Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Elementary Schools Field Day

Bem Leads Baan Tahsang Elementary School Students

One of our favorite end of the year events here in Isaan is the Elementary School Field Day.  Actually the athletic competition between schools is elementary and secondary schools within the various sub-districts.

Tahasang Village is part of Tambon Nongwha (Nongwha Sub-district).  There are seven elementary schools within Tambon Nongwha.  Each year, typically at the end of December, the seven schools will gather on a rotating basis at one of the schools for a sports day.  This year, the Field Day was held on 10 January in conjunction with Thailand's Children's Day on 11 January 2014.

The Elementary School Field Day commences with a parade of the participating schools along the public road to the site where the competition is being held.  This is not a parade of the athletes like during the Olympics.  It is a parade of the student body from each of the schools.  The schools are very small so everyone gets to participate in the procession.  Tahsang Village Elementary School has 45 students which is about the size of the other schools.

The contingent from each school is lead by a drum majorette a couple of standard bearers, a student carrying a picture of the King, and the school band, a group of girls all dressed and made up in fancy party outfits with the student body dressed in their school uniforms marching in formation behind them.

Tahsang Village Student Body
The students from all the schools march on to and stand in formation before the pavilions where the local government officials are assembled.  There is a formal flag raising ceremony, singing of the national anthem, singing the King's anthem, chanting of a Buddhist prayer, and many speeches.

After the completion of the speeches, the hosting school performs a routine.  Last year, Tahsang Village as the hosting school performed a choreographed Muay Thai exposition.  This year, in consideration and anticipation of the upcoming creation of the ASEAN community in 2015, the hosting school performed ethnic dances to music unique to representative countries of the ASEAN association.

The next event was the lighting of the Olympic cauldron.  I know that only the "real" Olympics can have an Olympic torch, Olympic cauldron, or even refer to competition as "Olympics".  I know that they have taken legal steps to stop others from "infringing" upon their "brand".  However, this is Thailand, more specifically Isaan, where life is more simple and there are far less concerns about 3 to 14 year olds infringing upon a staid organization like the International Olympic Committee.

At this Olympics, there were no concerns or restriction regarding sexual orientation.  Some of the girls wearing fancy dresses, and highly made up were actually boys.  No one cared and people focused on supporting their school and ensuring that they had a good time.

The cauldron at these Olympics was not fueled by high pressure natural gas.  Our cauldron was actually a rather heavy large metal bowl placed on top of some scaffolding.  The bowl was filled with locally produced charcoal.  A runner ran around the sporting field with an Olympic torch, climbed the scaffolding and set the charcoal on fire.  After a short time, the flames died down and the Olympic flame was more an Olympic smoldering for the remainder of the day.

Once the cauldron was ignited three fireworks were shot high into the air to signify the start of the games.

Each school had their own separate grandstand for students, teachers, and family members.  The grandstands were highly decorated and in individual color schemes.  Family members set up sahts on the ground beneath the grandstand - an area protected from the overhead sun, a great place to eat, drink and rest.

Tahsang Student Prepared for Relay Race

She's Off!
The first competition of the day was the races.  Elementary schools have students aged 3 and up to 14.  In addition to individual races there were relay racing.  I always get a kick at the efforts expended by race officials, teachers, and supporters to first set up 4 and 5 year olds into staggered start positions and trying to hold the eager runners or motivate the not so eager runners to take off at the proper time.  It is great entertainment.  False starts are sometimes called but more often if it reasonably close they are not.  It all doesn't seem to matter all that much because the runners, all of them, seem to have a great time.

The children enjoy themselves competing to the best of their ability - no fancy clothes - no fancy running shoes - just bare feet. Pure racing for the fun of it all.

Tahsang Village Passing the Baton

Bem Runs the Anchor Leg for Tahsang Village
Each contingent of supporters brought their own sound system and selection of music to the games - a sort of unofficial competition.  Music blared across the field from seven different sound systems.  Each school's students who were not competing in an ongoing event typically joined in dancing in front of their grandstand.  Some of the schools had a choreographed dance team providing entertainment. Little brothers and sisters, too young for school, often joined in the dancing. It was a grand sight.

Along the perimeter of the competition field, vendors had set up stalls, booths, and motorbike sidecars from which they sold drinks, food, and ice cream,  Smoke rose and filled the air from charcoal fires where chicken feet, pork, sausages, and other items were being grilled. It was a grand party.

At other booths, students could throw darts at balloons for prizes or use air rifles to shoot at prizes.  Further out, children were bouncing up and down as well as between trampolines.  There was even a small merry go round with suspended seats for children to sit in.

Children Putting On A Show.  Duang Is Giving Them Money - Just Like At Adult Shows
Since this field day was also associated with Children's Day, there were also some children events.  The sub-district sponsored a show where children sang, danced, and answered questions for prizes.  Once again everyone, young and old, was having a great time.

Audience Members Dancing and Singing
Off to the side of the children's show there was an area where children and their parents could water color ceramic figurines. This was another popular area for people of all ages.

Mother and Daughter Enjoying Themselves
Back at the competition area, volleyball, futball (soccer), and takraw were contested.

Bem Sends the Luuk Takraw Towards the Net
Takraw is sort of like volleyball - it is played with a woven rattan ball with three players to a side.  The ball, luuk takraw is put in play by a player on one side tossing it away from the net to a team mate who kicks it over the net to the other team.  Using only the head and feet the object is to keep the rattan ball in play.  If your team can not, the other scores a point.

We left around 3:30 PM., tired but not as tired as some at the event.  One of the Tahsang Village students had fallen asleep back at the grandstand - sound asleep in the comfort of his teacher's lap and arms.

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