Messages From Myanmar #13
02 April 2016
Hello there… Rodger French here.
The “Thingyan Water Festival,” one of the biggest Buddhist festivals of the year, is almost upon us, and the ever-considerate management here at The Shang has issued an official announcement. Permit me to quote at some length their summation of the occasion:
“The festival usually falls around mid-April, the hottest season of the year. The dates of the Thingyan festival are calculated conferring to the tradition of the lunisolar calendar. The celebration this year is a period of five days, from 12 to 17 April. There are ten public holidays during the festival from 11 to 20 April.”
[Occupational Sidebar - When I start my gig at the Embassy on 04 April (having finally received a coveted Super Secret Squirrel Security Clearance and Decoder Ring), I will work for exactly one week and have the following week off, as business throughout the city of Yangon comes to a screeching halt.]
“Throughout the celebration, people splash/pour water at one another as part of the cleansing ritual to welcome the new year. Traditionally people gently sprinkled water on one another as a sign of respect…”
[Cultural Appreciation Sidebar - This is a lovely idea.]
“… but as the new year falls during the hottest month, many people end up dousing strangers and passersby in vehicles in boisterous celebration.”
[Reality Check Sidebar - Prepare for the possibility of being blasted, whether you’re into it or not, by powerful streams of contaminated lake water through high-pressure devices wielded by people who are very likely shit-faced drunk. Serious injuries (e.g., broken bones, detached retinas) have been documented. In fact, it’s gotten so out of hand that many people make Thingyan escape plans. Anne and I, for instance, have booked a few days in Panang, Malaysia, assuming we can get to the airport.]
“It is believed that on this Water Festival, everything old must be thrown away, or it will bring the owner bad luck.”
[Western Materialism Sidebar - I am aware that I speak from a position of privilege, but for a country with an official poverty rate somewhere north of 26% and a minimum wage of $2.60/day, I regard this as a possibly laudable but not particularly practical sentiment. Besides, I rather like my old stuff.]
Bonus Breaking News (non-Thingyan Edition) - Just in case you missed it, this story from The Myanmar Times.
More waterlogged updates later.