After a long first day at Bangsai, I wake up to the sound of raucous birds conversing, crowing roosters in the distance and an army of crickets. The village of Bangsai is alive in a way that compliments these noises, even amplifies them. The sun has not yet risen but Urai and her mother have been preparing a meal since 4 a.m. This meal is to be offered to the Buddhist monk who rows the river every morning. The offering ensures Urai that there will be ample food to eat in her next life. Again, the flowers are also offered in the hopes that she’ll be a knock-out, as well as well-fed. Food & beauty! I felt honored to be part of this tradition and woke early so as not to miss the man in orange. To my surprise, I was to make an offering to the monk as Urai and her mother cooked a meal on my behalf. I was nervous next to monk, fearing sitcom-like clumsiness resulting in mutual mortification. I feared pulling a Larry David. But all went well. Here’s to my good looks in my next lifetime.
Next on the agenda, an authentic Thai massage. I’d heard that Thai massage was intense but I did not expect to be putty in the strongest damn hands in Thailand. The 2-hour massage from head-to-toe was downright violent at some points, but well-needed. She literally lifted all major muscles from my their adjacent bones, contorted my body in yoga poses and stepped all over me.
My stay in Bangsai ended after a lesson with the village’s children. Giddy and eager to learn, they were hungry for English vocabulary words to jot in their notebooks. These were the happiest children I ever encountered, not one of them without a smile for more than a minute or so. They recited our alphabet perfectly but had difficulty with word pronunciation, giggling at their own stumbling tongues. Together we went over words related to the beach (sun hat, beach umbrella, swim suit, etc) and bedroom (curtains, alarm clock, nightstand, pillow, etc). After recitation, volunteers drew each word on the dry erase board. I was then asked to give them a yoga lesson. (?!) I didn’t want to let them down, as it was either yoga or math, so I led them in some common poses. Quickly had to invent new poses as I blanked out under pressure of my audience. After fulfilling the bodily-kinesthetic learners, we went on to music. Row, row, row your boat never sounded more adorable then within the stray cocking roosters and motor bikes within the village.
I was sad to leave Bangsai. Urai was an amazing host whom I will not soon forget. We spent a lot of time talking and it was interesting to hear her perspective. She has hosted people from all over the world and gained a unique insight because of this.
Urai’s wisdom: Apparently Europeans are often more quiet and less friendly than Americans. She believes that Americans are more warm-hearted and open than most other nationalities, that they are more effective and receptive communicators. She also said that most volunteers stomp around like elephants and slam doors. Several times she had to repair the hinges on the door. But she says that I walk quietly and considerately. Quiet & considerate, la-di-da.
Tomorrow, I hit Bangkok’s famous Chatuchak Weekened Market! Wait, I’m excited about shopping? Not regular shopping, but the thriftshopping! In this huge bargain barn there is a section devoted to used clothing. Thriftshopping in Thailand… I must be dreaming. Stay tuned for my finds.