|A picture from a storm last month...not nearly as intense, |
but I had to have at least one picture!
As Zack let me know that the Nayok wanted us to go to another funeral, I couldn’t help but feel resigned as we agreed that we should go. Saying no to events like this is just not an option, even if you have absolutely no idea whose funeral you will be going to or what the connections are between everyone in the village and that person. I knew I should be grateful for the opportunity, but was also feeling resistant to it since I wasn’t feeling well and had just spent nine hours at the school. It did not help when one of my co-teachers unexpectedly dropped by to tell me that the paw aw wanted me to go with her (apparently to represent my connection to the school), even though Zack was already going to the same event and was being picked up by someone else.
Once we figured out who was going with who (this event was literally a five minute walk down the street from our house), we eventually made it to the actual funeral. By now, we have attended quite a few funerals and have some small idea how a typical Thai funeral is conducted. Since this was the first night of the funeral (all of the funerals we have been to generally last for about three to five days depending), we expected to wai as the monks arrived, suat-mone (continue to wai) through the chanting and eventually convene with a large meal.
Still feeling resistant, I went through the motions feeling somewhat disconnected. Then, for some reason I noticed how the cool night air offered amazing relief after the hot day. I started to notice the how the dark sky lit up as a storm began to roll in. I looked around at the gathering of people and marveled at the obvious unity. For some reason, I started to feel connected to the moment. I continued to go through the motions of the ceremony, feeling a little bit more at peace with the experience.
Suddenly, the gentle rolling thunder transformed into crashing lighting strikes. The rain began to fall so heavily that within seconds the road in which we were all sitting (under tents) became a rushing river. Through all of this, everyone just moved closer together. Those who were preparing the meal rushed to cover the dishes, some of the attendants lifted chairs over their heads to empty the pockets of the tent that were filling with water. For a while the rest of us continued to wai as the monks continued to chant, packed together closer than I would have thought possible, trying to avoid the rain leaking through the tent and blowing in the sides in huge gusts.
The people who Zack and I came with started to get up to leave. As we began to move though, the chanting ended (I’m not sure if they decided to stop early or not) and everyone rushed to change the seating area/river into a dining area. Tables were rushed in as people treaded across the road, now at least a foot and a half deep with gushing water. As we made to leave, one of the hosts encouraged us to sit and eat. Eventually we decided to follow everyone else’s lead by sitting at one of the tables set up in the middle of a road, feet resting in the newly created river as it flowed beneath us. The excitement surrounding all of it and the energy I could feel from everyone around me was the most I have felt “in the moment” since arriving here. At one point, the lights went out as lightning struck nearby. The unified “ooooweeeeeee!!” that resonated from everyone led to an even deeper sense of unity and exhilaration.
Zack and I arrived back home later that evening, drenching wet, to find that our front yard was a lake and that the rain had leaked in through our windows, leaving about an inch of water on our bedroom floor. However, as we cleaned up the water and listened to the pounding rain, Zack and I shared with one another how real the experience felt and how for the first time in a very long time we felt grateful for, rather than resistant to, this crazy, unique and beautiful experience that is serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Thailand.