Songkran 2011

     The 3 day season of Songkran and the official start of the Thai new year, started on Wednesday 13 April 2011. At Sarnelli House it started under Fr Shea’s house in front of the office at 8am where all the children gathered to pay their respects to Fr Shea. The day was cooler than normal as Songkran falls in the heart of the hot season, but like everywhere else the weather patterns are changing. Using scented water the children first kneel before Fr Shea and make a deep “wai” with the hands pressed together at their foreheads and then gently poured scented water over Fr Shea’s hands and he lightly rubbed their heads with the same water. This is the traditional way of starting Songkran, and many Thais will go to their local wat or temple and pay their respects this way to the Buddha statue and the monks. Paying respects to parents and elders is also done in the same way. Each child completed the ceremony very respectfully and then sat back down in rows waiting for Fr Shea to pronounce blessings for the New Year on them.  

Start of Songkran

Prieo gently poured scented water over Fr Shea’s hands

     When this more solemn ceremony was completed all the children congregated at the village of Pi Si Tong where House of Hope, St Patrick’s and the Jan and Oscar houses are located. Big drums full of water, buckets, hoses and water pistols were at the ready, the kids waited by the side of the road for any motorbikes, cars or bicycles to pass by. People travelling past slowed down so that the kids could easily throw water over them and pat their cheeks with powder. While waiting everyone was an easy target and the kids chased and threw water at each other. A few of the teenage girls and boys were a bit above getting too involved this year and tried to evade the water onslaught with pleas of “I’m feeling sick” or “my clothes are dry”. This fell on deaf ears and they were chased down and saturated. The small village of Pi Si Tong came alive with people dancing in the streets, kids running everywhere and water permeating everyone and everything.

 The staff dancing in the streets in Pi Si Tong



     An outdoor lunch eaten in dripping wet clothes was cooked up by Mrs Wan with help from the staff, Tanee from the Jan and Oscar House sorted the music, and it blared out from massive speakers close to the lunch area. Once everyone had eaten their fill the excitement mounted again as the two school trucks were loaded up with drums filled with water and the kids piled on to drive through the villages on the way to Nongkhai. The traffic was too heavy to get into Nongkhai and the 20km drive took almost 2 hours. Everyone is out on the side of road with water. Pickup trucks filled with people and drums of water or statues of Buddha and monks in their orange robes are all caught up in the traffic jam. The back of the school trucks had water sloshing around up to some of the kids’ knees. Villages that lie by the Mekong River pumped water up from the river in huge fire hoses and turned them lose on everyone.  They also helped to refill the drums in the school trucks that quickly emptied out. The fun progressed on throughout the afternoon unabated by the cooler weather. There were brief moments of clarity however when everyone in the truck was soaked with iced water which resulted in much shrieking and shivering and then was forgotten in the next soaking. After 4 hours the school trucks wound their way back to Pi Si Tong with a load full of wet, bedraggled kids, volunteers and staff. There was talk by the kids of doing it all again tomorrow and anticipation by the staff that the kids would sleep well, but the consistent spirit that prevailed was goodwill and fun. Everyone was good humoured and out to enjoy perhaps the three most significant days in the Thai calendar. 

Kate Introna, May 1 2011