The thing is, I actually love Songkran. The way it once was (I imagine), the way it should be. I love playing Songkran water fights with my students in the school yard, getting drenched all the same, but without ice cubes, in gently warm tap water. No rashes the next day, no two days of sneezing. We share buckets and water and jokes and gang up against the Prathom 1 teacher. We scream and laugh and have a great time.
After a while, when the school yard is swallowed up by the shade and the skinny girls start shivering, we put our buckets aside, go get changed, warm up a little, walk out, with our hair still wet, but not for long in the scorching heat. – I love that a flicker of an eye can stop a bucketful of water. I love that the Prathom 2 teacher can stay on the sidelines and cheer us on without getting wet at all – she is expecting a baby, does not want to get wet. I love that the sneaky security guard “attacks” students walking out with a water bottle with a tiny hole on it, and he gets bucketfuls in return, standing there dripping wet.
I love the parade of the Buddha images across the streets of Chiang Mai. The scent of saffron-coloured water floats in the air. People throw water over the flower-adorned images, then try to catch a cupful of it streaming down, blessed by the Buddha, and use it to bless each other – but did you know? it leaves saffron-coloured stains. If you have problems aiming at a moving Buddha sitting a floor up on a float, go and pour water over Buddha images in the temple yards.
I love the way middle-aged man come up to me, the farang girl, and wait for my nod. I don’t even mind the occasional ice cube down my back if they smile and wish me a happy new year.
I love the giant sandcastles built in the temple yards, watching the people flocking in to place their vibrant coloured flags in the sand and praying, away from the water fights, in a peaceful haven.
I love watching the families building their own small, elaborate sand castles, then going to the temple to make merit and receive a blessing.
I love taking pictures of the traditional Lanna, Hmong, Karen, Shan, Lisu costumes and folk performances in the temple yards, listening to music, absorb the rhythm, dream about the beating of the drums.
If I think about it, yes I even love the elephants spraying water all over us near Thapae gate. Maybe the fire engine was over the top though!
I wish we had the chance to choose when to get wet in the scorching heat and when to stop. I wish that nobody drowns in the moat this year. I wish no girl was harassed any more under the excuse of “Thai traditions”. I wish Songkran was a happy time, sharing laughs and jokes, playing with friends, visiting relatives, making merit and simply cooling off, and not a four-day drunken haze for so many. I wish everybody got home safely at the end of the day. I wish Thailand had their Songkran back, not for myself, selfishly: many, many Thais are missing it badly, the way it once was, the way it should be.