Monday, April 14, 2008

Sabaidee..... Lao New Year

~*

Saturday, I spent the day at the Lao New Year's celebration at Wat Lao Phosiesattanak in Sacramento. It was one of the most amazing days I have ever had in this state!

The food was delicious. The setting was beautiful. The people were wonderful! I was floating on a cloud all day long as I smelled the smells that reminded me so much of the food stalls in Khon Kaen. (And of course I ate too much! :) We feasted on chicken on a stick, gizzards on a stick, cabbage and beef balls, sticky rice, papaya salad, Thai iced tea and so many other things I can't remember. (And I complain about being fat. Oh well. :)

We watched beautiful traditional dancing and heard music that melted my soul. Those plaintive voices went right into my heart and stayed there, even though I don't understand a word of Lao. There are some very good singers among the membership and I wish there had been a CD to take home. I'd still be listening to it now!

People danced traditional dances on a floor that is located immediately before the singers. It was truly, truly wonderful! Out of respect, I didn't go up there to dance but, believe me, it was a temptation.

Women in beautiful traditional clothing (unfortunately, the pictures didn't turn out) danced and it was heavenly to watch. My friend Eric came all the way from Pleasanton to meet me there (he's going to heaven for that! :) and we both stood watching for at least an hour. I was almost brought to tears a few times by the beauty. I don't have the words to describe it. It's one of those "you had to be there" moments.

I think what struck me most was the kindness and the acceptance of the people I met. They were all kind beyond description, warm and open. Sometimes it's hard to tell when going into an ethnic environment how the people will respond, whether they might feel intruded upon by a farang. A lot of times, not because anyone is being mean or unkind, an unknown person who obviously doesn't belong somewhere can make others uncomfortable. They don't know my history or my attachment to Southeast Asia. They don't know my spiritual practice. They didn't know that my identification goes a bit beyond being "just a Thaiphile". They are my home.. and my heart. Still, on the surface I was just some white person wandering through their celebration. It is their celebration. They made it mine as well. Not once did I feel out of place or awkward.

Sidebar: (Yes, that is me in the picture and truly, I am not that big! I'm a big girl, yes.. but, geez, the camera added at least 15 pounds! Allow me this moment of vanity. Eric took the picture and I'm sure he would acknowledge that he is only the photographer, not a miracle worker. :)

There were a few incidents that confirmed the level of acceptance for me. This is a bit esoteric but stick with me a moment. One woman I'd never met in my life came up to me and said "Were you chanting?" This is not a common or typical question. The truth is that I do not chant, have never chanted and don't feel any draw to it. I am more attracted to the Forest Tradition. Yet she asked me - and that is the sort of question one would ask a friend, a sister or a daughter. She was really telling me that I should chant.

That is the sort of interaction that only takes place in an environment where one is accepted.

I also had an interesting discussion with a woman who gave me some important insights into the current situation in Laos. She educated me well and I am hoping I will be able to talk her into writing a guest post for this blog. Don't be surprised if you see her here. She is a lovely person and passionate about her homeland - with just cause.

There was only one particular moment of embarrassment when another white woman showed up in short-shorts and a tank top - at a Buddhist temple. Suffice it to say that is not appropriate attire at a temple - and she was walking around with a beer in one hand and a cigarette in the other. I was grateful that she didn't walk up to the Seng See or the praying area like that.

I was embarrassed for her and myself which would require a longer explanation that I can offer at this moment. Those who know what I mean will know what I mean. If anyone else wants a more complete explanation, leave a comment and I will write you privately.

Overall though, it was a fabulously renewing experience that I absolutely treasure. If they'll have me again, I can't wait for the next celebration. It's my refuge while I am still here. Thank you to everyone at the wat who may read this. Thank you.

~*

23 comments:

Anvilcloud said...

A touch of home, eh? Must have felt good.

flutter said...

How wonderful!

flutter said...

How wonderful!

QT said...

It looks like fun ~ I love to go to the different ethnic/cultural celebrations here - I will admit, mostly for the food! I am glad you found a welcoming environment, Chani. It must have been a nice reminder of what you are headed towards.

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

How lovely to have a breath of rejuvenation! I'm so glad you had that experience.

Los Angelista said...

What a wonderful time, Chani! Your skirt in that photo is BEAUTIFUL! Wow! It totally matches the backdrop of the buildings. And ugh, about the lady in the shorts. I feel embarrassed for her too.

Olivia said...

Ahhh, Chani! I see. We both connected with our hearts to our heart-home. How wonderful! I am thrilled to share this with you. Love, O xxoo

Janet said...

I'm so pleased for you, that you have found this refuge to recharge your soul, until you can reunite with the place you feel truly at home.

PS I'm glad you posted the picture of yourself. I think you look great! I always like putting a face to the writer.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

I love the inclusiveness of so many other cultures that seems totally lacking here.

I'm very glad that you have found some spiritual sustenance for your remaining time in the West. It is unlikely that anyone would have identified you as belonging with the shorts and cigarette person when the only trait you share is skin color. And as we know, that is the least of who we all are.

Thank you for sharing those wonderful pictures. And yes, the camera adds 20 pounds to everyone, I've heard. I avoid being photographed as much as possible so I can't say for sure, though. You looked lovely, and happy.

Julie Pippert said...

It sounds like a wonderful time, and so glad you had it. Weather looks perfect!

the psycho therapist said...

Happy for you! Home.
Happy to see you! At last.
Hello, hello.(smile)

RKK said...

I am so happy for you Chani!

Perhaps the warmth and the good energy you felt was but a reflection of that which you yourself put forth.

painted maypole said...

so glad you had a fantastic day. and lovely to get an outward glimpse at this beautiful woman I'm getting to know from the inside out.

(and to answer your question on my blog, yes, that Susan Cowsill)

Princess in Galoshes said...

How cool there was a Leo New Year celebration where you are... Denver is, sadly, still lacking. But it sounds like a wonderful time. :-)

Rima said...

I'm so glad you had such a good experience there, Chani. Your burst of happiness came through loud and clear in this post!

Jonah K. Haslap said...

American tourists could give an ulcer to Buddha himself. You should have planted narcotics on them, it's not like we want them back here anyway.

jen said...

First, how fabulous to see your picture.

Second, I'd LOVE to read a guest post about what's going on in Lao

Third, what a terrific day.

JCK said...

It sounds like you found your little slice of heaven in Sacramento!

Molly said...

I agree with what RKK said!Glad you had such a nice time...

Mariposa said...

Been so busy lately...just got back here...and so nice to read this one! Glad to hear you had fun...and love the photos!!! ;)

Jas said...

It was a new yr on 13th in my city in North India, and i realised its so in so many parts across south asia!!
and thats when I came to know about the thai fests and celebrations.
that explains how i came to ur blog :)

nice writing, will keep coming here!

hele said...

It warms my heart to see you finding family closer to home

Sober Briquette said...

That is SOOOO great. Glad you went and enjoyed yourself so much.