We tried to squeeze as much as possible into a one-day New Year party. Suwannaphum Wittayalai School was open to students on Friday the 30th for only one reason: to exchange gifts. Each class brought food and presents for a celebration similar to what we do on Christmas morning, and the excitement over stuffed animals and boxes of cookies was fun to watch.
Once the students were excused for a four-day weekend, it was time for the teachers to party, which began with a parade through town, dressed in costume, of course. Several of us donned Traditional Thai outfits, and others wore silly garments for fun. We marched down the streets of Suwannaphum and back to the school where sporting games commenced.
The men played soccer and the women played chair-ball; a spin on basketball for the unathletic. The baskets are held by members of each team who stand on a chair, and there is no dribbling allowed, only passing and shooting. It was quite fun, and it’s the first time I’ve been the tallest person on a team!
Next we were ushered to the cafeteria, which had been transformed into a fancy dinner party setting. It was deliciously catered as gifts were exchanged and karaoke was proudly performed. It was also a time to thank new teachers by bringing us on stage and showering us with presents and flowers. If anyone can make strangers feel like family, it’s the teachers at my school.
The whiskey flowed throughout the night and the dancing became progressively more interesting. I was invited to the directors’ table for drinks and forced on the dance floor to learn the two-step (or some variation of it). None of them speak English, but it was easy to laugh together at my dancing skills.
My cheeks hurt at the end of the night, and my body ached the next morning. When I woke up, it was New Year’s Eve all over again, and I hopped on a bus to see how the locals celebrate in Laos.