Thailand’s Songkran, Europe’s sleeper trains, India’s vegan leather, Canada’s ancient furball

Apr 12, 2023 Episode 146

Thailand’s wacky water festival – Songkran, revival of Europe’s overnight sleeper trains, India’s vegan leather and Canada’s ancient furball

Episode Transcript


LEELA: This week – Thailand’s water festival, Europe’s sleeper trains, India’s vegan leather and Canada’s ancient furball!

OPENING STING – LEELA: “Hey, hey, hey. Listen up. New, new, newsy – Newsy Pooloozi!”


LEELA: Hello, I’m Leela Sivasankar Prickitt.

MAMA: And I’m Lyndee Prickitt, aka Leela’s mom.

LEELA: And the big story explainer and sound-effects engineer….

MAMA: Yep.

LEELA: Don’t forget that. And we’re Newsy Pooloozi.

MAMA: The news pool for curious kids and adults!


LEELA: This week…

It’s Songkran in Thailand! No idea about their crazy, annual water festival? We’ll tell you all.

Sleeper trains are back on track in Europe as overnight travel sees a revival.

You’ve probably heard of “pleather”, but have you heard of “fleather?” Don’t worry – we have the low-down on India’s new vegan leather.

And you won’t believe what a giant furball found by Canadian gold miners has turned out to be – hint: it’s super nutty!

Alrighty then, let’s dive on in. First up, it’s the…

BIG NEWS STORY STING – VARIOUS VOICES: “The big news story of the week!”

 LEELA: Well, not only is this a big news story – it’s a big splash!

MAMA: Totally. Yes, we’re talking about Songkran.

LEELA: Which is the Thai New Year holiday.

MAMA: We know what you’re thinking. It’s not January…

LEELA: Nor is it anywhere near the Chinese New Year.

MAMA: But a lot of different religions have different calendars and so different New Year’s Day celebrations.

LEELA: Thailand is primarily Buddhist country.

MAMA: Right and the Buddhist Era began with the passing away of Buddha and that’s 543 years ahead of the Common Era.

LEELA: So, it’s 2023 CE for us but its 2566 for Thais?

MAMA: Exactly. Although, they do tend to use both to be honest. But, yes, their official and religious calendar is 2566. And Songkran which is on April 13 marks the Thai new year.

LEELA: But mostly it’s become a national holiday that’s all about water. I’m talking about people parading down streets with water guns or buckets DRENCHING each other! Sounds fun.

MAMA: For more on this story, we will go to our new correspondents Arun and Sumer Guptey, who live in Thailand.

LEELA: Welcome to Newsy Pooloozi, guys – over to you two!

ARUN AND SUMER: Thanks, Leela!

So, as you mentioned, Songkran isn’t really considered their New Year anymore, since they officially changed it to go along with the Western calendar.

But it is still a national holiday loaded with fun!

And when we say loaded – we mean squirt guns and buckets loaded with water!

Which is quite refreshing since it’s held in this super-hot month of April.

So, this tradition is thought to have originated a long time ago from the ancient Hindu festival of Holi, which marks the arrival of a new harvest season.

And harvests were a big thing back then, since the food you grew was the food you lived on for the rest of the year.

But while the Indian festival of Holi everyone throws colored powder on each other, Songkran just uses water.

Because in ancient Buddhist rituals, throwing water was considered a good luck gesture to bring rain for the summer months to keep the crops growing!

And cool down – because, like we said, it’s super-hot in Thailand right now.

Luckily, this is a 3-day long festival, from April thirteenth to the fifteenth.

Phew! More chances to stay cool.

In Thailand, I’m Arun Guptey

And I’m Sumer Guptey, reporting for Newsy Pooloozi!

LEELA: Love it. Why am I not going to Thailand for this festival again?

MAMA: Next year, maybe. We can do a special joint report with the Gupteys!

LEELA: I’m holding you to that. Otherwise, I might just do a surprise Songkran version here…

MAMA: Hmmm, moving on… So, what else goes with spring?

LEELA: Easter candy… fresh fruit… oh, bunny rabbits, of course… and flowers.

MAMA: Bingo! Flowers are everywhere.

LEELA: Oh, yeah. You’re right! There’s so much color right now. Tulips are my favorite.

MAMA: I love the big, floppy bright dahlias.

LEELA: Ohhh they are beautiful too.

MAMA: Anyway, guess what one clever Indian company is doing with all the leftover flowers from spring and summer and all-around for that matter

LEELA: Ummm… making perfume? Color or dye out of it?

MAMA: Nope. All good things to do with flowers. But this is quite unbelievable.

LEELA: Ah, turning them into electricity?!

MAMA: No. But it is something as wacky and some might say environmentally – or animal – friendly.

LEELA: What?!

MAMA: Okay, believe it or not, old flowers are being turned into leather.


MAMA: Well, vegan leather, I should say. As in leather, that’s not made from the skin of an animal.

LEELA: I didn’t know that was even possible.

MAMA: Neither did I. But not too far away from us in Delhi is a company called Phool – that’s the Indian word for flower.

LEELA: Hanji, right. Spelt p-h-o-o-l, by the way. Phool.

MAMA: Thank you! Well, the Phool company not to be confused with a foolish company.

LEELA: Oh no, no. They’re rather clever, it seems.

MAMA: They’ve devised a way to make vegan leather from flowers. For more on this let’s cut across to our Indian environment correspondents, Amaira and Anaira Mirza.

LEELA: Take it away, twins!

AMAIRA: Thanks, Leela!

ANAIRA: And thanks, Lyndee. I guess you could say that this sounds like an unbeleafable! (Get it – leaf?!) Yes, thank you very much for that pun, Amaira. But seriously, this finding is really cool!

It started off when some researchers found a thin layer of something that seemed like fungus on top of rotting flowers.

They were curious what it was, so they tried changing its temperature to see if that would make the flower change.

Well, guess what?  It did! The researchers kept playing around with this.

Experimenting and experimenting.

AMAIRA: And eventually these rotting flowers got to the point where they looked –

ANAIRA: And felt – just like leather!

But stuff does not come from the skin of a cow – which is good news to vegans and many Hindus, who don’t wear leather because they believe cows are sacred.

AMAIRA: Plus, did you know the process to make animal leather uses LOADS of energy and water. AND produces greenhouse gases and toxic waste.

ANAIRA: Not only that, but you see, the flowers they’re using are from temples across India. Most of which have been sprayed with loads of pesticides.

Well, these temple flowers are usually thrown into rivers, lakes and oceans. Which pollutes the water!

AMAIRA: So Phool is doing us a favor by getting rid of them!

ANAIRA: They’re now making wallets, bags and even footwear.

AMAIRA: Pretty good for “fool’s leather,” wouldn’t you say?

ANAIRA: See, I can make a punny joke too!

From New Delhi, I’m Amaira Mirza

And I’m Anaira Mirza.

BOTH: Reporting for Newsy Pooloozi!

LEELA: So cool – thanks a lot, you guys. I know what I’m gonna add to my shopping list now!

MAMA: By the way – have you heard of pleather?

LEELA: Of course, I have. You mean, fake leather made of plastic?

MAMA: Yep. So, guess what this company is calling this new innovation?

LEELA: Fleather?

MAMA: You got it.

[SOURCE: https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20221208-fleather-the-vegan-leather-made-of-indias-flower-waste



MAMA: Now, changing gears…


MAMA: Staying with the holiday grove, but shifting gears from festivals to summer vacations… who doesn’t like a road trip or a train journey?

LEELA: I love them both! In England we travel by train, but in America it’s all about the car.

MAMA: So, which do you prefer?

LEELA: Auuuuhhh! That’s hard! Cars are snuggly and take you wherever you want to go with all those fun pit-stops… I love how each place has different local sweets and treats. Yummm…

MAMA: But we’re often on boring highways, never mind getting stuck in traffic. And I’m usually the one behind the wheels and having a drive. Whereas trains – I don’t have to be alert all the time. And you know we can walk around in.

LEELA: Oh, I love trains too! Going to the food carriage… and seeing the countryside whizz past me as I walk down the aisle.

MAMA: Sound very cinematic and dramatic.

LEELA: That’s me.

MAMA: Yeah, that’s true. Well, I love them both too but there’s big news for our European listeners or those lucky enough to travel there…

LEELA: Oh, do tell!

MAMA: Here’s a clue.


LEELA: Ah, Mama. Have you fallen asleep?

MAMA: Nope – but I could – ALL NIGHT LONG on a train in Europe.

LEELA: Sleeper trains?!

MAMA: Yep. Of course, they’re very common here in India. But they’re making a come-back in Europe…

LEELA: Oh, I’ve always wanted to go on one…

MAMA: Here with the story is Nandini Parikh, our reporter in Germany.

LEELA: Take it away, Nandini!

NANDINI: Thanks, you guys.

Like you said, in India overnight-train-travel is still a popular and affordable way of travelling.

It used to be all the rage in Europe too, before air and road travel became more common.

But… “all aboard!”


The past year there’s been a revival of sleeper trains in Europe.

Both tourists and business travelers are booking trains that zoom through the night between major cities.

We’re talking Stockholm, Berlin, Paris, Prague, Vienna and Rome to name a few.

And, yes, plans are underway to increase this network.

I mean, what’s not to like?

It’s more legroom than a crowded car or plane.

Plus, you can walk around, while travelling through the quaint countryside.

Never mind you can sleep the night away – IN A BED – waking up at your destination.

Yep, no hotel bill there.

Plus, it’s environmentally friendly as most trains are powered by renewable energy sources.

And did I mention that train stations are typically in the center of the city?

Very convenient.

Now all that’s left to do is… convince your parents to book the family on one!

I’m certainly working on that for this summer.

In Germany I’m Nandini Parikh, reporting for Newsy Pooloozi!

LEELA: Hey, thanks a lot, Nandini. You and me both. Mama…

MAMA: Well, who knows. But I’d say you’re both on the… “right track.”

[SOURCE: https://www.euronews.com/travel/2023/03/09/dream-travel-how-europes-sleeper-train-network-is-set-to-expand


LEELA: Ha ha, nice… Well, as if that story wasn’t weird enough, let’s see what the lucky dip machine has for our final wacky world news story this week.

ODDBALL STING – VARIOUS VOICES: “Step right up, step right up… Have a go at the lucky dip machine… What’s it gonna be today, eh? An oddball, no doubt!”

LEELA: Well… let’s call it more of a furball than an oddball, shall we?

MAMA: Eeewwww. I do not like the sound of this.

LEELA: Oh, no, don’t worry. This is odd, but not quite as ick as was first thought. Cue the music, Mama.


LEELA: So, once upon a time – back in 2018 – way up in the gold fields of Canada’s Yukon territory…

MAMA: Goldfield is not a fairy tale fake place, by the way, but a real thing.

LEELA: Yes, it’s an area or district in which gold is found as a mineral. Not quite dazzling fields of gold, sadly. Anyway, hard at work finding the shiny stuff, some gold miners found a furball in the permafrost instead.

MAMA: Yiiiiihhh. So… anyway first of all in case you didn’t know, permafrost is when soil, rock and any other sediments are frozen for more than two years in a row. But back to the story.

LEELA: Thank you. Actually, it was more than a ball of fur. But a clump of fur, claws and limbs.

MAMA: Oh, gross. I thought you said this story was going to get better.

LEELA: It is. Because after carefully studying this thing for several years, scientists realize that it’s actually a mummified squirrel.

MAMA: Ahhhh. That’s quite cute.

LEELA: A perfectly preserved 30,000-year-old squirrel at that! Called “Hester” – named after the area where it was found.

MAMA: Ahhhh cute.

LEELA: Hester likely died while hibernating, all curled up – as Arctic ground squirrels do – in its underground den.

MAMA: Oh, poor dear.

LEELA: Of course, they didn’t unfurl the poor thing, not wanting to mess up the mummy, but an Xray revealed its intact bone-structure.

MAMA: Wow – after all that time. I have to say – this story is kinda nuts. Get it… squirrels, nuts…

LEELA: Oh, mother. You love to end a story with acorn-y joke, don’t you!

MAMA: Look who’s talking.

[SOURCE: https://www.livescience.com/30000-year-old-fur-ball-hidden-canadian-permafrost-actually-mummified-squirrel

https://www.iflscience.com/frozen-fur-ball-turns-out-to-be-30000-year-old-ice-age-squirrel-68265 ]

FAB FACTS STING – LEELA: “And it’s time to wrap up the podcast with the top five fab facts heard today. Here goes…”

MAMA: FAB FACT NUMBER 1 – It’s Songkran in Thailand. That’s not just a water festival, but what else?

The Thai New Year holiday

LEELA: FAB FACT NUMBER 2 – Thailand uses both the Common Era dates and the Buddhist Era Dates. Which began when?

With the passing away of Buddha, 543 years ahead of the Common Era, which makes the year 2566.

MAMA: FAB FACT NUMBER 3 – An Indian company hopes to make vegan leather made from India’s waste flowers instead of the skin of animals. This is good news to vegans and many Hindus too, as they believe which animal is sacred?


LEELA: FAB FACT NUMBER 4 – A 30,000-year-old furball hidden in the permafrost of Canadian goldfields turns out to be a mummified squirrel. What’s a goldfield?

District in where gold is found as a mineral.

MAMA: FAB FACT NUMBER 5 – And, while we’re at it, what’s permafrost?

Soil, rock or sediment frozen for more than two consecutive years.

And don’t forget, if you want to test yourself later on, then go to the Lucky Dip Blog page of our website,  newsypooloozi.com, that’s pool-o-o-z-i, and take this quiz online in your own time!

LEELA: I repeat goes to squirrel version that’s p-o-o-l-o-o-z-i.com

LEELA: And that almost brings us to the end of this episode of Newsy Pooloozi! But first…

MAMA: A big shout-out to the Apple Podcast review left by “whodunnit lover,” who wrote: “My 3rd grader loves the fun presentation of world news, and learning about more countries than she ever knew existed. I’ve found that I’m using the information myself in conversations with adults. We both love the animal news segments, but especially when dinosaurs are in them! Thanks so much for our new weekly tradition.”

LEELA: O. M. G. What a review!

MAMA: Ohh my gosh I love this review soooo much. Because like I say. We’re the “news pod for kids” – but a LOT of adults like us too!


LEELA: So, what about you? Why don’t YOU leave us a review too?

MAMA: And have you told a friend or two about us? Go on… we don’t have any big marketing teams or sponsors, so we rely on you, our listeners, to help spread the word. Because the more people who listen, the more wonderful world news we can hear.

LEELA: Uh, don’t you mean wacky world news.

MAMA: Same thing!

LEELA: Oh, yeah. True. Well, that’s all from us this week – we’ll be back on your feed next Wednesday with more wonderful wacky world news! See ya!