April 18, 2011
Songkran was the MAJOR happening this week. I don't know that I can begin to describe what this water festival is really like. Imagine this: Streets are full of garbage can sized tanks full of water. People take buckets, cups, pots and use them to throw water on all people who are passing by. Squirt gun sales are insane. People sell thousands of buckets, bowls and other equipment for Songkran. Children and adults both do it. Imagine walking down a major street and the traffic is so heavy that you can't go anywhere. Imagine people sitting in the back of trucks with buckets and barrels full of water that they are throwing at you. And the water often is chilled by giant cubes of ice. Then imagine the loudest music you have ever heard.
We played on Thursday. In Ubon they have a huge park that was set up like a water park. Seriously. You can't imagine the amount of water and how wet you really get. Motorcyclists, pedestrians, even cars, they all get wet. For three days they play really hard. To the Thais, it actually is a time of year to ask for blessings, it's the Thai New Year. Originally Songkran was one day and people would go to other houses where the adults would pour water on them and bless them. But, it's not really a religious thing. We got a chance to see it with Sister Grxsanna. She did it to a friend who she introduced to the Gospel, a 20 plus year old guy. She blessed him that he would live his life according to the Gospel. What you do is you kneel down and pour water into the cupped hand of an adult and then they pour it over your shoulders and proclaim blessings.
So Songkran was a nice bit of a break. It's an interesting cultural study.
Here are some funny things from this week:
1) One of my favorite was when Sister Grxsanna told us that the government asked people to not play until the assigned day because they were worried about official documents getting wet. It was so funny.
2) We got lost on the way to visit Bunmii and Sanya and were stuck in Songkran traffic. It was crazy.
3) One of our investigators dropped us because she had a dream where the elephant God gave them supposed winning lottery numbers? She is still really nice to us but she wants her husband to go at it alone.
4) The members here in Ubon call me "Watermelon" because my face got a little sun burnt. It's a joke off of the word faraang which means guava but also foreigner. I said I am not a faraang but that I am a Thai and one of them said, with your face like this you are a watermelon.
5) The members here are pretty funny. It's definitely a change of pace from Roi Et. The branch president is a return missionary. Most of the members are fairly long term members. There is one member who is 79 years old - Mother Surii - meaning sun - who has been a member for almost 40 years. Wow! She's really funny, too.
This week was a lot of fun and a lot of heat! It's getting so hot here. I guess the season is upon us. Yesterday there was a crazy rain storm that left us stuck at the Church for quite a bit. I learned the phrase for raining cats and dogs in Thai. Dang, I don't know what I am going to do when I can't learn Thai all the time. I love Thailand and I am going to miss it so much. Thai people are so funny and I love their culture. I am going to miss the members, the food, and everything in between.
Bunmii and Sanya, our investigators who are referrals from President Had, are doing really well. Sanya gave up alcohol and has been clean for five weeks. He had alcoholism to the point that he would shake if he gave it up. He's doing so well! They are a cute little Isaan family. Isaan people are so nice and loving and have so much namjai - generosity. They give us corn to eat every time we meet with them.
We are working with Brother Rag who is striving to overcoming his addiction to alcohol. Sister Grxsanna interviewed for baptism this week. It came out that she was still drinking coffee. So, she had to wait. We are going to see her this Tuesday.
You asked about getting to the church in Ubon. We take a Tuk Tuk to Church. Our driver, Father Thiam, is the uncle of a member and a current investigator. Imagine this - a fifty year old short Thai Isaan man who laughs heartily and speaks Isaan with us. I love him to pieces. It takes us about 20 minutes to get to the Church. We cross the river to get from Warin to Ubon.
I am grateful for the Savior, who's always patient with me and helps me everyday. He lives and loves us. Our Father in Heaven is mindful of us all and the Gospel has power to change our lives. May we all follow him and do the things that are right. Often we have to realize that God's blessings come in many shapes and sizes. With a positive outlook while seeing the good things - from the beauty of Warin to the deliciousness of eating red ants in a dish - there is happiness all around us.
I love you all so much.
Elder Jacob Newman