, November 1, 2009

Laying down the law

And lay it down thick, I did.

So yesterday, a few neighborhood kids came by. They are kindergarten or first grade students at one of my schools, and they come by to see what the heck I am doing and get me to play with them every now and then (more often lately since they've been on bpit term).

It started out typically enough, with a little banter in our mutually hard to understand Thai, then proceeded to a game of checkers (Thai rules are far superior to American). One girl, however (who wasn't as familiar to me) was being a punk though. At first, she kept stepping on my feet. In the beginning, it was funny and I didn't mind. But then she kept doing it. And I told her to stop. So she started pinching me and pulling my hair. I told her to stop and go away. She kept doing it. I tried to distract everyone by getting out my frisbee, figuring if we all played together, she'd leave me alone. But then she started poking me in the butt (which Thai kids apparently like to do). I told her to stop again, and when she ignored me, I grabbed my toys, walked in my house and shut the door.

They stood outside calling my name for a couple minutes, but I just ignored them. Apparently fearing that I had gone deaf, they opened the door and came inside to yell some more. I walked over, told them to leave, then locked the door.

Then I got out my mandolin (which has sat gathering dust for far too long) and started trying to tune it. And the kids started banging on my window and door yelling my name, asking if I could hear them over and over. Now, tuning the mandolin is hard enough for me, but it was next to impossible with all the interfering noise. And when they didn't stop after about ten minutes, I started to get frustrated. My first inclination was to yell at them, but I quickly decided continuing to ignore was better, but I really didn't want to sit in my fish bowl with them staring and banging and yelling, so by a stroke of strategic brilliance, I went upstairs.

I finally gave up trying to tune the instrument (I don't know if I'm just inept or if the strings warped or something from sitting too long, but as soon as I would think I had it OK and tried to strum, it sounded more like the local dog pack than a purty li'l chord) and just hung out in my room. After a total of twenty or thirty minutes, the kids gave up and went away. Score one for patience.

Now I just hope they have made the connection between my initial decision to go inside and the one girl being naughty and not stopping when I asked her to.

Calm like a bomb.