Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Games Night takes a Tradtitional Karen Twist

Games night is usually spent playing charades or card games but this night we had the privilege of playing tops with the chief’s son, Sinchai.

During the day Sinchai ventured out into the forest to find the perfect nuts with which to make tops from. This nut is called the Maracasa nut, similar to a flattened chestnut. He placed a small hole through the middle in which was inserted a thin bamboo stick with a slightly rounded bottom. After dinner he brought seven of these handmade tops over along with a bamboo playing ring, woven by his father, usually used for sifting rice. Each unique top was hand painted with different patterns using natural paint made from a certain white rock.

We all gathered around the ring like little kids trying to select the best of the tops to play. Der, Key, Ser, (one, two, three) we were off spinning. All the tops spun like mad crashing into each other, some knocked out of the ring others stopping in place. Sinchai started out as the champion but as we all developed our skills he was soon over thrown. We kept playing with everyone getting their chance as the top top. The next day even the mahouts joined in playing with us as we set up a mini tournament to see who was the best. Pati Saiee demonstrated his skills and giggled like a little kid as his top knocked most of the opposing tops out of the ring in one go.

In addition to tops, Dylan’s home stay father brought down another type of traditional toy also made from the Maracasa nut. This toy involved the nut placed in the middle of a loop of string. When twisted many times and then pulled tight the nut spins moving up and down the string. The skilled person can seem to spin the nut indefinitely as the strings winds back and forth upon itself.
Sinchai has pointed out that with the advent of modern toys and TV many youngsters these days don’t play with traditional toys, thus it is a privilege to be part of this tradition as at some point the knowledge to find and make them may be lost.