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KEVIN & LESLIE'S ADVENTURES IN THAILAND!  
PAGE 5:  Songkran:  Thai New Year & The Water Festival
On This Page:
Leslie & Kevin & Friend, April 16, 2003  |  E-Mail From Kevin, April 16, 2003
The Songkran Holiday in Thailand  |  Great Web Sites To Check Out!  |  Where is Roi Et?
Leslie & Kevin & Friends, April 16, 2003

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E-Mail From Kevin, April 16, 2003

April 16, 2003

As our first month of teaching winds down, Leslie & I are still reeling from culture shock, the unexpected workload & the heat. We made a pact before we left Pittsburgh that we would never complain about the heat and have stuck to it. It's just a fact of life here.

We did under estimate what it takes to be a school teacher. Even under ideal conditions, we can see it is a demanding occupation. And with the language barrier it is especially challenging. We both envision growing to love the job, especially after we have a curriculum to work from and some more lesson plans drawn up. For now we are inundated with work and need to get caught up. It would help if we quit flitting off to parts unknown on the weekends and learned to say no to all the invitations extended to us.

We just spent Songkran, the Thai New Year, in Northeast Thailand (approx. 7 hours outside of Bangkok.) My cousin is married to a Thai women, and we accompanied them on a trip north to visit the village where she grew up.

They take their holidays seriously here with virtually the whole country shutting down. Songkran lasts for 4 days and marks the beginning of the New Year, 2547. It also ushers in the rainy season which helps to explain why we were doused with buckets of water for 4 days straight. Even along the whole route as we drove up country and back the car we were driving in was pelted with water.( Don't even ask us what the talcum powder is all about.)

Her village of about 150 treated Leslie & I royally. Word traveled fast that two farangs (Westerners) were in own, which must have been a novelty for them judging by the looks we received. As friendly as we've found the people in Bangkok, the people 'up country' are even more so.

What little they have they insist on sharing with you and though the people are very poor nobody goes hungry. Anywhere you look are trees with food (usually fruit) growing from them. Mangos, bananas, coconuts, along with many fruits we don't recognize grow everywhere. To say that nothing goes to waste here could be an understatement, what with the people eating just about anything. One morning after climbing down from our accommodations (best described as a tree house) we found the entire family and all the neighbors sitting around a breakfast of crickets.

Such fare is not unique to the country folk though as there is a women just outside our apartment in Bangkok who serves up locusts & cockroaches all day long. And try getting a salad here without red ants on it. Fuh-ged about it.

Beneath the tree house we all slept in, were cows, water buffalo, chickens, roosters, ducks and pigs. Meanwhile, there were barrels catching rain water off the roof with catfish in them. These people may not have any money but their needs are met.

As for things at The Thai Christian School, each day gets a little easier. Leslie has 1st grade English and Art while I have 4th grade English & P.E. This is summertime in Thailand so what we are doing is considered summer school. It is for those students who wish to work on their English skills. The school year officially begins in mid May. Leslie will be starting a Christian Montessori Kindergarten program while I will be teaching 6th, 7th & 8th grade English.

Back in December I was informed I would be teaching 2nd, 3rd and 4th grade Math; and had been boning up on dividing fractions. But now I'll have to cram and re-learn my dangling participles & irregular past tenses.

When we're amass with some tales of misadventure we will check in again. Until then we will try to keep Deena busy posting new pictures on the site.

Feel free to drop us a line at:
Send E-Mail To Kevin & Leslie!
and we will be sure to reply.

Sawatdi Khop....Kevin

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The Songkran Holiday in Thailand
From The Asia Tour Web Site:
http://www.asiatour.com/thailand/e-02trav/et-tr100.htm

Thailand/Celebrations/Songkran
By Serge Kreutz

Songkran, the Thai New Year celebrated from April 13 to April 16, is the most important, the best known and the gayest of Thailand's festivals. To the Thai people, this festival is one of water throwing and although it has religious significance, it usually turns into great fun. Everyone gets soaking wet and since it is the hottest season of the year, the custom is quite refreshing.

Songkran is not only observed in Thailand but also in Burma, Laos and Cambodia.

The word Songkran is from the Sanskrit, meaning the beginning of a new solar year. The Thai calendar used to switch to a new year on April 13 but the date was changed to January 1 to bring the country in line with the rest of the world.

In some ways, Songkran resembles the Christian Easter with it's feasts and processions of people wearing new clothes. Young and old dress in new attire and visit their Wat where food is offered to the monks. Music is often played on the streets as well as at the Wats.

On the eve of Songkran, housewives give their homes a thorough cleaning. Worn-out clothing or household effects and rubbish are burned - it is a spring cleaning day, supported by the religious belief that anything old and useless must be thrown away or it will bring bad luck to the owner.

During the afternoon of the 13th, Buddha images are bathed as part of the ceremony. Young people pour scented water into the hands of elders and parents as a mark of respect while seeking the blessing of the older people. In ancient days, old people were actually given a bath and clothed in new apparel presented by the young folks as a sign of respect.

Another unique Songkran custom is the releasing of caged birds and live fish, caught throughout the country and sold / purchased in the markets for this occasion. It is believed that great merit is gained through this kind act. In Paklat (Phra Pradaeng) south of Bangkok, girls in gay dresses form a procession and carry fish bowls to the rivers where the fish are released.

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Great Web Sites To Check Out!

Fantastic Photographs of Songkran in Bangkok!
www.thaistudents.com/guidebook/songkran/

WhatsOnWhen Travel & Entertainment Solutions
WhatsOnWhen Travel & Entertainment Solutions

Fantastic Videos of Songkran in Thailand!
www.whatsonwhen.com/video/eventpage.asp?event_id=3&video_id=5

Daily Life in Bangkok
Photography by Fern Leyder
www.lotusfragrance.com

The Origins of the Songkran Festival
http://welcome-to.chiangmai-chiangrai.com/sk-orig.htm

The Rites of Songkran (Thai New Year )
http://welcome-to.chiangmai-chiangrai.com/sk-ny.htm

How to Throw Water During Songkran
http://welcome-to.chiangmai-chiangrai.com/sk-water.htm

Sriwittayapaknam School > Thailand Festivals > Songkran Festival
http://www.sriwittayapaknam.ac.th/songkran.html

Sriwittayapaknam School > Thai Culture at School > Songkran Festival
http://www.sriwittayapaknam.ac.th/thaiculture/songkran.html

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Where is Roi Et, Thailand?

Kevin & Leslie visited Roi-Et for the Songkran holiday.

http://sunsite.au.ac.th/ThaiInfo/TourismInThailand/northeast/roi-et/

Once a prosperous and extensive community but ravaged by floods, Roi Et has made a comeback as a town of great promise, with its huge Thung Kula Rong-Hai (flat-land) being developed into a fertile and productive land. Roi Et is 512 kilometers from Bangkok.

http://www.thailandguidebook.com/provinces/roiet.html

http://www.thailandmaps.net/roiet/roiet.html

While searching Google for Roi Et, I discovered this cool web site,
about an American woman who is a Peace Corps volunteer living in Roi-Et!
And she's a teacher, too! Check out the great photos on her web site!

This Adventure Called My Life
http://pages.ivillage.com/evickerman/thisadventurecalledmylife/index.html

Hello from Roi-Et, Isaan, Thailand. I am Elizabeth Vickerman from Washington, Maine now a United States Peace Corps volunteer serving in Thailand. The Peace Corps has been in Thailand for 40 years. This is a successful program.

I have been here since January 2001. The focus of my work is education reform but I do many other things too. This has been a great adventure for me; an opportunity to serve in the name of peace, and opportunity to experience another culture, and an opportunity to share this experience with American people.

I have been fortunate to come to this part of Thailand. I have experienced many new challenges and made many new friends. There is an old Thai saying, “If you have a Thai person as your friend, you have a friend for life.”

My success here has been with the support of friends and family in America and with the support and cooperation of Thai educators. Change here is slow but I am learning how to be patient.

Elizabeth Vickerman has 2 related web sites, both reflecting her experience
of living and teaching in Thailand! She's got great photos on this one, too!

http://pages.ivillage.com/evickerman/index.html

The Peace Corps in Thailand
http://peacecorpsonline.org/messages/messages/467/2314.html

Leslie & Kevin & Friend, April 16, 2003  |  E-Mail From Kevin, April 16, 2003
The Songkran Holiday in Thailand  |  Great Web Sites To Check Out!  |  Where is Roi Et?

Send E-Mail to Kevin & Leslie: Send E-Mail To Kevin & Leslie!
Kevin & Leslie's Adventures in Thailand!
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