Friday, December 3, 2010

I'm teaching English at Watchetupon

In addition to my teaching at the Buddhist University here in Chiang Mai, I'm also teaching English to novice at Watchetupon.

Watchetupon has the largest temple school in all of Thailand.  Enrollment is over 500 novice.  For many of these novice, the temple school is their only option for getting an education. Some are orphans, many come from very, very poor families.  The families of some live so far away, the novice will only visit them once a year. 

These little novice are really a joy to work with.  Yes, they are dressed in the orange robes of Buddhism..... and yet, they are still boys.  The novices are as young as 6 or 7, and as old as 20.

Listening skill lesson at Wat Chetupon

In this class with juniors at the temple school, I worked with the novices on their auditory listneing skills.  By drawing the maps of Thailand and the USA on the chalk board , students learned how to answer questons like:

What is the capital of Thailand? (U.S.A., Laos, etc.)
Who is the Prime Minister of Thailand?
Who is the President of the U.S.A.?

"Thank you teacher" at Wat Chetiupon

This was the youngest group of students I taught today at Wat Chetiupon school.  M2 students are similar to high school freshmen.  Quite a number of special needs (LD) students in this class.

This greeting by the students to their teacher at the end of the class, is common throughout Thailand.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

12,500 Monk Alms Walk

On Sunday, November 28th, 2010, some 12,500 Buddhist monks gathered in Chiang Mai for a special alms walk.  Food was collected for the monks who live in the three southern provinces of Thailand. Because of the unrest in the south, it is no longer safe for monks to go out on their morning alms. 

The event was organized by the Dhammakaya Temple, the largest in all of Thailand.  Dhammakaya has a rather unique Buddha figure.

In addition to the thousands of monks, there were thousands of Thai who came to give food to the monks.

The special alms walk was organized by the Dhammakaya Temple.  I have never visited this temple, so downloaded this photo from the internet.  It is located in a province north of Bangkok and is Thailand's largest Buddhist temple. 

The street turned orange during this special alms walk.

People giving food to the monks. 

Long lines of monks, walking through the crowds  who gave them food for the monks in the south of Thailand.

Buddha figure at the special alms walk,

Soldiers walked with the monks, to receive the food once the monk's bowl was full.  The food people gave, was prepackaged so it could be sent to the south.

It is said 1,000,000 people can meditate at the same time at the Dhammakaya Temple.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Loi Krathong Greetings from Chiang Mai!

Chiang Mai at night has been illuminated by brightly colored lanterns for weeks before the big Loi Krathong celebration.

Loi Krathong is one of the most colorful holidays in Thailand!

"Loi" means "to float" and a "krathong" is traditionally made from a section of the banana tree.  The krathong looks like a small boat which is decorated with flowers, sticks of incense and a candle.  During the night of the full moon, Thais will float their krathong on a river, canal or a pond lake.

Loi Krathong at Watt Dok Kham in Chiang Mai

The first day of Loi Krathong began for me, at Watt Dok Kham where I helped the women prepare the ingredients for the special food to be cooked by the men that evening.

Novice "Bomb" stirring the special "celestial" food.
The ingredients included coconut milk, some 25 pounds of sugar, 20 cans of sweetened condensed milk, brown cane sugar, roasted peanuts, seseme seeds, cinnamon and cooked sticky rice.

It is believed this celestial food was given to the Buddha by a woman, which when he ate,  ended the Buddha's period of extensive fasting as the way to enlightenment.  The heavenly food is cooked for three to five hours on the night before the full moon, and is eaten on the morning of the full moon.

How did this celestial food taste?  Heavenly of course!

Watt Dok Kham in Chiang Mai .... here was where I spent the first day of Loi Krathong.  Helping to stir these large wok was a real job!  The cooking of the coconut milk started at 7:00 p.m. but the final product was not done until nearly 10:30 p.m.!  By the end, stirring as difficult since the consistency of the mixture was that of thick fudge.... heavy.... but one had to keep stirring so the mixture would not burn to the bottom of the wok.

Loi Krathong Parade in Chiang Mai

The 2010 Loi Krathong parade in Chiang Mai held all the pageantry and splendor of ancient Siam!  Beautiful women wearing colorful exotic silk dresses, riding on  illuminated and intricately carved floats brought back another time ..... 

Saturday, Sunday and Monday nights saw the streets of Chiang Mai crowded with people, as the looked on in awe of the marvelous floats, musicians, and dansers, who slowly moved along the main avenue entertaining those who'd come to celebrate Loi Krathong.

The glory that was ancient Siam!

Each of the 3 nights, the three hour parade, slowly made its way through the crowded streets of Chiang Mai.

Yi Peng - Loi Krathong in Chiang Mai - lanterns!

Yi Peng at Watt Dok Kham in Chiang Mai.... with the full moon high in the sky, the lantern floated up to talk with the moon.... or did it?

Yi Peng, the second month of the northern Thailand Lanna calendar, and Loi Krathong, the full moon of the 12th month are celebrated at the same time. 

Lanterns, made out of rice paper, are sent into the night sky during the celebration of Yi Peng and Loi Krathong.  Yi Peng is a northern Thailand celebration, dating back to the 13th century Lanna Empire of Chiang Mai.

The rice paper lanterns are launched into the air where they resemble large flocks of giant fluorescent jellyfish gracefully floating by through the sky as the air currents move them back and forth across the night sky.

Chiang Mai Loi Krathong - honoring the Buddha and an offering to the water spirit.

2010 Loi Krathong Greetings....
Chiang Mai, Thailand!

Loi Krathong wishes and blessings.

Loi Krathong flower boat made of banana leaves, orchids, incense sticks and a candle.

Loi Krathong takes place on the evening of the full moon of the 12th month in the traditional Thai calendar. 

On this night, the Thai people honor the Buddha, by placing a candle on a banana leaf boat, which they release into the river.

Apart from venerating the Buddha with light (the candle on the raft), the act of floating away the candle raft is symbolic of letting go of all one's grudges, anger and defilements, so that one can start life afresh on a better foot.

Many Thai believe that floating a raft will bring good luck, and they do it to honor and thank the Goddess of Water, Phra Mae Khongkha.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

You traveled an Andes Death Road .... because?

To attend a four day celebration of the Virgin of Camen.....
I traveled nearly four hours by bus to the isolated Andes town of Paucartambo.....

To be part of a huge crowd of people who´d come to Paucartambo to participate in this annual festival......  
But to get to Paucartambo, I had to travel in an ancient bus along dusty roads that clung to the side of the Andes Mountains.....

Non stop switch back roads that had the bus slowly climbing the mountain, only to descend into the valley ..... and then repeat the process of climbing and descending over and over and over ..... for hours!

The road through the Andes Mountains to Paucartambo was so narrow, two vehicles would nearly touch as they met ..... leaving the one vehicle practically falling off into the valley thousands of feet below.

The views were spectacular, but the drop offs were far beyond scary.....

The narrow mountain road was packed with vehicles .... and even though the road was extremely dangerous, many of the vehicles were driving much faster than the road allowed....

Slowly down the switchback  mountain road to the valley below.... then the slow climb up the  mountain on along the switch back mountain road...

Rock slides was an ever present problem.... huge boulders lay on the road, sometimes blocking half of the road.  A massive rock slide, just after my early morning bus had passed, closed the narrow road for hours as huge construction equipment slowly cleared all the debris from the road.
And I traveled this life threatening road.... to be part of a large mass of people who´d all come go Paucartambo to.....
See the Virgin of Carmen ...... and party!
Here´s the kicker!  I could find no place to stay in Paucartambo so I had to return to Cuzco the same day.... only my retun along this Death Road was now in the dark!

Come see the Virgin of Carmen

The Virgin of Carmen in the Paucartambo Catholic Church
After riding for 4 hours along a dusty gravel road in a old bus, I too wanted to see the Virgin of Carmen!

All afternoon long, groups of colorful dansers entered the church to ador the Virgin of Carmen.
Even a llama came into the church to be with the Virgin of Carmen!  Hmm the llama´s ears laid back.... not sure its too happy with all the commotion!

The Catholic Church in Paucartambo

The Catholic Church of Paucartambo with crowds forming in the plaza.

Many of the groups that performed in the plaza in front of the Church, brought with them a miniture version of the Virgin of Carmen that lead the procession into the Church.

Upon entering the Catholic Church, to the left was an area where people could light candles and pray.

The walls of the Catholic Church were filled with statues of Jesusm Mary or Saints.

The Virgin Mary
View of the alter in the Catholic Church at Paucartambo, with the figure of the Virgin of Carmen on the left with red cloth background.

Closer view of the alter in the Paucartambo Catholic Church.  The alter is carved cedar wood, covered with 24 and 18 caret gold.  The oilpaintings are some 500 or more years old.

Bright feather hats danse and sing for the Virgin of Carmen

More masks for the Virgin of Carmen!

Doesn´t she look just so pretty!

Not all of the masks wre beautiful..... there were some really ugly, scary masks too!