I hate admitting to this, but when my birthday rolls around, I want something spectacular to happen. Camping trips, themed parties, a rip-roaring rumpus! Dancing into the early morning, moonlight hikes, and being a little reckless! I know, I know… but what can I say…in my opinion, birthdays should be a massive celebration!
Last year, my Pinnacles family flew me out to California to participate in a week long celebration of rock-climbing, motorcycle rides, amazing home cooked meals, a ton of beer drinking, and the amazing, honorary film festival bequeathed to me in solidarity for the eyesight I had lost in an ugly accident just 6 months before.
The poster for my film festival. I have some kick-ass friends.
This year I wasn’t so sure how things were going to work out. I had resigned myself to a low-key day, possibly sitting at a local hang-out in the evening after class, sipping on a Singha and watching the Thai version of “So, You Think You Can Dance.”
Not exactly how things went down…
I was immediately whisked off to several wats where, tradionally, Thais spend their birthdays. Praying to Buddha for good fortune and luck in this new year of life is not something I ever thought I would experience, so I openly embraced it.
Wat Mahathat Woravihara
I talked with a monk who had the kindest face.
I received my fortune by shaking out a stick with a number on it. My number was 15. You then collected your fortune with the corresponding number.
Loose translation of #15 given by Ajan Surasit:
*make everything and marketing very good
*if pregnant, son
*if single, have boyfriend or marries
*if something disappear, can find
*very good luck
*if ill, improve
*if credit, debit
*very happy all day all night
*if wish/wants/needs to others, my wishes/wants/needs will come to me
Wat Yai Suwannaran
Ajan Surasit gave me a pendant for good luck and protection.
Got to see rich, golden historical paintings.
Fed huge fish in coi pond.
Lunch with Thai colleagues.
Birthday cake with some students.
What a damn fine day.
on this full moon night / walking toward the stars / you take
my whispers of grace
/ to be among the infinite / reach and reach and reach/
and for a moment before you are among them /
branded to be in the forever / i give permission to be in the forever with you
My oh my. What a festival — a celebration of honoring Buddha and letting go of your hatred, anger, and negative thoughts on the full moon of every November, which fell on the 17th of this year.
My work college, Ajan Phao, invited me to join him and his family in the festivities. First, we went to the Gulf of Thailand to let a lantern fly high. Supposedly, this was a very “quiet” year of celebration because the king of the monks (kind of the equivalent to The Pope) died a month ago, so everything has been very subdued in Thailand out of respect for him.
Standing on the cool, soft sand in the light of the full moon, a few, erratic fireworks went off in the background while the paper lantern filled with heat. The four of us held onto it, getting ready to send it off to the stars.
Next, we went back into the city to muscle our way into a space along Phetchaburi River where we could set sail our krathongs.
The krathongs are vessels on which to send your worries away. Usually made from banana trees and leaves, decorated with colorful flowers, incense and candles, they ceremoniously float down a river, or out into a lake or the ocean, disappearing from sight and taking with it your trepidations and trespasses.
My new friend, Katie, helped me to build one for myself and Ajan Phao’s family.
It was all so overwhelming that I could do nothing more than observe instead of making wishes. Later, as I rode home in silence with Ajan Phao and his family, I sent out a prayer to keep my family and friends safe.
The bold stand alone against the darkness that surrounds them. The brave stare, proud, defiant against the winds, daring them to come closer. Be not afraid, be still, and be of the bold kind, be of the bravest variety. There is nothing you cannot defeat.
The hustle and bustle of Hua Hin, this quintessential tourist town with every corner catering to farang, is actually quite relaxed (I was expecting a frantic Bangkok pace). I was able to enjoy Hua Hin under the guise of a teachers conference. Invited to attend a restructuring of how my nursing college creates lessons for students, I was told to go explore instead. My coordinator very resolutely stated that I wouldn’t be able to understand the lectures anyway, so what would be the point of me staying?
So, explore I did.
I couldn’t wait to get to the beach! I wandered down to the sands and was fixated on the trash, debris, and lifeless sea creatures that scattered the tide line. Oiy. Supposedly the winds and rain that pummeled the coast the night before was really nothing, something that’s a way of life, that you buckled down and rode out. The Thais were busy fixing, gathering, and telling the Westerns that there would be no food because it was all swept away, but, please, take a seat and enjoy the sun. Which I did.
Sitting, contemplating, not fully/
comprehending, and lost in thought encompassed / my morning and afternoon /
until I had to break free of my mental stronghold–
there is only the sum of what has passed / never of current circumstances / and certainly not of what
exists in the future
The rest of my Hua Hin trip comprised of a visit to AsiaBooks, an international bookstore, where I picked up a book on Buddhism and spent way too much time in the fiction section. I also stopped by the Cicada Market and meandered amid arts and crafts, food and clothing. It was a lovely evening, where my Thai co-workers ushered me around, throwing out their opinions on the live band that was playing and getting me to repeat as many Thai words as possible. I made them laugh incredibly hard when I butchered a pronunciation, invariably changing the meaning of the word (did you know the word for ‘beautiful’ is also the same word for ‘f*ck it’; it just depends on your intonation), which then led them to goad me into repeating myself, thus resulting in more stomach-holding, bent over, peels of laughter.
I finally feel like a member of the team.