After attending the rice planting ceremonies a few months back, I knew I wanted to make a return to the Akha Village for the New Year Swing Festival that would take place approximately 120 days later. Near the end of August, most of the boys Urban Light serves made the journey north to be with family and celebrate this age-old tradition of swing building and dance. Urban Light’s Outreach Worker, who is also my Thailand brother and best mate, Fame, was kind enough to invite myself and another Urban Light volunteer, Marissa, into his family’s home for the weekend’s festivities.
On my previous visit, the fields were bare and freshly burned from the slash and burn style of agriculture that is still very prevalent there. The burning of fields is considerable reason not to travel in Northern Thailand during late February through April, as resulting clouds of smoke and debris linger in the air. The climb to the top of the mountain where Fame’s family’s rice field rests was much more of a site to behold, and a considerably tougher trek, with lush, green, and chest tall rice grasses forcing us to take care with every step. Though the journey to the top of the mountain is worth it for the view, we were there to collect cantaloupe and cucumbers that had been planted the same time as the rice. Vines scattered through the field, and we all were excited to come across a ripe melon or cucumber— they were a bit tough to find in the huge field.
The Swing Festival is meant to bring good fortune on the current rice harvest, as last year’s supply is more than likely gone or dwindling. It also seems to be a coming of age event, where girls who have worked hard all year long making traditional dress wear these clothes for the first time, or add to costumes of years past, and boys actively participate in different roles surrounding the swing building.
It wasn’t until Saturday that I realized the end of August had come and that Labor Day weekend was upon us (at least for Americans). It’s easy to lose track of time, and the weeks are flying by in a flash! Keeping tabs on all the Thai national holidays has become a new part of life and it’s fun watching the street decorations change, new flags erected, and the general buzz throughout the city. Our most recent holiday was Mother’s Day, a celebration of Queen Sirikit’s birthday on August 12. Working in a multicultural staff including volunteers, I think this is our third Mother’s Day of the year (Thai father’s day will be December 5 and a celebration of the King’s birthday)! I don’t have many pictures of Mother’s Day, but below is a taste of how town and the temples change depending on the holiday. Many photos below are from the Inthakin Festival, a Buddhist holiday and celebration.
A few days ago my twin brother, Darryl, started his adventure with the Peace Corps in Tanzania, a reality that is still surreal in my mind and, I’m sure, in much of my family members’ as well. The longest D and I have been separated at one time (prior to me coming to Thailand) was nine days. Yes I know, out of 24 years of life, a little more independence should be expected, but we remained attached, and it always seemed right— our band, the classes we took in college (twin brother is the best lab partner for sure), being room mates— you get the point, we’re close.
Starting to rock at an early age.
“Twinsburg”– 3rd Prize for most look-alike twins.
Graduation!- photo by Kanji Takeno
Giving a caricature artist a challenge in Chicago.
Cooking a feast in our home in Baltimore.
Doing our thing.
Darryl, Scott, and I hanging out with some elephants in Thailand.
Tanzania and Thailand are right next to each other in the alphabetical list of countries around the world. Coincidence? We’re always together somehow!