Saturday, November 23, 2013

Morality Training

Thank God someone's watching out for me!

Today, Saturday, the EP spent the entire day at Wat Pah Nanachat.  Every year the students participate in a "morality" training at a different wat (temple) in the area.  Today's journey brought us to the International Forest Monastery.

Although the monastery is about 20 km away from school, all students are expected to be there by 8AM, using their own transport.  We began in the main sala for prayers.

lotus flowers at the entry to the sala

shoes, of course, are left outside

gifts for the monks

I was flattered because as I went to sit with the other teachers, a group of girls motioned to me and pointed to the empty mat next to them.

At 9, the monks quietly filed out to eat first.  They are allowed to eat only one meal each day.  The students and their families helped supply much of the food, and there was an abundance.  When the monks returned, we were allowed to take our turn.

teeny, tiny yogurt drinks

Anyone who knows me well, knows how I feel about my food touching.  However, you are allowed to eat only from one bowl.  I was slightly traumatized, but survived.

I have yet to see a dishwashing machine in Thailand.  Although there were well over 100 people, each person hand washed their own dish.

After breakfast we had a little free time, so I was able to walk around a bit and read words of wisdom posted on various trees.

Disclaimer:  I have utmost respect for Buddhism, I agree with many of the principles.  But reading the signs made me feel like I was back in the 70s in some kind of drug induced coma.

I had to look up "arahant". In Buddhism, it means "the perfect one".

a meditation sala

bamboo trees
A short walk through the woods brought us to another sala where the monks would discuss meditation.
After explaining proper body positioning and breathing, the students practiced for a solid 10 minutes.  There was not a sound!

One of the monks modeled walking meditation...

and then it was the students turn.

The monks had their meal for the day, but the rest of us were ready for lunch.  Thai spaghetti and meat sauce.

A little sweeter than I'm used to. I think Thais put sugar in everything they cook!

Some clean-up to help the monks….

and back to the main sala for closing.

Truly an enlightening day for me, and so good to see the children in this setting!
I'm told we can expect excellent behavior for probably two weeks following the visit  :)

a few parting shots of my colleagues…

Namo Amida Buddha!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Loi Krathong

Loi Krathong is celebrated on the night of the full moon of the 12th lunar month (November 17th this year).  What is Loi Krathong you might ask…..

The explanation that I have heard most often is, "To ask for forgiveness Pra Mae Khongkha because we use and drink water and pollute it as well."  Ironically, part of the celebration involves floating Krathongs in the water which is really kind of polluting it again!

Loi Krathong is celebrated differently in different parts of Thailand.  Bangkok and Chiang Mai have the biggest celebrations with boat races, floats, and beauty contests.  In Ubon Ratchathani, there seemed to be a lot going on at the temples, but the highlights would be the Krathongs and sky lanterns.

Made of wax!


Krathongs can be made, if you're industrious, or bought along the sides of roads surrounding any body of water.  The base is a slice from the trunk of a banana tree.  Circles are cut from banana leaves to cover the top and bottom of the slice, and a strip of the leaf is used to surround the edges.  That's when the fun and creativity begins!

Squares of banana leaves are folded in a huge variety of ways and pinned to the base.  There are so many variations, you simply have to see them.  Three incense sticks are pushed into the middle as well as a candle (banana wood is very soft.) The finishing touch is the use of flowers to decorate your Krathong.

With Krathong in hand, it is taken to a body of water, a wish is made,  and it is gently placed to float away.  If the Krathong drifts back to you, your wish will not come true.  If it floats away….
The wind was strong last night, so we took no chances.  Our hosts took us out to the middle of the river, greatly improving our chances of success!

My favorite part is the sky lanterns!  The lanterns are made of paper and are about 3-4 feet tall.  Dried banana trunk (yes, again) is attached to the bottom and burned.  The heat from the fire helps lift the lantern into the air to float away.  I hate to admit that I ever watched "The Bachelorette", but if you saw the episode when they were in Phuket and released a lantern, they made it look simple.  It really isn't quite as easy as one might think, especially with a good breeze going.  However, I was able to get lift off!  (a wish was made with this too)

It's absolutely breathtaking to see the sky filled with sky lanterns, drifting away.

We were treated to a lovely evening with food, wine, boat rides, and sky lanterns by our hosts at the Moon Resort.

If you want more information and directions how to make your own Krathongs, this link will take you to a video of three teenaged Thai girls explaining the tradition...

Next year, when Diana and Ralph are here to celebrate with me, I hope to be in Chiang Mai….. you can see the difference!