Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Queen's Birthday and Mother's Day - Here in Thailand

Today, Thursday 12 August 2553 (2010), is the Queen's Birthday - a four day holiday in Thailand.  Since the Queen is considered to be the Mother of all Thais, on her birthday we also celebrate Mother's Day.  Respecting and taking care of your parents is ingrained starting at an early age in Lao Loum society.

Mai, Tay, and Their Mother Reacting to the Principal's Moving Speech
Yesterday, the last day of school for the week, we drove out to Tahsang Village to attend the Mother's Day celebration that we had been invited to during our visit a week ago.  Peelawat had spent the night before at our home so we brought him along with us.  Duang has a great deal of sympathy and compassion for the village children, "small small", so we brought some treats out to the school with us.  On our last visit we brought some bottled water and individual boxes of "Thai-Danish Dairy" milk for the students.  This time we brought them the "Mother of all Snack Bags"- two bags of flavored rice (what else would you expect?) snacks.  Each bag was about 2 feet in diameter and about 3 or 4 feet long.

We arrived just as the Prinicipal was finishing his Mother's Day Speech.  Whereas the school was perhaps the "Happiest Place On Earth" a week ago, it seemed to me to be a sad place when we arrived.  I think that Duang, Peelawat, and I were the only people with dry eyes.  Some of the smaller children, especially Peelawat's friends Mai and Tay, were actually wailing.  All the mothers in the assembly hall had been crying.  According to Duang, the Principal had given a very good speech to the children about how much their Mother loves them, how much their mother does to take care of them, and how when they finish school and their mother is old, they need to take care of her.  he also told the children that they needed to give their mother a kiss and a "wai" (Thai gesture of respect).  What I interpreted as sadness, with the exception of Mai and Tay, were actually tears of joy.  I have yet to see tears at a Lao Loum funeral and now I have to get accustomed to "tears of joy" at a Mother's Day celebration.  I am still learning but still appreciating Lao Loum culture.

Since we had donated to the celebration, I was invited to speak to the children and the mothers.  I gave a short speech in a combination of Lao, Thai and mostly English which one of the teachers translated.  I received polite applause but had come no where near bringing any one to tears.

A mother and her daughters plant a Frangipane shrub on edge of shool's play field

Everyone then went outside to plant flowering shrubs around the perimeter of the school's play field.  The school teachers had purchased the plants for improving the school grounds and to honor the village mothers. The plants are called "Lantom" in Thai and "Frangipane" a type of Plumeria.   As I was photographing the activity, the Principal called Duang over and gave her a plant for us to plant.  Duang, Peelawat, and their helpers, Mai and Tay, went and found a "Good" spot to plant the shrub.  After taking some photographs, I helped dig the remainder of our hole and assisted the children to finish the planting.

Duang, Peelawat, Mai, and Tay planting a Lantom (Frangipane)

Farmer Duang and her field hands Mai, Tay and Peelawat- Peelawat seems more interested in me than planting
After finishing our landscaping, we went to the front of the assembly building where crushed ice was being placed into plastic cups and then filled with a soft drink ladled out of a large metal bowl.  Mothers were occupied serving the prepared lunch foods to the children and then joined them on the floor to eat their lunch with the children.  I took advantage of the break in action to go off to explore the class rooms with Peelawat.  On my previous visit, I did not have my camera so this was a good opportunity to document aspects of a Lao Loum school in Isaan.

Students lining up for an ice cold drink on another hot and humid day in Isaan

Peelawat with his "treasure" - a plastic clothes pin that he found in the class room
The classrooms were empty with the chairs stacked upon the desks for the four day school holiday. Peelawat was an excellent assistant.  As I started to use the flash, he decided that he wanted his photograph taken.  I don't know if he is a ham or just wants to please his grandfather.  In any case it works for both of us.  After awhile we were joined by Gay from Tahsang Village and one of Peelawat's friends.  Gay likes his photograph taken so I was more than willing to accommodate him too.

Peelawat and Gay at school
Peelawat spent some time in the 3 and 4 year old student class room.  I took some photographs of the classroom as well as teaching aids in the room.  Just as in America the young students were learning their colors, animals and plants.  Unlike in America their posters were in Thai as well as in English.  Peelawat found the storage cupboard were the class stuffed animals were stored.  He selected  one of several identical stuffed animals, sat down in the middle of the room, and started sucking his thumb while he watched me taking pictures.  Every so often he let me know that he wanted his picture taken too.  Peelawat was getting tired and deservedly so.  He spent the night in his uncle's room at our house and had too much fun - all night long!  We figured he had only 5 hours sleep that night.  Fortunately at 3:00 A.M. when Peelawat wanted to come into our bedroom to "visit" us, Duang's son took Peelawat outside instead to walk the neighborhood to get him tired.

Peelawat Resting in the classroom
Duang came along after searching for us to let us know that it was time to take Peelawat back to his mother at his other grandmother's house.  Reluctantly we left and concluded our fun day at the school.  The celebration was a great tribute to the mothers.

I have been interrupted twice while composing this blog - Duang son gave her a small box with a carved soap flower in it.  As Duang has been sewing next to me I have heard her sniffling - she was not sad but happy inside.  I gave her a tissue and everything was under control until her daughter called to apologize for being angry with her mother before.  We now have more tears of joy.

Apparently my time is coming.  December 5 is the King's birthday so it is also Father's Day.  The school Principal told Duang that I would be honored by the children of Tahsang Village on that day.

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