By: Jane Dahle, Alexa Ferdig and Rob Caesar
Sunday May 8. 2011 Westminster College had the great honor of attending the yearly parade hosted by Kalasin to call upon the rain gods to bless their villages for water during the farming season. This was an incredible event to experience from two different standpoints that include the farmers and the royal family. Janie had the honor of playing the role of one of the four princesses while Alexa joined the majority of our May Term group in performing a traditional Thai dance while playing the role of a farmer. Both are of great importance in properly praying for rain and fertile lands for the amazing people of Kalasin. Describing this experience is hard to do but we will do our best to express the incredible atmosphere and significance of this parade to local people.
I, Janie, took part in the parade by being a princess. This included a King, Queen, and four Princesses. I was lucky enough to be allowed by the Thai people to play an important role in the parade. I will admit I did not have any expectations for this parade and did not understand the extent of its meaning to the locals. After a welcoming lunch and many thanks for our participation in this event by the local school district the royal family made our way down to the make up artists and designers that awaited our arrival. Immediately we were swarmed with pounds of make up, eye lashes, beautiful handmade outfits, and drenched in jewelry head to toe. This was a traditional Thai royalty outfit that was considered to be very regal and elegant. Our group laughed as the little children took pictures and called me Barbie. After three and a half hours of being made up to our royal status we were sent to be loaded on our extravagant pink flowered float. Royalty is very important to the Thai villagers because they are responsible for calling upon the rain gods. During the parade we smiled and waived for about two hours at every villager we passed. We brought many smiles to their faces and they did to ours. There were hundreds of villagers crowding the streets as we passed in celebration of our presence and prayers for the rain. At the end we took many photographs with the local people and again were thanked to the greatest extent for our participation. It was very apparent that this event is part of their culture and brings much happiness to those involved. It is hard to express the villager’s acceptance of our participation and how that directly affects our positive experience in the Parade and in Thailand.
I, Alexa, was able to partake in the parade as a farmer. The famers play a very important role in the parade as well as the royal family. Even though they are both significant figures in asking for rain, the farmers and the royal family have different roles. Like Janie said, the royal family gets pampered and treated like royalty, while the farmers were given blue attire to wear and no shade. The attire consists of blue denim tops and bottoms, and of course the traditional farmer hat. While the royal family took a few hours to get made up to the fullest extent, the farmers put on their outfits and were able to relax for a bit. We arrived at the parade and were able to enjoy the view of many Thai families and citizens from all over the area along side the roads; many were celebrating even before the parade began. We were placed behind a pickup truck with flowers and a monks sitting in the bed; behind us were big speakers screaming traditional Thai music throughout the streets. During the parade we were expected to get in two lines and perform the traditional Thai dance; well this lasted about two minutes and then we broke out into our own American style of what we consider dancing; which turned out to be a big crowd pleaser. This was the first year that this was actually accepted, in the past this behavior was shut down. I believe that this exception was made because we were able to let go and free style allowing the Thai people around us to open up and have an enjoyable celebration along with us. I felt powerful connection with the Thai people and they taught me so much just by dancing with them. I was able to get a sense of their culture and lifestyles they lived, as well as seeing their open and loving hearts they have for people of all cultures. I believe that no matter where you were in the parade, even though royalty was looked at as the best, the farmers had a great time and we were able to connect with the people around us on a different level to create a celebratory atmosphere.
We are so grateful to have this amazing experience in participating in the parade for the rain gods. This parade enabled us from both roles, to connect with the villagers and experience a true and different culture. The atmosphere is hard to capture in a blog but it was a celebration and welcoming of prayers that filled their village with happiness. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity for Alexa and Janie and we are proud to say that the evening after the parade, WE BROUGHT THE RAIN! We hope that the city of Kalasin will be full of rain and fertile lands for all the hard worker farmers that live in the Poophor Village.