Thursday, January 10, 2013

Tahsang Village School Sports Day


 The end of December, in Thailand, is a special time.  It is a special time, not because of Christmas for the country is 97% Buddhist, but because it is the time of the year when schools conduct their Sports Day(s).

Twice before my wife and I have attended Sport Days that Tahsang Village School has participated in.  This year was an even more special time for the students of the school; their school was hosting the event.

The Sport Day is actually conducted over five days with the last day being like a mini Olympics between competing village schools - complete with opening ceremony, dance routine, and an Olympic flame. Four local schools for children 3 years old to 15 years old were participating in the grand event.

We drove out to Tahsang Village early on Friday 28 December in order to watch the parade of the students from Tahsang Village the short distance to the school at the perimeter of the village.

Some Tahsang Village School Students Awaiting Their Marching Orders
 Each of the competing schools had their individual assembly points along the main street in Tahsang Village. Each school had their students dress in the school uniform.  Within each individual school has a distinctive uniform for their students based upon their age group.  As seems only fitting, the youngest students were at the front of the school's contingent. As is befitting of any marching group. the schools contingent were lead by a drum major or much prettier Isaan version of a drum major.

Bem and Friend Ready to Lead Tahsang Village School Students
The older girls who lead their school's students are dressed in outfits, or rather costumes that the school had rented from a shop in nearby Kumphawapi. Here in Isaan, people are not wealthy and surely do not have money to buy specialized clothing that would wear only a couple of times a year.  Instead of buying, people will rent certain clothing for special events such as this or a wedding.  Many people will rent very beautiful and classy clothing for their wedding.  There are also costumes that are fit for royalty of a long gone era.  There are also costumes that you often see in entertainment establishments in Pattaya, Bangkok, or Phuket.

Bem Leads Her Fellow Students On To the Field
Some of the schools had some of their older girls dressed in traditional Isaan clothing while others had their students carrying the flags of the ASEAN nations along with students dressed in traditional clothing of the peoples of the ASEAN members. The ASEAN member states are Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Brunei, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, and Philippines. They are a regional association that hopes to evolve into a European Union type organization.  The absence of China in the group leads me to suspect that this group is associating as an economic as well as political balance to China in the region.

After the schools had assembled on the field of competition, there was a ceremony to raise the Thai flag, firing of three fireworks, opening speeches, lighting of the Olympic flame or rather the lighting of the pot of charcoal and finally an awards presentation.

Duangchan was awarded a certificate of appreciation by Tahsang Village School for her support and contributions during 2012.  Duang had attended the school for four years but had to leave to help support the family by working in the fields when she was ten years old.  Besides the current students being relatives and friends from the village, I suspect that Duang enjoys being able to help others.  She contributes milk, food, and snacks to the students for special events.   It was nice to see her generosity and support for the students recognized.

Tahsang Village Students Perform Wai Khru Ram Muay

Just as for the opening of the Olympics there was a dance routine for the Sports Day. As hosts for the event, Tahsang Village was responsible for the routine.  They did a fantastic job!  Tahsang Village School has 48 students and I believe all of them participated in the routine. The students wore their blue and red uniforms accessorized with a red headband invoking the mongkhon worn by actual Muay Thai fighters.  The students preformed a stylized "Wai Khru Ram Muay".  The Wai Khru Ram Muay is a warm up activity resembling a dance prior to competing in a Muay Thai match.  Besides preparing the fighter physically and mentally, it demonstrates respect for the teachers and the trainers of Muay Thai.  It is accompanied by unique music which reminds me of the music you hear in old movies where a snake charmer is performing.  For me, the Wai Khru Ram Muay is the best part of most matches.  The movements and music are hypnotic and steeped with a long history.  The students performed it very well.

The Wai Khru Ram Muay is an individualized activity with each fighter selecting the movements to demonstrate his skills as well as personality.  The activity by the Tahsang Village students was meant to be a choreographed routine performed in unison.  To the most part it succeeded in that intent.  However as the saying goes, "There is one in every crowd".

I had left the sidelines and walked to the middle of the field to get some better close up photographs of the students.  As I approached the back side of the performing students, three year old "Eat" broke from formation and re positioned himself directly in front of me.  Then in perhaps in a more genuine display of respect for the tradition of the Wai Khru Ram Muay broke into his own set of moves with huge amount of enthusiasm and unbridled joy.

"Eat" Performing His Own Wai Khru Ram Muay
Eat marches to the beat of a different drummer but you can always count on him marching enthusiastically.  Having marched and on occasion danced to different drummers, I appreciate both Eat's individuality and enthusiasm   I just hope that it does not get him into too much trouble!  No matter, he put on quite a show and was appreciated by the audience.

After the performance concluded. the competitions got underway.  There were running races, relay races, ping pong, volleyball, futbol (soccer), taekraw, and petanque.  There was also an unofficial competition between the schools for enthusiasm - blaring sound systems and students performing competing dance routines vied for bragging rights around the field.

No Need for Track Shoes or Even Shoes to Race In Isaan
It was obvious that many of the younger students did not understand the sports competition but that did not prevent them from enjoying themselves.  They had a good time playing with their friends from school and from the other local villages.  Perhaps best of all, they enjoyed eating and drinking.  The school had food for sales at a nominal price.  Many of the local food vendors had set up their stalls along the perimeter of the school grounds so there was ice cream, ice tea, soft drinks, grilled squid, grilled chicken (all parts), grilled pork, pauk pauk, and other local specialties for sale.  There were a couple carnival type booths for breaking balloons with darts, shooting things with a corks fired from a gun, and ring toss for prizes.  There was also a large inflated slide for children to play on.

Besides the teachers and students there were many spectators at the event. Mothers, fathers, grandparents, brothers, sisters aunts, and uncles all attended the event. They enjoyed themselves watching the children and of course - gossiping amongst themselves.  Duang's Aunt, "Momma Glasses", showed up with a full bottle of whiskey that did not remain full for long.  Everyone was enjoying themselves but then again that is what typically happens when the Lao Loum people get together.

Eat Enjoying Some Ice Cream

Too Young To Go To School, But Old Enough To Enjoy A Cucumber
Tahsang Village School has only 48 students so they did not fair all that well in the sports competition.  If the goal of the day was to win and not lose, the day was a bad day for them.  However, you could not determine that by looking at the faces of the students or the adults.  For them it was a great day, and I would have to agree, because the goal as it is every day is to enjoy life, the life that you have and not the want you would like.  They had tried their best.  They had enjoyed the company of their friends, teachers and family.
Who knows?  Maybe they will win, next year.
Tahsang Village School Fans

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