you are seeing something that many of you have never seen: i'm wearing shoes :-) the reason i came home at this particular time was to be present at Toey's ceremony to receive her nurses cap. a rather formal affair, and my wife suggested i wear shoes instead of my normal sandals. arrgh. i was in walmart talking with her on the phone, i txted her photos of shoes to find some that were acceptable. 9.99$ walmart specials. i'll probably never wear them again.
there was a certain amount of nervous tension in the air. all those years of school, all the quizzes and tests and study. all the mistakes, the waiting to see of you passed- it's not over until this event is over, and everyone wanted to to be done in good form. we were finally ushered into the auditorium and seated with the rest of the proud parents and friends. the nurses-to-be sat in the front. there were lots of speeches and presentations. of course, i understood none of it directly, but i'm sure it was the usual ceremonial wordings. finally, all the students filed out to the back of the auditorium and up the outsides, in carefully choreographed lines, to have their name called out to receive their awards.
look at this photo:
we stayed at teri's room at the "K Mansion" she slept on the floor, tok and i had the bed. the Saturday of the ceremonies, we all dressed up sharp and went over to the nearby university campus. Toey has been in university nursing school program at Rangsit University in Bangkok for the last four years. so all my savings - what would be my travel money - has been going to pay our share of university and living costs for her. that's why i haven't been home in four years. it's been a struggle. most of you know i lead a pretty spartan life, foregoing what most people consider normal living conditions. it was tense at times, but we got there. she's been a solid C+ student, passed all her exams and was ready to officially become a nurse.
there were hundreds of people at the meeting hall. seemed like a couple of hundred graduates and their families. lots of milling around the hallways, taking hundreds of photos, laughing, smiling. all the nurses looking so sharp and pretty in their white uniforms and show make-up. when teri was growing up, my nickname for her was "noo noi" or "little mouse" she's not looking like a little mouse anymore. i've had to change it to "noo Hyi" - "big mouse".
Toey is second from left
it was quite impressive.
the line-file-ordering caused me to remember my high school graduation. i was a bit of a miss-fit my last year of high school. the principal graduated me to get rid of me. since my last name put me at the head of the line, i was leading the order of march out of the chairs to the stage and back. it had to be done exactly, else people would be coming out the same row that the returnees would be entering, where there would be a traffic jam and people would have to step around each other.. very clumsy. so principal pleaded with me to get it right the night of the ceremony. i assured him i had it down. when the time came, i looked the principal directly in his anxious eyes, and went left, instead of right, creating the traffic jam and jostling he was so afraid of. i was just as glad to be rid of him as he was me. there were no such rebels in this procession.
graduating nurses receive a black band of fabric that they pin along the top of their nurses caps. at the end, all the fresh nurses got up on the stages in rows for the adoration of all, and lots and lots of picture taking. they look so smart and orderly, smiling, proud, and humble at the same time. very moving.
all the new nurses picked up small garlands of flowers to bring to their parents and supporters. Toey came back to our row, knelt down in front of me, handed me the flowers. she looked up at me with her beautiful brown eyes and said "Thank you Papa!"
The three of us burst into tears.
we drove east from lomsak, up into the mountains, and down the other side. the country turned flat, dry brown, and bright. our pickup has nice aircon, so it was pleasant in the cabin, but when we stopped at a seven (eleven) and i opened the door... it was like opening the door to the oven. a blast of hot air gobsmacks you. man, it was hot out there. even for me. my weather app said 103 degrees F, and rising! it was hot. so hot, the only way to eat a candy bar would be to tear off the end of the wrapper, and squeeze the contents out like sweet toothpaste*. i like it though. wouldn't want to be digging ditches, but it beats being cold, and you don't have to go through the "jacket on, jacket off, jacket on" ballet. t-shirt 24/7 time.
tok booked us a hotel in Kon Kaen that she found by "asking her friend Google" nice place, 1050 baht (29$) per night for the three of us - they even had three beds in the room. aircon, hot water shower, mini-bar fridge, complementary buffet breakfast in the morning. a bit fancy for my taste, but with songkran holiday in progress, getting a room anywhere is a stroke of fortune.
The 13th is songkran day. we went and visited a beautiful temple in the morning:
went back to hotel for a little nap time, then we walked a number of blocks from our hotel to the entrance of "sticky rice road" as far as you could see down this street, there were people, and water spraying into the air, music blasting, smoke from food vendors.
i was a little daunted, but in we went. you will get wet. very wet. splashed from buckets, assaulted with water guns, sprayed by hoses, plastered with chalky paste. it's great fun. water proof pouches for your mobile phone were pretty popular vendor items this year. stages along the street with dancers or bands, sponsored by mobile and soft drink companies. at the head of the street, there's a kind of town square, where the main stage is, and off to one side, a stage for the "past time" music and dancing.
we don't have anything like Songkran in the states. the weather in most of the US keeps us all indoors. forth of july is pretty big for us, but the celebrations are localized. songkran is national, it's everywhere. many people wear colorful flowered songkran shirts, even the tiniest village will have a bunch of kids beside the road ready to throw water at your car as you pass. every town has a 'water street' the people are all ages, all classes. it's generally a lot of fun, and celebration. yeah, there are a few fights, and they tally the number of road deaths each year - but those are almost all alcohol related. drinking and craziness is fairly isolated, you don't see people walking around with beer, and they don't have those beer zoo's like we do. police are present, but you'd have to really look for them. i just followed tok and teri around, got sprayed a lot and marveled at the spectacle and grandeur of the event. i feel so fortunate to experience something like this. the only thing i can think of that is this energetically charged is when people get all wound up cause their sports team is doing good. people have a common cause, a reason to unite, a purpose for excitement and display. but songkran doesn't have that giant sound of all the air getting let out of the balloon when your team loses the big contest. and i'm not into sports. festivals like songkran (and Holi in india) are all inclusive. they celebrate joy, life and living, for all people. aside from the street water basting, songkran is also a time to honor the old people and do some house cleaning. washing of the Buddha statues is observed as a ritual.
there was even a washing the Buddha setup at the mall we went to the first night.
later in the evening, they did this human wave thing that was a blast. with a lot of instructions (in thai of course) over the LOUDspeakers, everybody along the whole sticky rice road squatted down. then on countdown cue, people quickly stood up, hands in the air and squatted back down, making a wave like they do at sports events. the wave would travel back in the distance, then reflect back towards the stage. took almost 45 seconds for the reflected wave to come back to the front. it was pretty cool. there were drones in the air, following the crest, and projected on the giant LED screens on the back of the stage, i didn't want to get my phone soaked, but here's a video:
we finally walked back to our hotel. what a day. it was teeth! (the thai word for teeth is "fun", so every time i say "That was fun!" they hear: "that was teeth" and smile)
we drove back to our village the next day - with a couple stops along the way, one of them was on my "gotta do this" list for this visit home. woo hoo!
the days just fill up. places to go, stuff to do, chilling in between. every day, i am gifted with another beautiful day in thailand. Tok thinks it's 'normal' of course, and she doesn't like it so hot. but coming from seattle, i am quite pleased.
but it does rain. every day in rainy season (june - sept) and occasionally in the summer season: