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Teerak, My Mom Is Sick And I Need Money (4)
Delivery by pick-up truck: July 4th
7.30 am and I am waiting outside my building with my car and driver. No Neung and no Khun Ying, his sister. Oh well, it’s Thailand so I guess I just have to wait. I got an sms and it seems the taxi they called couldn’t find their place so they will be very late. Mai bread rai.
8.15am Neung and Ying arrive with 6 large bags of cat food. Hmmm, that sounds interesting. Not quite sure how this one gets explained. We left for Rangsit. Neung explained about the cat’s food. His mother had four cats. The neighbor is feeding them but he ran out of food 4 days ago, so the cats haven’t eaten yet. Well, that explains the cat food well enough!
9h15 we arrived at the house in Rangsit and went to see the neighbors. Cat arrived, fast! We give them some food and then they join the neighbor’s dog, which seems to eat cat food as willingly as he eats dog food. Well, it’s Thailand!
We will make tambourines in the house. Neung explained that sometimes people do it at the temple but it is considered “luckier” to do it at the person’s home. Something to do with letting go of the mind. I don’t pretend to understand but no problem. I wonder when the monks will arrive. Around 11am they told me which, obviously, means 11.30am. everyone is always late here. All the gifts were prepared by the monks. Money in envelopes, flowers and the usual buckets of gifts – washing powder, toothpaste and so on.
10.30 am and the monks arrive. What’s going on here? No one in Thailand is ever early. We’ll come back to this shortly, but it turns out to be food. The middlemen arrived, all nine of them, in the back of a truck. Dressed in orange clothes is a somewhat surreal scene. The weirdest pickup delivery I’ve ever seen! Now we have nine monks sitting on the floor of the house, and about 25 guests sitting everywhere. The rituals begin with an offering of water to the monks. The candles are lit, the string unrolled, we all settle in and the song begins.
I can’t be sure but it seemed that the song was more similar to the funeral ceremony. It is very interesting to watch and listen. It is melodic without music and mildly hypnotic. Hypnosis would be helpful because I was in agony from sitting with my legs crossed. My knees are shot from too much running in the gym and I find these very basic sitting positions almost impossible to manage. So for me, the song is an exercise in pain and the constant thought running through my head of “how much longer”?
A couple of dogs wander in and out as we sit and a 2-year-old girl joins us, holding her hands up in a prayer position. It is a very beautiful scene. He got bored quickly, as 2-year-olds do, and decided to examine and disassemble the lock on the garden gate. Then he decided to try everyone else’s shoes, flip flops, high heels, they are all of equal interest. I find my eyes wandering more through it than the business at hand.
The chanting stopped and now I learned why the monks had arrived early. We are their lunch. They told me that the monks eat twice a day, breakfast and lunch and that they cannot eat after noon. They came early to make sure they could have lunch. Well that makes perfect sense to me. After all, this country more than most, march on its stomach. Lunch is a feast. A mass of different foods. They eat, we wait. Everyone seems happy and there is a lot of laughter from everyone.
I am, of course, the only farang with the object of some attention. Many people are asking Neung if I am her boyfriend. He said no, just a friend and that I am gay. Hmmm, okay. Now where did that come from? Neung explained. If I say you are my friend (stank) they will ask why you are here so I call you my gay friend. Hmm, ok. Why don’t you say I’m your ex boyfriend. No way he says. If I say that I lose face. So the price of not losing face is that I am gay now. Life could be worse!
Chanting resumes but this time it is very short, no more than five minutes. The religious collect their gifts, get into the van and leave. The formalities are over. Neung’s mother is now at peace.
Lunch begins for all guests. We are divided into two groups. I am sitting with Neung, Khun Ying and seven other ladies. Most of them are in their 50s and 60s and I am an object of passion. They saw me struggling with the sitting position and so, to much laughter, a stool appeared and I was told to sit down. My cheeks are red but the pain is gone, so it’s a good compromise. Then the real challenge begins. Will I eat the food? Fortunately I like Thai food at least as much as the Thai con for the food is not a problem for me. They are even starting to realize that I speak decent Thai.
Everything is going well until we get to durian mixed with sticky rice and coconut milk. Durian is actually OK to eat but this one is not ripe enough. Sticky rice is not something I like. Mix it all together? Well I managed not to throw but only just and, of course, the whole group found this very entertaining, myself just about included. All these people are good people. They are having fun. They are very welcoming to me. It’s been a good day so far.
The food is cleaned and we all start cleaning. Neung pay for the food which means, necessarily that I pay for the food. There is much celebration and five minutes later what seems like a million bottles of beer arrive. Looks like I gave some good advice too! So now everyone really likes us.
It’s time to go, time to say goodbye, and drive home. Neung is leaving Amsterdam tonight to spend 10 days with his gay Thai friend and Dutch boyfriend. He tries to insist that he will not spend the whole 10 days to find a new boyfriend but it does not sound too believable. Mai pen rai, that’s not my problem anymore. If he is happy then I am happy too. He may be my ex but he’s still my friend and he’s had a tough few months.
The first Thai funeral I attended was for Neung’s mother and it was also for her that I made my first tambun. It was another fascinating experience. The Thai people handle death with great grace, humor, tact and respect. This is an odd mix of words perhaps but it is an appropriate mix. I like the way they do it and I like to think that Neung’s mother would be happy with what she saw today. I don’t pretend to understand Buddhism or Thai culture, but I like what I see.
As for Neung it was a difficult time. His mother was his only family. His father didn’t show up today and he seems to be asking him for money. His father-in-law, aged 75, was trying to transfer his affection for his mother to Neung himself.
He was not happy and cried alone a lot. I could not spend much time with him. Today she looks happier than I have seen her in a long time. Partly it’s because it’s going to Amsterdam but I think it’s more than that. He finally learned to say goodbye to his mother.
Thailand is sometimes really a crazy place. Crazy but wonderful and so alive, even in death. I am privileged to be here.
The end. Original article available at [http://www.blog.artthailand.net/?p=17][http://www.blog.artthailand.net/?p=17]
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