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Fried Ice Cream and Incense

During these final two days of our TEFL course, we’re going over “Thai cultural training” with our Thai recruiter, Pat. She showed us the tones and basic grammar of the Thai language and explained the significance of all the national holidays. Ironically, today was one such holiday: Khao Phansa, or the first day of Buddhist Lent.

Our soi seemed a bit more crowded than usual so we wandered back towards the temple after dinner to find the formerly-empty temple grounds bustling with people. There were vendors selling things we hadn’t seen on the streets yet, which made me particularly excited. I’m trying to soak up all the culture on Ramkhamhaeng before I move out into Nowhere’s Land (aka Nonthaburi) for my teaching placement. So yeah, I may or may not have had ice cream from the street on two separate occasions today.

Liz and I split a scoop of fried Milo-flavored ice cream. (I had coconut earlier today in case you were wondering.)

Bells were ringing, gongs were booming. Traditional songs were swirling through the air, mixing with the smoke rising from incense sticks and candles.

We slipped off our shoes and entered the gate into the temple. I was really excited to have the chance to see the inside because last time I visited, the gate was shut. Everyone was circling the temple clockwise to the slow pulse of the monks’ chants. The observers pressed their hands to their hearts in prayer as they walked. In between their palms they held a yellow candle, a flower, and a stick of burning incense. We circled.

The people kneeling inside the temple, also with their hands wai-style, spilled out the doors. When people were done praying, they bobbed their torsos down to the floor in a few quick bows and rejoined the circling observers.

I stayed behind and contemplated meditating while my classmates walked back to the hotel. I was too distracted by everything around me though and mostly just ended up sitting, breathing in the campfire smells and listening to the monks drone.

What a beautiful ritual. I didn’t know what was happening and I’m still not too sure, but it felt celebratory and spiritual and sometimes that’s all you really need.

Buddhist lent: fried ice cream and incense
Everyone milling around outside the temple. Excitement in the air, fried ice cream in our tummies.

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13 comments

  1. KimVo says:

    Hi MishVo,
    i’m enjoying getting to know your fellow teachers through your posts. Can’t believe the training is drawing to a close already. When does school start? I’m looking forward to hearing all about the class and the kids! KimVo

    • mishvo says:

      Heyyyyy momvo. Things with school are a bit complicated. We should really skype soon actually – I can’t believe I haven’t talked to you guys on skype yet…

  2. Ben says:

    Nonthaburi’s not so bad. Just a short bus ride in from most parts of Bangkok, including the Khao San area. A lot of the people at my school live in Bangkok and commute to Nonthaburi.

    • mishvo says:

      Well that’s good to hear!! I talked to a few people about it and they were all “Nonthaburi is industrial, it’s boring, it’s far…” which was definitely not fun to hear…Wait, so are you working in Nonthaburi too?

      • Ben says:

        It’s pretty much just an expansion/suburb of Bangkok. Used to be separate cities, but urban sprawl absorbed Nonthaburi. the main city has some nice parts, though not as many as Bangkok. The province does certainly have some middle of nowhere kind of areas.

        Yes, I am in Nonthaburi. My school is called Kasintorn st peter and it’s in Bangyai/Bang Bua Thong. Thankfully it’s right on several bus lines into different parts of Bangkok. Though, I am thinking of moving into the city at the start of next semester. The school provides a van for employees from Pinklao, just over the river from Khao San.

        Do you know if you’ll be in the Nonthaburi city or out in the province yet?

        • mishvo says:

          Ben!! They placed me in Kasintorn St Peter as well! I wonder if I could shoot you an email (what’s your email address?) and ask a few questions?

  3. nitinsaboo says:

    Congrats on your placement! but most importantly congrats to you and Liz for being able to have that ice cream. I havent tasted it, but i am thinking if it is being blogged about then either it must be really good or really bad and i want to be on the side of being optimistic!:)

    • mishvo says:

      Haha thank you Nitin! Yes – the ice cream was ahhhhmazing! I find that generally anything fried tastes really really good. By the way, I’m still working on Liz’s profile post, just taking my time…

  4. DaveO says:

    Interesting blog as always..
    where will you be living in Nonthaburi.? sounds like it won’t be to bad getting into Bangkok. I’ts cool that Ben is placed in the same school. That will make the transition easier. Love to Skype with you. Let’s do it…

    • mishvo says:

      Liz and I are supposed to be apartment hunting today with the recruiter so hopefully we’ll both find places we like near our schools. Haven’t heard back from Ben but hopefully I’ll get in contact with him and get to talk to him about the school and everything..I’m sure he’s just doing fun weekend things right now!

      Maybe skype this weekend? It’s impossible to arrange ’cause I don’t know where I’ll be or what Internet will be like….

  5. Ben says:

    Sure thing, My email address is benj.r.williams@gmail.com

    I’m away on Koh Phayam right now for the long weekend. no cars and intermittent electricity, but I’ll be back sometime Sunday night to respond to any questions you might haven, if not sometime before that.

    Otherwise I’ll see you at work sometime soon. (work . . . still don’t like the sound of that)

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