Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Last School Day of the Year:

At my school, Baan Kok Yang, we celebrated this day by "feeding the monks." Monks do not "earn a living" in the conventional sense. They give to their communities by praying for them and presiding over celebrations and funerals, blessing people and things, etc.

In return, the communities provide for them. In most places, the monks go out each morning with their Alms Bowls and people put food for the day in the bowls--rice, curry, fruit or whatever they have. Monks eat only one meal per day--in the morning. Then they eat nothing until the next morning.

At our school, each child brought a bag from home and the teachers each made up a bag of food. Cooked foods such as rice or soups are put into plastic bags and tied with a rubber band. But on this day, staples--including canned goods, raw rice, bottles of water, etc.--are given.

Four monks came to our school and left with the back of a donated-for-the-day pick-up truck filled with bags of staples. They chanted, blessed us and prayed for us in the new year.

Wan Li, my host teacher, is Christian and a couple of the other teachers are Muslim. They may choose to participate or not in this very Buddhist tradition. Since the monks will starve if the people do not feed them, most participate. The monks are regarded as holy men by people of all faiths.

Waiting for the arrival of the important guests: the monks. Each child has his/her offering in hand.

Chants and prayers.

Gifts for the monks.

Alms bowls lined up and waiting to be filled.

Our four monks with their alms bowls worn in a sling around their shoulders.

Monk blessing the crowd by sprinkling us with water.

Making offerings to the monks.

Monks departing with the offerings given to them.

After the monks departed, there were no classes. The day was given over to partying. Wan Li had asked me "to please perform hula" on this day, so I came prepared in my mumuuu and brought my computer which has all my itunes music on it.

We couldn't fit everyone into one classroom where they had hooked my computer up to speakers, so I have to perform again on the first school day of the New Year, next Monday.

For the remainder of the day, those who had a chance to watch the hula performance "tried out their hula moves." They are familiar with Thai dancing and some had even heard of hula (Hawaiian dancing) long before I ever got here--so I am glad I brought a mumuuuu with me and could share it!

The partying was amazing. The teachers had their own party with lots of food--and the kids literally took over the classrooms, dancing (even on top of the desks), playing games, eating, running, shouting, etc. They were allowed to do whatever they wanted. In a prim, proper Thai school where everyone lines up in the morning in front of school for the National anthem and only good behavior is allowed, it was somewhat shocking to see the complete lack of any discipline or control. The kids just had a free-for-all great time.

"Today, is just have for fun," Wan Li explained. "Be happy. No work. Is good, yes?"

Yes, it was.

Wan Li on the left and a teacher from one of the lower grades on the right. She asked me to teach her some basic hula.

Students waiting for me to perform hula. This was one of the most unusual hula performances I have ever done. The kids kept bursting into applause all through the dance. I had explained first that hula always tells a story and told them to see if they could pick out the motions for ocean, waterfall, mountains, flowers, etc. that the song, "These Islands" is about. I chose that mele (song) because Thailand also has all of these things, and I hoped they could relate to it--and also learn some vocabulary words. They got very excited when they could tell what the motions were saying.


  1. Love the pics! These kids are beautiful. We have a feeling they will all be dancing hula before you leave. What a wonderful gift.

    Sara and Eddie

  2. Aw too cute! Sounds like you're having a good time and the people sound so lovely. Miss you and Happy New Year! Great pics as well. Love you!


  3. Looks like you'll have to learn the phrase "I'm sorry" :) (Re: Trying to speak a foreign language and saying "bad luck to you" when you mean to say "this is beautiful," will keep you humble.)


  4. sounds like a great day all around! ya know, i havent seen you hula before! maybe you could show me sometime?

    and, by the way, i love ur "random thoughts" section...i just found it!
    Lots of love,