I walked home from church today, as I do every week. It’s a good 25 minute walk if I take it at a leisurely pace. There was no leisure in today’s walk home. It’s Songkran.
For all of my friends around the world who have never heard of Thailand’s New Year Water Festival, I don’t know if you’re blissfully ignorant or missing out. I haven’t quite decided how I feel about this holiday.
Basically, for three days, the whole country turns into a war ground. Weapons of choice are super-soakers, buckets of ice-water, hoses, and baby powder. (Yes, you read that last one correctly).
So, back to my walk home from church. Since I was dressed nicely and carrying a purse, I was optimistic that I might escape a good soaking, even walking through the war ground. The sweet boy with a water gun near the church politely only sprayed my feet when I said, “Younger brother, please don’t spray my bag.”
Then, as I approached the next embankment, I pressed my palms flat between my eyes and said, “Please excuse me.” A woman ran out toward me from behind her barricade, signaling her comrades to lower their arms, and said, “Sorry, just powder for your face,” as she rubbed baby powder on both of my cheeks. “Thank you and God bless you this new year,” I said, choosing to receive the powder as a blessing and hurrying on by before the others got trigger happy.
As I came up on the third roadblock, I thought if I walked wide enough on the left side of the road, I might be out of range of the child with the hose. What a terrible miscalculation. My right side was soaked.
Approaching the fourth position, I realized something. I had powder all over my face and my right sleeve was soaked to the skin. I look like a willing participant in this water war. Oh no. I thought I’d try the self-effacing petition once more, appeal to their conscience – their common humanity. I raised my pressed palms even higher to meet my forehead, pleading, “Sorry, please excuse me.” To no avail. Two young commandos struck me on either side of the face, powdering my skin and shirt, while I was flanked by another with a bucket of ice-water. I pressed through their ranks and emerged into the sunlight, still alive, but then – a sniper! Shot in the back!
(Really good thing this is just water, huh?)
By the time I arrived home, I’d been powdered and bucketed, hosed and sniped by 7 more barricades. I was dripping like a wet dog. Oh yeah, and the coffee vendor gave me a lei.