Here, let me feel your arm

Trip Start Dec 28, 2004
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Flag of Thailand  , Roi Et,
Sunday, November 4, 2007

so where did i leave off at?  i think it was the unsanitary cooking conditions.  the thing i loved about the resident puppy "box" was that he was quite literally the families garbage disposal.  Thais don't buy dog food or cat food....they eat whatever happens to be left over and that little puppy could really pack it away.  i laugh when i think about the anal retentive pet owners in the west who worry when their dogs eat an ounce of table scraps, thinking it will cause immediate death and/or diarrhea.  believe me people, these animals survived for millennia without us and a little deep fried chicken never hurt anyone.

out of the entire gathered ninny clan, she is the only one who speaks English so it made communication a little difficult at times.  everyone was pretty patient and used ninny as a translator when they were curious or wanted to communicate something.  everyone that is except the grandmother who would just talk and talk to me and i had no idea what the woman was saying.  the grandmother is old school Thai....wearing the Thai silks and having the red stained rotted teeth of a committed betel nut chewer.  friendly lady, just don't ask her to smile lol.

i always forget how much of ninny's story i have told people or have written about so please forgive me if i didn't mention that she was married before to a man from her village.  not only from her village but just about directly across the street.  he lives in Zurich now but his family is still at the homestead and it was made clear to me that they would none to appreciative of ninny's new boyfriend.  it was actually recommended that i don't walk alone through the village due to a chance of not so random violence........it would have been nice if i was informed of all this before i got on the bus.  ninny's worry was for naught though and nothing happened other then a few dirty looks from random people passing on motorbikes.

after avoiding phantom angry ex in-laws for a few days it was now time for the festival or celebration of the dead.  of course this was in an entirely other village so at 6am about 25-30 members of ninny's family packed into 2 pick up trucks and started down the bumpy road on a 2 1/2 hour drive.  all the "younger" people were packed in the back of the trucks and let me tell you, i don't care if it is Thailand....6am is a very chilly time to be riding full bore down the road in the back of a truck.  the chill eventually wore off but my legs remained numb due to lack of blood flow...it all became very uncomfortable and to add insult to injury, ninny had stolen my ipod and was jamming to red hot chili peppers while i had nothing to listen to but the howl of the wind.  damn that girl.

the festival began with a large meal that was made of things that i mostly just couldn't eat.  i have a strong stomach and am pretty brave but these people would win ALL the money on fear factor without a problem.  the wife of the deceased man was sitting at the base of a makeshift Buddhist shrine surrounded by 30-40 other kneeling family members and she was kind of "receiving" well wishers.  ninny went over and knelt down and paid her respects and was talking to her.  not wanting to intrude upon the moment, i stood back and took a few pictures and did my best to make myself invisible.  after a few moment ninny motioned me over but i did my best to wave her off.  "Neal come....she is blind,she want to feel your hand"....well Jesus Christ, i felt like i was in the middle of the ray Charles movie or something but sure enough i went over and knelt down (making sure feet were pointing away....big Buddhist no no) and the old woman took my hand and commenced to giving me a good squeeze from my finger tips to my shoulder.  i looked at ninny questioningly but she just nodded and then said "OK...ba" which is "OK lets go".  i brought my hands up in the "wai" (thinking of two hand praying but up by the mouth or for head) in the sign of respect and then stood and walked away.

after the meal it was the afternoon hiatus time where everyone went in search of shade to take a nap.  i couldn't really sleep on concrete in that heat so i wandered around the village a bit and took a few pictures.  ninny found me and had convinced one of the pick up drivers to take us and two of her younger nieces to a really spectacular Buddhist temple about 30 kilometers away.  this place was still under construction but was already beautiful.  there were 6 floors to this huge shrine and each floor had a separate place to kneel and pray.  ninny and her nieces used all 6 places so it about took forever but at the top there was a walk way outside and i was afforded a wonderful view of the surrounding rice paddies.  sounds like a boring view but from above they have a geometric beauty of their own.

the second half of the festival was all of the family and guests walking around the village with a group of drummers and a guitarist following behind.  the entire village came out to watch the sort of parade and join in the dancing to the traditional music.  all of the people were carrying new robes and mats for the monks at the temple.  its a tradition in time of celebration to give the monks new robes and such in a sign of respect and humility.  my favorite thing to watch was ninny's cousin, a girl of considerable beauty, was caring a basket of small ribbons usually found on Christmas presents. the village children were mad for these things and what she would do was grab a handful of them and find an unsuspecting group of people sitting and watching the procession and then hurl the handful of ribbons in their midst.  the group of children would literally jump head first and all out bull over the sitting adults in an attempt to get their hands on the ribbons.  very strange but fun to watch.

the festival was good fun and just meeting so many people who were completely shocked to meet a farang who was in the middle of their celebration and who could eat their food and mumble a few of their words....it was all terrific fun.  i wish ninny's brother spoke English because him and his friends wanted to take me out to drink whiskey (the great male Thai past time) and even though i don't really drink, i think it would have been a good time.  i didn't go because it would be a little uncomfortable being with 5-6 guys who don't speak a lick of English.  all in all it was a great experience and i really enjoyed meeting her family.  I'm not sure if it will work out between ninny and i......there are a few obstacles and you just never know but at least i will always have the memory of the festival.
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