Thursday, February 12, 2009
Their is a volunteer in our group who publishes a blog roughly once a day. I just checked before I started writing and his last entry was dated at 21 hours ago. Before that he had another entry that was dated at 22 hours before that. I have no idea when my last entry was. At one point I was going back and attempting to write about old stories which had already taken place and then adjusting the date to make it appear as though I had really just written about it as it had taken place. Yeah. I'm really no good with this.
I don't have a plan to fix this nor do I believe I would actually stick to any such plan of my own creation. More than likely this will be my only posting for the next 3 months. And sadly I'm doing this from my schools computer so I don't have any pictures to go with this posting. But how's about this. For those of you who still check this, please feel free to fill my inbox with as much spam as you want. From hate mail to just the dumbest shit you can possibly think of. I'll get the hint. To stop the crap, I have to write. I'm serious. Who knows. Maybe this will work. Or maybe I'll just block your address and go back to watching old episodes of Lost on DVD.
That show is weird!
A funeral is a free meal in my village and typically a good one at that. The other night the surprise feast was Yum Nan Moo or Pig Skin Salad. Just as it's name suggests, it was amazing and I couldn't help but have seconds. Other staples of a traditional funeral were there including 'Back up' curry which is a traditional Southern Thai dish which is simple and easy to make in massive amounts hence its name 'Back up' curry.
The departed was the brother of the wife of a man who use to be on the board of directors of one of my schools. He was in his early 40s and had just passed away from HIV. Don't let this alarm you though. My village as well as the surrounding villages doesn't have a problem with HIV as compared with some of the other villages and provinces of Thailand ( Oh yes we do! ). A total of 5 monks officiated over the ceremony which could be compared to any Roman Catholic service in terms of length and entertainment value.
The first time I attended a funeral, my mind was razor sharp and keen to pick up the subtle details that were all around me. Numerous Religious Studies courses from University taught me to be aware of both secular and non-secular symbols around me when attending any formal gathering ( i.e. a funeral ). Examples of this include the strict dress code which is adhered to of wearing only black and white. Only one kind of desert is served and is only served at funerals. A shroud is placed over the Spirit House of the resident in question. And so on and so forth.
After the 9th or 10th funeral, the mystery ceases except for the question of what will be served that evening. Sometimes the food is horrible, to be honest, while other times the food is amazing. Is it wrong to write a culinary review of a funeral? Probably. But what if the food was really really really good? A traditional Western funeral will typically involve various forms of finger foods which are served following the funeral services. A Thai funeral is a bit different. A full meal is provided to the guests, after which the services take place. This all takes place at the home of the family of the deceased. If it could be compared to anything the West has, then perhaps it best matches an Irish wake played in reverse.
The other night when I attended the funeral of which I have the clearest memory of, as it is the most recent one I have been witness to, I remember wondering if flash photography would be inappropriate. This is a line I have not yet crossed but one I am prepared to. A curious thing, Thai's never turn off their cell phones and as a result of this, at least 4 calls were received by various individuals during the funeral. Not only were these calls received but conversations were held. The monks who presided over the occasion, stoic figures, were not phased. Nor should they have been. No one was phased by this except perhaps myself. This is not something unusual for Thai culture. Voicemail is unusual. Calling someone back is unusual. Accepting a call in the middle of a funeral, that's normal.
I have been in Thailand for over a year now and have been witness to many strange occurrences. An 'elephant show' randomly showed up at my school yesterday and made camp. Three elephants romped around the schools football field, took a shit, and then left. It was "The Greatest Show on Earth!" This will probably stick in my mind longer than the tiny things I have witnessed. Cell phones being answered regardless of the situation. A family of 6 riding down the road on a moped including Grandma holding a 9 month old infant. My star student wearing a shirt that said "Fuck Off Wanker!" in a dance competition. These memories will have to be triggered in order to resurface which is sad because these are the memories which have truly been at the center of my Peace Corps experience. And funerals are just an example.