Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Wua Chon (Bull fight):

Arrival at the fight: From left--Kristin, Annie, Madeline, Alice and Rachel.

Today, in a hundred degree heat-in-the-shade kind of day, I went to the bull fight with my student and five other volunteers who were eager to come see what it was all about.

It should be said here that bull fighting is not on my list of things I love--or even approve of. I went because:

1. Jem, my student, invited me and he and all my other Naughty Boys love bull fighting way better than they love school.
2. I see men out walking their beautiful, well-cared for bulls every morning and curiosity has been nibbling at me.

Jem cuts grass every day after school to feed his family's prize bull who did--by the way--win his fight although his grandfather's bull did not. They fought before we got there but Jem kept in touch with everything by cell phone. He helps to exercise the bull by tying it to the back end of a truck and taking it for a "run."

A fifteen year old boy has to be pretty brave to walk onto his home turf with six farang females in tow, especially when there are no other farangs and precious few females in sight. But he put up with the ribbing he got and took good care of us. We got into the bull fight for 100 baht each when they could have stiffed us for as much as 500. AND we got the best standing spots to be had--right up next to the railing. (Even if it was in the broiling sun.)

The bulls enter the field.

Bull #1.

Bull #2 looked a bit heavier than Bull #1.

Lots of fussing with the bulls occurs before they are actually released to fight.

Each bull's carefully wrapped horns are unwrapped prior to the contest.

A line run through its nose ring controls the bull.

Mashed ripe bananas are mixed with water and smeared all over the nose, neck, head and shoulders of the bulls so that a jabbing horn will slide right off (hopefully.)

After all of the preparations are finished, the fight finally begins.

Stale-mate. They spend a fair amount of time with horns locked, glaring at each other, determined to hold their ground and not turn tail and run away. The bull that's forced to turn and run under the onslaught of the other loses the fight. They cannot turn away, no matter what.

Exhausted and breathing hard, both bulls stop at one point and look over at their handlers as if to say, "Hey, can we quit now?"

Catching a bull to try and separate them and end the fight involves slipping a long pole through the bull's nose ring.

The attempt fails and the two get a second wind and go at it again.

The loser fights bravely but in the end hugs the fence in defeat. (Fight lasted about 40 minutes.)

The winner's horns get "crowned" with sleeves of bright colors.

Spectators jamming the fence line.

Second pair of bulls going at it. We didn't see the finish because it was time to go look for the van and Cha, our driver.

From left: Annie, Alice, Jem, Kristin, Rachel and Madeline.

Jem and me. Tomorrow is my last class with him.

The winning bull from the first fight departs the grounds in the back end of a pick-up truck. (Have seen no stock trailers here. Animals ride in trucks. Period.)

The owner with the winning bull of the second fight proudly poses for a photo. (He also flashed open his purse for us so we could see all his winnings. It was stuffed to the brim with 1000 baht notes.)

P.S. Yes, there was blood. But the wounds were superficial, we were relieved to see. (Those mashed bananas did the trick.) There was also LOTS of money changing hands and cheering for one's favorite bull. The bulls themselves seemed rather gentle, docile creatures until they came nose to nose with a rival. Then it was all about shoving the rival out of the ring. In between fights, the bulls get treated like cherished sons. They are valuable animals with many breeding days ahead of them.

I still don't approve of bull fighting and especially not of gambling. But I'm glad to have had the chance to see a little known aspect of Thai rural life--and also to learn more about what holds such attraction for my students.

1 comment:

  1. How exciting! Glad there wasn't a lot of blood and gore. We're not sure, but we think that Jem is pretty darned proud of his farang teacher and is going to miss her when she leaves.

    Remember to feed the lion for good luck in the coming new year!