First of all I would like to just apologise for the distinct lack of posts over the last few days. I have been super busy in the elephant village and taking care of some wonderful volunteers that I am very sad to see leave in the next few days.
So what have I been up to……………….well I am back in Surin and it feels as though I haven’t even been away. I know that I have had my 4 months back in England but as much as I have those memories and adore people back at home it does honestly feel as though that was a holiday and Thailand is my regular life; well it is now but that is besides the point 😀
So my first night in Surin I was very lucky to have arrived on the third lunar moon in November, this might not mean anything in the most part and to me it didn’t either but after settling into my beautiful new house and seeing friends I hadn’t for four months I was told we were going to meet the current volunteers and then go to the ‘Loy Krathong’ festival. Not knowing what it was and always being eager to learn new things about the marvellous culture I now live in I was more than happy to attend.
So who here has seen the Disney movie Tangled? You know the part where she is singing on the boat with the really cute male lead? Well Loy Krathong is basically like that, well with out the cute boy and me singing on the boat. But if you remember the lanterns they let go then you are on the right tracks. People release hundreds and hundreds of lanterns, all over Thailand, all around the same time,in order to celebrate the ‘Festival of Lights’ which is origionally a Hindu festival where people praise, thank, and request continual love from the river Goddess ‘Prah Mae Kongkha’.
In this, one of the oldest and best preserved Thai traditions people release lanterns to let go of their problems and to release the bad luck that holding onto problems brings. Not only that but they also release the most beautiful and ornate ‘Krathongs’ which are handmade floral floating flower arrangements. People place candles, coins and insense into their Krathongs to wash themselves of sins and to give thanks to Prah Mae Kongkha for taking away their bad luck and to ask for her to keep doing so.
Every year they also hold huge competitions for the more creative Krathong designers to make the most elaborate and beautiful designs which are then on display for the whole town to see. Now the small one that I sailed down the river was beautiful and something far beyond my own skills but the ones in the competition were just breath taking; even more so when you consider that they are all hand made and don’t use glue or tape to hold them together. Prah Mae Kongkha is one lucky girl to have people so willing to show her their love in such a beautiful and creative way.
After the lanters and the Krathongs are sailed some Thai people also release fish back into the river to symbolise letting go of someone, very much like you ‘wash your hands’ of that girl that got away or the boy that broke your heart. By releasing the fish into the water you are releasing that person and how they hold you back, which I think is a rather nice sentiment actually.
Then finally, once you have shown your respect, asked for retribution, let go of the ex what do you do next? You buy a small handcrafted cage that has in it a songbird and you take it down to the river and you tell it which person, that is no longer with us, that you want to say hello to and then you release the bird into the beautiful lantern filled night and that bird will fly to the heavens and tell the person you love and miss that you still think about them and they are always in your heart.
There really are no words to express just how beautiful it is to see the night air filled with hundreds of lanterns and knowing that each one of them means something to someone and it symbolises such strong faith and love for tradition that you just don’t see in England or the Western world at all I think; chanting your favourite football teams chant is not quite the same in my eyes.
I am so thankful that the other Starfish staff out here in Surin are so willing to take every volunteer to festivals like this, to use their own personal time to show people how much more their is to the volunteering project that they are on. Not only do you teach children English, help build a new life for someone, treat peoples wounds and look after endangered animals, you also get to expand your own field of knowledge and experience things that most people don’t do. If it weren’t for the amazing staff and their incredible dedication then volunteers wouldn’t get any of that and I think that that is far beyond the call of duty and makes me so grateful that I now get to be one of those members of staff.
If you want to see more of what our amazing team are doing then check out the Starfish – Volunteer Thailand Facebook page and sign up to the Starfish newsletter. You can also check out the Starfish Tumblr page and our very own
Build. Protect.Teach. Care. – The Starfish Motto