Thursday, April 11, 2013

Buat Chang anyone?

This week, we returned from our mid-service conference where we had 3 days worth of mostly great sessions and were honored with the appearance of a special guest speaker, Surin Pitsuwan who enlightened us on many issues pertaining to this country we are trying so hard to serve. Following that was medical check-ups, the standard western food bank account draining ritual, and then for me an early return to sight while Erin waited for her childhood friend Sherron to arrive in BKK.

I opted to come back early based on an invitation that E and I had received from a teacher in a neighboring village. He told us that on the 7th of April, there would be a Buat Chang (lit. transl: elephant ordination) in Sukhothai, and that we were invited to attend with him should we be free that day. Erin had to decline the invite straightaway because of arrangements that were already made with Sherron. I told the guy that I would like to go and would call him when I returned from BKK to make arrangements. For some reason I got the feeling that the offer was less viable when he knew Erin would not come, but I had already decided that an elephant ordination sounded like something I had better at least try to attend.

Fast forward to when I do return to site early. My buddy, fellow volunteer and Americanist, JM, decided to come back with me and stay for a few days. Immediately upon arriving at site Saturday evening, I called the teacher to make arrangements. Over the phone, I could pick out only that he had some sort of excuse as to why he could not go, and that he was "not free". I told him that was no problem and that I would call someone else. So I did, and was able to recruit another friend, Pi Noi, who said she had nothing to do and would be glad to take the trip with us. Incidentally, the original teacher called back five minutes later and was excited to offer that he had found a friend who would take me in his stead. He was also quite surprised to hear that I had already found another ride.

The next day we departed my house at 7:17 AM to get to Si Satchanali by 9. We were surprised by my friend Noi's early arrival, because usually a 7:30 plan equals an 8:15 (or later) departure.

This is where the text part of this story ends and the photographic part begins. Once a year, only in this province, an elaborate ceremony is put on for a group of young men who are entering the monk-hood. How do you enter the monk-hood with true style you ask? On an elephant.