Street protests in Bangkok escalated at the start of the Thai New Year, the Songkran Festival – a three-day water-splashing holiday - which normally is a great release for our kids as it comes at the peak of the hot season. But this year, because of the street protests, we had to keep our children at home. There was a bit of splashing on the second and third day – still, everything was tempered and toned down by the protests. Quite a shame for our little ones.
Fortunately, we were able to celebrate our own traditional village-style Songkran at our Mercy Centre on the day before the actual holiday. The beauty of the Thai New Year celebration is in the way the young pay respect for their elders; and as we do every year, we invited our elderly poor neighbors to join us in celebration. In the early morning our children performed dances for hundreds of our neighbors. Many arrived on crutches or in wheel chairs, many more with a holiday chaw of beetlenut they chewed on throughout the performances. Monks from the local temple arrived later in the morning and chanted blessing. In the afternoon, we paid our respect to the elderly. Sister Maria, our staff and children gently poured lustral water, blessed that morning by the monks, over their hands of our poor neighbors, wishing them each great joy and happiness in the New Year; and Sister Maria gave each of our guests a parting gift of 5 kilograms of rice, which has more than doubled in price this past year. Of great concern, from a household staple to a luxury, rice is now beyond the daily reach of the poorest of the poor.