So today we were having the SJN Open House celebration. Now; myself, Clay and Glenn (i.e. All the Western teachers) were really confused as to what this meant. We were told that people would walk into our room and that it had to be clean and tidy, that they might stay a little while too in each room.
It sounded like room inspection to us! So we were completely baffled when the students told us we needed to buy snacks for our bedroom snooping guests too.
Either way, at 9am on Saturday morning it started to all make sense…. the girls from the school’s hostel, just a little walk down the road came to look round. It turns out, that each bedroom is a party in itself! You have snacks and sometimes drinks, maybe even a gift for your guests, and an activity! My theme was a British pub in the end, I had crisps and nuts, a copy of The Times (courtesy of British Airways), which conveniently had a little picture of Prince Harry on the front newspaper header.
There was a photo of my boyfriend and I on the table too which every group of girls picked up asking ‘Who is this?’, on saying ‘That’s my boyfriend’ they would shriek and giggle and say how handsome they think he is and then on one occasion the girls even tried to run away with his photo!! Glenn had decorated his room with cut out pictures of Australian spiders, & all the different rooms in the school’s accommodation were decorated with balloons, homemade decorations and streamers in true party style.
There was a LOT of singing and dancing, there was always someone playing guitar wherever in the compound you went and a lot of truth or dare games and all in all everyone was in really high spirits! It turns out that Kachin people can make a party anywhere and with the most limited of resources!! It was brilliant fun!
And by lunchtime I had almost lost my voice from all the singing and laughing. My cheeks hurt from smiling so much and my stomach was so full from snacky foods that I quite literally couldn’t eat much more! Sugar coursed through my veins and from a lack of sugar in my diet recently, I was on cloud 9 of a diebetes inducing sugar overload and a wealth of E Numbers.
At midday the school bell was rung and the girls had to leave the boys dormitories. The only thing is, they didn’t quite make it down in time! So the boys locked them in!! The girls were lined up in the stairwell and there was so much shrieking and hysterical laughing. The girls were begging the boys to let them out and the boys were taking great pleasure in their situation…! Culturally this is something that happens I think because Glenn, Clay and I again didn’t understand it all that well but laughed along and enjoyed the experience. It was all in good humour and just playful teasing from what I can gather!
Eventually the boys said that the girls were allowed out as long as they gave each boy a peck on the cheek on the way down as a forfeit for not getting down in time for the bell. Due to the nature of the culture, even giving someone a peck on the cheek is something worth giggling and blushing a lot about! So it made for interesting entertainment!!
One by one the girls kissed the boys on the cheeks and returned to their hostel dormitories to prepare for their own open house. So with guitars strumming, voices singing and laughter echoing through the hallway and out onto the street, the first phase of our open house was over and the second was about to begin. Anyone would have thought we were all drunk but there wasn’t a drop of alcohol in sight (aside from the little tipples the teachers had! And a splash of wine later on in the day…)!
On reaching the girls dormitory, it occurred to us that in fact the boys (and the few ladies who reside within the main school compound where the teachers also stay) were having to serenade the girls before they would let them into their rooms! Then the boys would have to fight their way into the room! The girls were shouting, screaming and laughing, the energy was unreal! Each room was home to anywhere between 4 and 7 girls but they all seem to live quite happily with one another which was amazing to see.
We played games, sang songs and ate sweets, crisps and tasty biscuity snacks, then the forfeits started to get rather creative!! We had guys being dressed up as girls, faces covered in bright blue eye shadows and ruby red lipstick… we had singing on a pretend TV set (I had to sing Kelly Clarkson…!) as a sort of homemade version of The X Factor!
We had balloon popping games, more forfeit / question asking activities. The most popular questions were along the lines of ‘when are you going to get married?’, ‘have you ever kissed your boyfriend?’, and ‘what qualities do you look for in a man?’ (Gender would be changed depending on who pulled the question out of the hat!) and forfeits commonly included, ‘Choose one girl to pick up and carry her from one side of the room to the other’ (for the guys!), ‘kiss everyone in the room on the cheek’ (for some reason I got this one about 2 or 3 times!), and ‘act out a scene’ (generally being proposed to!).
We had so much fun laughing, celebrating and quite simply just enjoying life. The final activity was for the whole school and was a mini pageant for the guys, they all wandered in and posed and then all lined up. The girls had a number of pieces of paper in a bowl all of which had the same thing written on, aside from one… which said ‘King’. The winner who had this one was crowned SJN King and had a homemade crown and sash which he wore proudly for the remainder of the party!
We went outside and danced a traditional Kachin dance (which normally lasts for 4/5 hours!!) to close the day and went back to our rooms feeling happy, exhausted, completely overwhelmed but with a huge warm glow in our hearts. What a brilliant day!
And then to top it all off, the teachers and church leaders all went to Kutkai for a really lovely meal at a nice restaurant in town. This is a huge luxury for people in Myanmar and only happens on very special occasions. The food was out of this world! A huge array of amazing traditional Chinese dishes (not the kind of Chinese you get at home I might add!).
We ordered a 3 litre leg of the local brew, aptly named, Myanmar, for those who wanted it. It was delicious! Man Utd were playing Arsenal on the TV and everyone was in high spirits from the brilliant party filled day we had.
I haven’t ever known anyone to party as hard as these guys do! And I would say in our family we’re rather good at parties! It’s honestly awe-inspiring! We started at 9am and by the time we returned from dinner in Kutkai it was 9pm!
It truly was the best day ever, I wish we could do it all over again!
X x X