[This was just too good of story to keep to myself. I hope you enjoy it]
This story is a couple weeks old, but I wanted to document it before I forget. It was the week after Reconnect, and the office was going around to all these temples that I didn’t know existed and offering candles. Since the Buddhist lent is a time for meditating, in the old days people would give the monks candles so they could study into the night. Now it is mostly just a tradition to offer candles. For this special day I was supposed to wear a white shirt. No problem, I had brought a white shirt from home. The only problem was the fabric was sewn to have patterns of little flowers and the flowers were stitched so that the petals were holes. Following the rules of rip roi, I had never worn this shirt because I simply didn’t have an undershirt. Now, I have always been on the tight side concerning money, and with the salary Peace Corps gives me, clothes can be quite expensive—this is just a nice way of saying there was no way I was going to spend my money on an undershirt that I was only going to wear once. So, I came up with this brilliant idea wearing my black swimsuit underneath my shirt. It was about the size of an undershirt and only if you looked really close would you realize it was a swimsuit—quite resourceful
Anyway, as a tessaban we were going around to temples I didn’t know existed and offering 3 ft tall candles. Whenever you go to offer something to the monks, it is never a short ordeal. There is a special way of sitting too—I call it the “show-choir-ballad-girl’s-sitting-position”. You sit on the ground with your back straight and your legs folded the same way in front of you, pointing to one side. I am pretty good at it having years of practice, but for some other Peace Corps volunteers, it is the most uncomfortable way to sit.
That day I was wearing my black pants because I thought they looked better with my shirt (most of the time I wear long, old-fashioned skirts) Now my pants, that use to fit perfectly before I came, have gotten a little lose at the waist–either I lost a lot of weight or they simply stretched out in the wash (I prefer to think the former, but I suspect the latter) This is not a problem 99% of the time.
However, that day sitting, wearing those clothes and sitting in that position, I could feel that my pants weren’t as high as the rip roi dictates. That didn’t matter, though, because I had on a swim suit.
So we go through about 4 temples, and then someone notices that I am wearing a swimsuit, and my pants are not quite as high on my waist as they are supposed to be. My friend, who works in the same room as I, asks me if I want her belt. I was getting embarrassed and politely declining, when she just took off her belt and gave it to me. I was touched by the pure generosity in the act. We only went to one more temple, but it is definitely something I want to remember.
I know it sounds a bit strange (it sounds strange to me at least after typing the story out), but that is a lot of how Thailand is. As a foreigner, you don’t quite fit in. You try to be resourceful and go along with the flow, but it doesn’t completely work. And then, a friend does something so nice, you feel speechless and embarrassed at the same time.
During and after Reconnect, I made 49 handmade colored penciled cards for each of the other Peace Corps volunteers in my group. I figured everyone deserves the right to feel special. Even though a card is not much, it is something I can offer.
I liked doing it so much that I am looking for more people to mail cards to…If you would like a colored pencil card, just send me an email and let me know!