Sunday, April 13, 2014

Myanmar New Year Water Festival!

It's Thingjan!  (pronounced TINGjan, with a heavy aspiration on that first 'T')

The Buddhist New Year, and the biggest holiday of the year in Myanmar, Thailand and Sri Lanka amongst other places.  Was told that everything is shut down for these three days, and so I'm well stocked up with hot dogs, bread, cup-o-noodles and potato chips in case I have to eat at home, but this morning, I decided to head off in search of food anyways to see what was up.

Thingjan is a water festival.  Along with visiting family and wishing one another an auspicious new year, THingjan is about dousing complete strangers with ice cold water, something that really ain't so bad this time of the year, the height of the hot, dry season here.  It's a 103 degrees and you're going to throw water on me?  Can't complain.

As I ventured out to experience, and of course, document this holiday, I had my camera in a clear plastic bag, ready for the water play.  Thing is, Thingjan is aa three-day event. Day one is supposed to be for the children. It's their day to douse the adults and each other with water. Sure enough, feet from my condo door, there was a little girl with her dad, tossing buckets of water on anyone within range.

Except me.

I made it to the main road seeing similar threats of water abuse, but I didn't get wet. Got to one of my favorite restaurants, had brunch, watched as the kids from the restaurant assaulted passers-by with their water guns, but they left me, a paying customer, alone.

Got all the way home without getting wet.

What the fuck?

This is my first Songkran (the Thai name for this holiday)/Thingjan, and I've read multiple accounts from folks online who plan on holing up in their apartments and avoiding the chaos of the next three (now two) days.  They made it sound like walking out your door was like taking your into your own hands.

Here now I'd been out and didn't even get wet.  What I think happened is that yes, the first part of the day was for the children. As I walked down the street, me being a big, older, male foreigner by myself, I cut an intimidating figure.  None of the kids had the guts to be the first to spray me.  Just by me being me, I scared them

After brunch, an hour or two later, I realized I needed something. Back out to the street.  This time, again I wasn't wettened until a passing 'party truck', sponsored by Pepsi, caught me with a passing glance of spray.

That was all it took.  The gloves were off.  In trying to get to the neighborhood mom & pop store (the only thing open on the holiday), I had to get past a water terrorist station populated by a gang of underage hydrodemons. They came after me once I was in sight.  By feinting one way and going another, I isolated one kid on one side of a parked truck with only him and his bucket keeping me from dryness and freedom.  I charged.

He lifted his bucket as I got to him.  I took it from his hands. Turned it the other way and poured it on him.  HA! I may be old and slow, but I'm bigger and smarter than you, kid!

Unfortunately, this turn of events took a few seconds, which was all his cohort needed to come to his aid.  I got doused. Soaked.  Drenched.

Walked into the store moments later wringing the wetness from my shirt.

I can't wait until tomorrow when all the pretenses of this holiday being 'for the kids' are gone.


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