Sunday, March 30, 2014

Shan Buddhist Celebration

As part of Moe's class he had to attend a Shan Buddhist festival and interview some people.... it was super daunting task.  Shan is a people group of Thailand and Burma.  They were originally from Burma but got kicked out for various reasons that Google can tell you about better than I! Of course the people have their own Shan how exactly was Moe supposed to do this.... I am not sure!  He had his Burmese classmates go with him.  Problem is this was a Shan festival and speaking Burmese is no bueno. Moe says it would be like speaking German in America during World War II. They were supposed to meet up with someone that was willing to speak Burmese and translate to Shan so that Moe and his classmates could interview some people.

The premise of the day was a celebration of the boys transition into monkhood.  Apparently this is a HUGE deal.  The festival goes on for a few days (I think).   Imagine a carnival with booths set up all around.  Now take out the rides, but keep the loudness.  Add drums and cymbals.... lots of them, and a sound system, like all Thai events.  Each of the booths is dedicated to a child. The child is seemingly on display (I'm not real sure about the purpose of them in the booths).  Most of what happened I am not certain of!

While we were there a parade began.  All the boys were in costume and were carried on the shoulders of older men.  They boys were not allowed to touch the ground so note their clean socks and feet in some of the pictures.  They were all dancing and having a wonderful time.

Drinks and balloons for sale.  The long black thing is a drum that they carried around and played.

Notice the boys clean feet and socks!

Dancing in circles before the parade

They turned just at the right time to make it look like they posed for the picture... I mean they posed for me!

people everywhere

The guy called Moe over to join in carrying.  He wanted me to come too but I had to take the picture :)

I am quite certain all the boys were wearing makeup. Apparently the makeup is to make them look like princes.

The beginning of the parade around the temple

This space was full of families celebrating.  
Again, I dont know all the details of the event.  It was very loud and very hot.  But it was very enjoyable.  It is evident that this tradition is a fun time for families and friends.  The monk on the stage in red was getting the crowds to shout and dance and clap.  The families (I assume) took turns carrying the boys and all were dancing and supporting this event.  It was definitely a memorable experience that I am very glad Moe had to be a part of :)

After writing this a friend sent me this link with more information.  Much of what is written makes so much sense!  Apparently it is called the Poy Sang Long Festival.

Saturday, March 29, 2014


My students and I have been talking about citizenship.  Moe has also been studying citizenship in his class.  So a lot of our talks at home have been about the subject.

It is quite interesting how being in such a diverse population completely changes ones ideas of citizenship. Some of the things that my kids and I talk about are completely obvious to them but I think might not be obvious to Americans or vis-a-versa.  Other things blow their minds that are not the same everywhere.  We have had wonderful discussions and its a topic that I am surprisingly really enjoying.  I wanted to share some of the conversations and experiences that we have had.

We have defined citizen as a person who belongs to a community.  So saying that all of us in my class are citizens of Thailand is obvious to them, though I struggle accepting that.

Words like patriotic are foreign to my kids because they have so many places that they call home.  They don't know how to be patriotic for one particular place, because they care for all the places they have been.

We talked about how a foreigner in Thailand has to have permission to be in the country (a visa) and many of them had no concept of that (even though they all have them).  "Why do you need permission or a visa?  Why cant some people come to the country?" they ask.

Passports were one of the major things that I was able to blow their minds with (which I very much enjoy doing!).  I asked them to raise their hand if they had a passport, and they all raised their hands and many of them then laughed.  I then told them that many people around the world do not have passports and might not ever get one.  Many people do not want to leave their home country.  "WHAT??? WHY???" They were so confused.

Next week I am talking about the role of the government(s) in class and Moe and I had a great conversation about that.  In his class he has Burmese, Vietnamese, and American people plus the Thai professor.  Discussing the role of the government is very different for all of them.  Some think the government can do no wrong and we should always listen; others think the government should never be trusted; and others think the government tries their best to take care of everyone.

Weve talked about how as citizens you have certain rights and owning land is one of them.  So as a foreigner I cant own land in Thailand.  I have many half-Thai students and they were so relieved to hear that they could own land some day!  This is also true for hilltribe people who are not citizens.  They cant own land so that are constantly worried about losing the places they are staying and having to move.

I am constantly reminded of the uniqueness of the environment that I am in.  I truly value and appreciate the diverse community and the various perspectives that come along with it.  It is such a cool place to live!