Monday, March 11, 2013

Pigs, Parties and Plans

1. Sorry for not updating this blog for such a long time! I have no excuse to offer.

2. A snapshot of village life:

Ga's aunt's house, where we stayed for the weekend

This past weekend, I went to a small village in a neighboring province, which is the hometown of a good friend, Ga. She and her husband, Orlando (also a good friend, and fellow teacher), invited me along for a big celebration that the village holds every few years, when all the townsfolk come back from working in far-away places to spend the weekend with friends, family, and a beer in hand. In short, it was awesome.
A road in the village. Hello, buffalo!

When we arrived Friday afternoon, Orlando and I moseyed down the town’s narrow dirt roads while sipping on cold Leo beers, checking out the local flora. Eventually we were beckoned by some villagers to try some of their homemade rice wine—“sato.” It’s kind of like hard lemonade, except better and significantly more dangerous. Needless to say, a good start to the weekend.

Later that evening, while relaxing after dinner, we heard a high-pitched squealing sound. Ga correctly identified the sound as a pig dying, so of course we went to check it out. After wandering around in the direction where the squealing had come from, we found the house where the little piggy had met its end. When we arrived, they were singing off its hair in preparation for the butchering. When the pig was sufficiently hairless, a few men make quick work of the body—first cutting into the neck and severing the head about halfway, then opening up the sternum and belly to remove the sac of organs contained within. After separating out the liver and pouring the blood that had filled the body cavity into a pot (nothing goes to waste), they cut the head clean off and quartered the rest of the body. Soon enough, we were sitting down to generous supply of beer and the freshest, most deliciously succulent grilled pork I’ve ever tasted.

Making breakfast. I was strongly encouraged by multiple
people to eat as much as I could, as the ensuing day would
 consist of much alcohol imbibition
(yes, that's a real word)
The next day was the real highlight of the weekend—a massive drum procession. In the middle of the day, under the glaring sun, people gathered at the village’s church to participate. When the drums struck up and the music started blaring, the procession began. The music was loud, the sun was hot, and the people were celebrating as if it was one of their final days on earth. Everyone danced with abandon and drank to their heart’s content, and the procession grew into a teeming, writhing mass of people as it moved through the village, picking up more and more people as time went on. Time and worries were forgotten, replaced with perfect happiness.

The day was topped off by a Molum concert that night (Molum is traditional Isan music, Isan being the region of Thailand where I’m living). The music was good, the backup dancers were...well...bouncy, and, true to form, the concert was interrupted several times by fights that broke out between drunken men dancing in front of the stage.

Overall, it was a very traditional celebration for a very traditional little old Isan village, and I feel super lucky to have been present to experience it all.

3. An update on my future plans:

Well, my school year ended on March 1st, and I now have a full year of teaching under my belt. Holy moley I have learned SO MUCH!—about teaching, living, being flexible, Thailand, and more. I (hopefully obviously) absolutely love living here, so I have decided to stay for at least another year.

Now I’m off for summer vacation and plan to make the most of it. In a few days I’m off to India for about three weeks. I’ll be volunteering at a very rural school in northeastern India (in a small village near a town called Resubelpara), teaching English and hopefully some chemistry. After that, I’ll make a pit stop to see the Taj Mahal, and then it’s off to Nepal for two or three weeks to trek to the base camp of Mt. Everest and hopefully travel around a bit. Wish me luck!