So I feel like it is/was a rush to get this next blog post typed up and published. If it wasn't complete by Tuesday night then low and behold it is already the next Thai holiday (yes, Thai people find a reason to celebrate anything and everything and call it a holiday...) Obviously it is Friday, so I didn't get it done before Father's Day (aka King's Bday & Wednesday) or Sports Day (Thursday).
The most important thing to talk about is Loy Krathong. I'm sure most of you have seen pictures. I had a lot of confused messages/inquiries on what the heck was going on and why I was dressed up like lace clown person.
Well let me reiterate that I never ever have any idea what is going on until it is already happening or most of the time I find out about a week later what happened the week before and then sort of have an ahh hah moment --"Oh that is why we all got up in middle of class and went outside and marched around the school 2 times. But, yet of course we must practice for sports day."
Well so I did technically already know about this holiday. We learned all about it during orientation, but we were told it was in the middle of November. After doing a bit of research I found out that Loi or Loy Krathong falls on whatever day there is a full moon in the last lunar month of the year. So it is always different. This year it happened to fall on Wednesday, November 28th.
We were randomly asked to participate in a parade and to dress in traditional Thai clothing. We went and had our dress fitting in a humongous dress up closet. It actually wasn't a closet at all--it was much larger than an of my thai classrooms and housed hundreds of traditional Thai costumes. All the costumes represent different different costumes--some for Thai royalty, some for southern region, some the northern region, some from different time periods and so on. I was told my dress was what the princess wears. Oh very appropriate for me (well actually the queen would have been more fitting, but I guess I'll settle for the princess).
So I thought we were just going to just dress up at 4pm for the parade, but of course one of my other teacher friends called the night before around 11pm and said we need to arrive at school at 7am to dress for the morning assembly. Of course we go early and are handed the bags of clothes and told to dress ourselves. This is insane all the "pants" consist of are a huge pieces of fabric that you wrap around yourself until it somehow transforms into a pair of pants.
Thankfully another teacher saw our distress and graciously helped us get dressed. So we just stood like statues at the morning assembly while they say a lot of stuff in Thai. Then the students sing Loi Krathong in both Thai and in English. And then they made us dance around the whole courtyard doing the traditional Thai dance --which we have no idea how to do.
After many pictures and traditional Thai games and many "I love you Teachaas" and "Beautiful Teachaaa" we changed back into normal clothes to teach for the rest of the day. The students and teachers did have a different sparkle in their eyes though when they looked at me. For some reason Thai people really like to see farangs dressed in the traditional clothing.
Then at 3pm (they asked us to arrive at 12...insane that we would need that much time to get ready and we said no we have to teach--teaching is what we came here for right?) we went back to the costume closet to be dressed officially this time. They dressed us, did our hair and then Teacher A (very fashionable lady boy) did our makeup. It was so cute. She spent what felt like hours just penciling and "fixing" my eyebrows. The final touch was a little extra white powder and baby powder to make me even whiter than I already am--very Thai style.
It had been monsoon-ing all day so we weren't sure if the parade would even happen. But all the Thai teachers reassured us that they would not cancel the parade. There is only one day that Loi Krathong can be and it will be today. So we left in the school van and they dropped us off with all the other 5th grade students that had the "honor" of being in the parade and handed us all matching umbrella. The street was lined with costumed teeth-chattering, wet children. But, don't think for a minute they weren't dressed to the nines: full hair and make-up and standing up right holding their krathongs. The whole scene reminded me a lot of a Mardi Gras parade. People proud of their roots and deep cultural history, not ashamed in the least to march through the streets singing, dancing and wearing hair pieces heavier than full bowl of mash potatoes (ha..that's pretty heavy!)
We walked the parade and were the only Farangs for miles and definitely the only farangs in the parade. We still aren't really sure why they wanted us in the parade or why they dressed us up. One theory could be to parade around just how many American Teachers we have at our school. But, we were like little local celebrities. Thai people LOVE to take pictures of farangs--no matter what we are doing. Kind of like a lion at the zoo--you have to stop stare and take a picture and sometimes even ask to pose to be in the picture with the lion.
So the rain tapered off and our umbrellas were snatched from us, so everyone could admire our beautiful attire. It really was pretty neat. The streets were lined with our students, parents and the whole city of Chonburi. As we we got closer to our school, I saw two of my favorite students. They were screaming and jumping up and down "Teachha Esther". Warmed my heart. Then we passed our favorite coffee shops and restaurants and they waved and cheer us on as well.
We ended the parade at our running park. The park is not a normal park/track. It is beautiful and I've already come to take it for granted. There is an amazing white temple in the center, a pond, waterfall and tons of green space and trees. So we all marched together and the students released their krathongs into the water.
We were slightly miserable, exhausted, definitely hungry and our feet hurt at this point, but we were bound and determined to release our own krathong. We walked back to school and changed out of what had quickly become the most uncomfortable pair of "pants" and lace top I've ever worn. Grab our backpacks and headed back to the park.
It was hard to decide what kranthong to buy. There were so many: ones made of cabbages, peppers, banana leaves, bread and of course orchids and other beautiful flowers. A little back history on what Loi Krathong is all about:
Original this day signified the day where you were thanking/honoring the Goddess of Water (and apologizing for all the pollution...). Now the day has a even bigger meaning. People make or buy krathongs and each kranthong has a candle and incense. Once the candle is lit it represents the light of Buddha. You then add finger nail clippings or small piece of hair to your krathong. You push the krathong away into the water letting go of hatred, anger, and past negative thoughts (hair and nails representing the not so good parts you need to let go of). Some also had small coins to ensure good fortune for the next year.
The experience of releasing my very own krathong was something I never forget. I was happy we decided to stay in our Chonburi, the place we call home and were surrounded by our new family and friends. As I bent down to release my krathong into the murky, pollution filled pond I heard "Teachhaa." I smiled to myself--I knew this day represented exactly what the next year had in store for me: a day filled with poor communication, swollen tired feet, strangers snapping pictures of me left and right and a park buzzing with thousands pushing away their bad thoughts right along side a constantly confused farang. I couldn't have wished for a better day.