I don’t know if I really have the words to capture this.
The following come to mind:
- Very, very foreign
This morning we attended one of the big processions, for the Jui Tui Shrine in Phuket Town. We’d been told is was the “don’t miss” event of the festival. That part was true. But part of me would have been okay with missing it.
There may have been hundreds of Asian tourists in the crowd, but there were only one or two other Westerners on our street.
The procession moved fast and went on for at least two hours. We left before it was over.
Candy was thrown. So was fruit; right at my head, in fact. I reached up with ninja like reflexes and snatched a red delicious apple out of the air like I’d planned to, on absolute instinct. That was a highlight for the kids.
Men stopped in the street and cut themselves, beat themselves with durian fruit and maces studded with nails.
And the fire crackers. Overhead, underfoot, flying into the crowd. I grabbed my younger boys by the shirts and jerked them out of the line of fire.
People had pierced their faces with everything from long skewers, to plants, to huge wooden poles laden with boats, to beach umbrellas, to bolt cutters. Yes. Bolt cutters. I can’t tell you about it, you’d never believe it. So we took pictures.
In one shrine we saw a very old woman with crippled feet, which had been bound as a child, lighting incense to her gods, an echo of traditions thousands of years old.
I’ve been thinking about this experience all day; how to explain it, quantify it in words, some how communicate the deep well of disquiet it has poured into my soul, and I just can’t.
I don’t get it. I don’t know if I can ever get it. Frankly, I don’t know if I want to get it.
It must make sense on some level because thousands of rational, functional, upstanding members of the community participate, year after year. In that way, I know it must make sense, somehow, to someone. But to me, it does not.
I’m not going to pretend it does. If you have some insight for me, please feel free to share it.
Otherwise, all I have to say is that this is by far the craziest, most disturbing experience we’ve ever had, bar none.