January 4, 2012

Christmas Caroling Crackheads

Santy on Christmas morning.
Christmas in Thailand isn’t celebrated but it’s more recognized as part of popular culture and what the rest of the world does. At school on the Friday before Christmas, the Foreign Department hosted a Christmas assembly for the Chomsurang Upatham School. Like everything else, foreign teachers’ involvement is last minute and on spot so you have to be prepared for the administration to ask you to do something on a whim.
Jason, another American teacher, and myself dressed as Santa Claus and “Santy.” Someone at some point in time told Thai people that Mrs. Claus’ name is “Santy” and there isn’t any changing it. I stuffed a pillow in my silky Santa’s outfit, grabbed a sac full of candy and strolled down to the courtyard where the students, teachers, and parents would be waiting for Santy and Santa Claus to say a ‘lil something in English.
Jason, myself, and some of the Foreign Dept. teachers.
Never know what's going on.
Santy throwing candy to the girls.
About 5 minutes prior, I prepared a brief history of Christmas spiel and planned to just go with the flow. I stepped up to the microphone, which is a usual occurrence for me, and rambled to these Buddhists something about Jesus and the 3 wise men and I don’t know what else, I blacked out. All I saw was about 3,000 Thai teenage girls with blank stares on their faces looking at me. I decided to grab my sac ‘o toys, threw them candy, let them call me Santy for the rest of the day and get out of dodge.  
After school, I took the train from Ayutthaya 4 hours northeast to a small town called Sung Noen, which is 30 km outside of Korat. About 20 of us met from our various parts of Thailand to celebrate Christmas together and Sung Noen didn’t know what hit ‘em.

Gathering on the balcony of our friends in Sung Noen for Christmas festivities. 
As everyone trickled in over the next 20 hours, we painted the town red, which isn’t hard to do since it’s just a few streets. The gang stayed at Melissa, who was in our ATI group, and her boyfriend Steve’s place, which was massive and big enough to house the mob of people. When we arrived, our hosts had the place decorated with lights from head to toe including a Christmas “tree” and I brought a Thai “Merry Christmas” banner and hung my stocking by the close line with care. My friend and I chalked up the town with funny phrases and sayings all over town coming from the bus and train station and leading to Melissa and Steve’s house. Pretty much no one in town spoke good English and I don’t think anyone could read English so we didn’t feel too bad about our chalk art.
Merry Christmas from the crackheads!
The Christmas spread. Tons of food in bags, the Thai way.
As soon as everyone arrived, it was a non-stop celebration and we drank, ate, and caught up for the next day. I hadn’t seen many people since we left Nai Harn back in October. On Christmas Eve, we shopped for white elephant gifts, then took the crew to the night market and everyone bought bags of various food. We had enough food to feed a small army for days but we actually finished it all throughout the night and wee hours of the morning. We ate our rice, curry, fried chicken, pineapple, veggies, and tons of other of Thai food sitting on the floor with our chopsticks and Hong Thong. Thai style Christmas feast can be marked off my bucket list. Dinner was concluded with a white elephant gift exchange, I ended up with a bubble machine that didn’t really work and “Songs for Life” – a Thai cd with crappy music. I gave a bomb gift – a rechargeable electric mosquito zapper and a hat that had a ridiculously huge bill. The one Filipino dude that was there ended up with it and I’m pretty sure he was pleased.
The party moved its way to the streets of Sung Noen where we broke into a loud, obnoxious Christmas caroling session. People were coming out of their houses to see the farang parade through the streets sing at the top of their lungs to Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. The carolers encircled one poor guy sitting at a bus stop and frightened the pants off of him. He had no idea what we were saying and he’d probably never seen so many foreigners at one time in his life. We serenaded Steve’s friend who helped him a lot when he first moved to the town. He and the neighbors enjoyed our caroling so much they bought us bags of beer for the road. On occasion, Matt would bust out a non-Christmas song so quick that everyone just started chiming in singing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” or “Sweet Caroline” before anyone realized it wasn’t a Christmas carol.
Sweeeeet Caroline!
Serenading action in the streets of Sung Noen, Thailand.
The party fumed until the morning and our Christmas day was cut short with sporadic departures. Everyone headed back home to continue the week of teaching since we don’t get any time off for the holiday. It definitely wasn’t a year for drinking hot cocoa and sitting by the fire all warm and snug at home, but it was a fantastic time and I’ll never forget my Christmas in Thailand!
Monk Matt just so happened to wrap himself in a blanket that's the perfect shade of monk. 

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