Monday, June 21, 2010

In Which I Force Some Optimism

I allowed myself the last post to vent some of the panic. Now I need to be good and tell you about the not-so-scary stuff.

This wat is so beautiful. It's really a shame that I don't like nature so much, because I know a lot of people who do and they would LOVE this place. It's remote, filled with trees and rivers and lakes and all you hear are birds and insects and people speaking softly in Thai.

It's actually freaking me out a little (in a good way, not like in my other entry). To be at a "temple", dressed all in white, with people who all speak softly and smile a lot. Seriously, very familiar and yet so-not-at-all like a Mormon temple. The nature, for one thing.

I observed two morning classes. The first was English for beginners. There were eight monks in there by the end, wearing their robes of various shades from brown to bright orange. They were all charming and very eager. One of the older ones in the room, perhaps in his 60's, upon seeing me sitting at the side of the room, waiting for it start, waved his hand in my direction. "Excuse me? Excuse me? What is you name, please?"

I told him, repeated it a few times ("Amanda" seems to be a tricky one for Thais), and he grinned at me with a gapy one-toothed grin. Then his cell phone started to ring, playing a Thai pop song. He held it up, saying, "Music! Music!" and laughed when I danced to it a little in my seat. Then he answered it, "Hello! Good morning!" before giggling (seriously, have you seen an old monk giggle? I have!) and babbling into the phone in Thai.

They did some sentence-mistake drills, working especially on capitalization, punctuation, and verb tenses since none of those things exist in the Thai language. Then then practiced it/this/that//they/these/those.

At the break, I walked next door to the intermediate class. There were only three monks in there today, since there's some sort of meeting going on. They were learning the vocabulary of families, so each monk was writing out and then presenting his family tree. It was really interesting, actually, to hear about that side of their background. The teacher then had me and Oscar talk to each monk in turn so they could practice their conversational skills with native speakers.

Oh, and the rooms! The rooms are so cool! Not in terms of technology or design or anything. I just mean that they have both fans and screened-in windows and air conditioning (AIR CONDITIONING!) units. Oh, I loved being in those rooms!

So that part was good.

The sight-seeing we did in Bangkok yesterday was good as well - we toured the Grand Palace, saw the emerald Buddha (which is actually made of jade - an old translation error led to the name!), and took a boat tour. I bought a shadow puppet and a marionette elephant, but left them both in the car we took to get to the wat. I'm going to ask Phra Bart if I can possibly get them back at this meeting I have shortly. Fingers crossed!

If you're in Bangkok, do go to the Grand Palace. It's, well, grand. Covered in real gold and colored glass tiles, it just sparkles in the sunlight. The architecture is a combination of Renaissance and "modern" Thai. The walls that wrap around the entire complex are covered with murals of the Ramakien. They continuously are repainting those, since the humidity does not do well for painted cement, but they are fascinating. I'll have to find a copy of the Ramakien somewhere. Oh, and the free tours are worth it. My favorite tidbit I learned on the tour is that the guards there stand on boxes because, as our Thai guide put it, "You Westerners are so tall, we have to make sure we can look down on you!"

Okay, gotta run to that meeting. I'll see you again tomorrow!

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