Bangsai is a village located 20 kilometers from my Wangnoi homestay. This, my new home for the next 3 days, is situated on the Noi river and is constructed about 8 feet from ground level, as are all the dwellings here, in case of flooding from the Noi. Urai, my host sister, is a 30-year-old woman with a quick wit and sense of humor who went all out in immersing me in the village’s culture. She has been offering her home to farang volunteers like me for 5 years and knows a great deal of English (including Beyonce, Britney Spears, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt. Ha!) Besides her knowledge of these very important American icons, she is as interested as I in next year’s presidential election. We chew the cud about Obama, Hillary and life in the big bad New York City. She feeds me… a lot. So much that I will create an entire posting dedicated to the amazing foods she sets on the floor for me.
Here are some shots of her home and the village.
The metal roof doesn’t do much to reflect the strong sun. Inside you can feel the heat radiating from above.
Plants and herbs are everywhere around the home. I sampled several basils from her garden, as well as fresh lemongrass and a chili peppers. Banana leaves serve as a home for many sweet Thai desserts, like gift wrap.
My body is sore today. After a delicious raw lunch, Urai and I toured the village and its surrounding swamps, farms and monasteries by bicycle. Being on a bike in the blazing Thai sun was glorious. All around me new and interesting sights of a bustling and humming world I’d never knew could exist within mine. Every millimeter (I’ve gone metric!) full of discovery, from the fowl trotting the edge of the swamps to the colorful convenience store we pit-stopped at, feasting on sweet treats like dried pineapple and a smoothy made of sugar, syrup and more sweetener. Eek.
Full moons in Thailand mean Buddhist holidays. And so we made a stop at a monastery to pay respect to Lord Buddha. I participated in these rituals with some guidance and explanation from Urai. She handed me a lotus flower and a small yellow candle rubber-banded to 3 wicks of incense and some tiny papers. The flower was placed in a large pot in front of the outdoor shrine. This offering is to greaten the chance of my returning in my next life in a beautiful form. Using the large burning candle within the shrine, we lit our small candles and placed them about the shrine with the others burning brightly. We then knelt and sandwiched our incense sticks between our palms, raising them to our chests for a prayer. After, the incense was stuck in the container of sand with the many others burning sweetly. The little papers contained gold foil which we were to place on the Buddha within the monastery. (Some pictures of foil-encrusted Buddhas can be seen on my previous post.)
We then knelt for one final ritual. Containers wither many numbered wooden sticks were brought to our hearts as we made a wish. These containers were then shaken until a single stick fell to the floor. The number on that stick (mine was 23) corresponded to a fortune scroll. Urai read my fortune and couldn’t directly translate but told me all will be well for me, in my future, my health, etc. Yay! Her fortune was not as positive so she left her scroll, unlike me who clutched it as if it were a winning lottery ticket. She then wrapped a blessed piece of orange material around my wrist which would protect me during my travels. Then, back on the bike!
Everywhere I go I seem to attract a lot of attention. The children of the village seem particularly amused by my presence. They scream what English they know my way (mostly “Hello” and, interestingly, “Fine, thank you. How are you?”) as if it were the funniest thing they’ve ever done. These children were very playful and posed for many pictures. They hold my hand and say “I love you”. They ask where I come from and repeat “Americaaaaaa”. Adorable.
After returning home, Urai prepared dinner. I worked up an appetite riding the bike but seemed to baffle Urai with the “small” portion I ate. Given the holiday, we attended service at the temple after dinner. The whole village was there, by this time the full moon above glowing a path to the beautifully ornate temple. We entered to listen to the chants of the monks who sat on a pedestal in their orange wraps. Not understanding the prayer, I observed the monks, very intrigued. They seemed almost like giant babies, oozing a purity, their weathered skin brown and inked with fading tattoos.
What a day in Bangsai.