Sunday, April 21, 2013

Water Splashing Festival

Well, today was the coolest day ever.
Taken by OiLin
If you're friends with me on Facebook, you might have seen my status the other day/week saying that I wish I was Dai minority.  China has many minority groups and I am blessed to be in a place that has a very large amount of those minority groups.  I've become more familiar with the Dai minority this year and I have decided that I am making myself an honorary Dai woman.  They are awesome.  They're culture is very similar to Thai culture.  The food is delicious.  The dress is gorgeous.  The music is beautiful.  The festivals... dominate.

I got attacked by guys with buckets of water last weekend on my way back to the school.  Just walking down the street by myself and guys chased me down with buckets of water.  One guy even had a spare bucket on hand inside of the bank so he could run out and chase someone down.  I ended up being that lucky girl.

Things actually started last Saturday when I went to one of the dancing squares to watch the dancing competition that opened the festival.  About 45 minutes after the program started it started pouring.  Conveniently, it happened as soon as my friend finished dancing.

My friend Summer is on the left. Sorry the picture isn't the greatest. 
On Monday we (myself and 2 other Americans) went to this Dai temple in town.  They were supposed to be kicking things off with the washing of the Buddha.  Well, it was raining and nobody showed up.  BUT it was a great chance to get pictures of things before Friday when everything was flooded with people, and water.  When we were leaving, these 2 local Dai women told us to come back Friday at noon and then they'd have a big meal at 4.  Free Dai food?  SOLD!

Fast forward to Friday.

I walked up to the temple around noon and things were just beginning.  They had older women (and a few men) doing traditional dances and a few people were sprinkling people with water, but not many.  [Side note: it was HOT today. At least 90F.]  I wanted the water splashing to start ASAP!  It did.  Because it was so hot and because I figured I'd be getting drenched, I wore shorts.  I'm already a walking target and my pasty white legs only drew more attention.  For a solid 4 hours my shorts were dripping, my shoes were drenched, my shirt was soaked, and my hair was thankfully behaving despite the constant buckets of water being thrown on it.

LOVE the hat!
It was madness!  The women and men bang on drums as they dance around this big elephant water fountain and this man, who I call the leader of the pack, takes bowls of water and just launches them out over everyone.  You can't avoid it.  I had met this group of high school girls a few minutes earlier and they were soaked by that point.  They asked if I wanted to go join them at the fountain and I said sure!  I handed my bag off and after that it was insanity.  [I speak more Chinese than they speak English.  It was really good for me.  And now, we're texting in pinyin which is difficult, but really good for my language skills.]  We just went at it for a few minutes.  I couldn't see anything.  Once I was able to see, there were some photographers asking for us to just stand there pouring water on each other for pictures.  It was so much fun!
Taken by OiLin
Taken by OiLin

This guy was rocking the dance! The guy behind him was too, with his ball of sticky rice in his hand the whole time!
The group parading through the village. 
Water pouring just happened throughout the day.  You would think you were safe and then the next thing you knew, a man was pointing at you and some other man ran up from behind and poured gallons of water on you.  I had a little boy stare me down with a water gun for a solid 20 minutes.  His dad tried to get him to shoot someone else but he turned and pointed at me with determination.
Taken by OiLin (from behind my umbrella).
I was on the side of the temple putting on more sunscreen and out of nowhere someone got me.  The best one had to have been after dinner.  Some man came up to my friend and grabbed her camera and said "I'm sorry" and then poured a bucket of water down her back.  I watched, just knowing I was next and there was nothing I could do about it.  The fact that I even got some pictures is a miracle.  I spent about 80% of the day with my camera hidden in a plastic bag.

Taken by OiLin
Taken by OiLin
At one point, I got up and joined the women dancing around the fountain.  I had 2 photographers in front of me the whole time.  And people following me with water because apparently I looked like I really needed more water covering me.
Taken by OiLin
Taken by OiLin
The food was great!  The dancing was great!  The weather was great!  It was a great day! Ha!

How cute is she? She was cracking up over something.

Taken by OiLin
Taken by OiLin

Dinner time!
I was so sad when dinner was ending and I knew it meant I had to get back.  I was burnt and tired, but I really didn't want it to be over.  It was sooooo fun!  Seeing old people getting drenched with the biggest smiles on their faces is such a cool thing.  Everyone there looked like they were having a great time.  I don't know how you couldn't have fun.

Sadly, that was the last big festival I'll experience out here I think.  I could be wrong.  I hope I am.  But if that's the last one I get to experience, I sure ended it the best way possible.  There's a mud festival coming up May 1st that I want to get involved in so hopefully that one is as memorable.  We shall see.

Sorry for the long post and tons of pictures.  The pictures really don't do any of it justice.  I would come to China just for this festival.  Seriously.

My life here is awesome.  I can't believe this is all real for me.  Today I even got QQ [Chinese Facebook] and as I type this I'm having a conversation - in Chinese - with my friend that I met at the festival!

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