This morning Nok, Madeleine ( a new volunteer from seattle), Serena, and I went to Serena's preschool. While there I led twenty something kids in thier ABCs and they graciously responded with the Thai alphabet. Next we recited numbers in both languages, me learning just as much as them. The school has a rickety playground, a dining area with a long tike sized table, and a cool room for napping time. While simple, I never felt like the place was lacking or poor. When the idea of iPads or vast neon play areas is not a possibility, the basic social interaction and physical needs of the children seem to be enough to send them on a straight path in life. The three teachers and cafeteria lady ( I think they might look grandmotherly and succinct in every cafeteria around the globe) run the show with Nok sometimes helping, as Serena is unwilling to part on the days she goes to school. After a lunch of noodle dish, apples, and cookies was fed to the kids, we went down the road for some noodles of our own and to pick up egg shells and banana peels for a new compost pile.
While in town, I spent a few minutes in the local temple. I was graciously admitted to the blessedly cool room by the resident monk. Inside there were six Buddhas. The two biggest were snow white and coal black. On the back wall was a mural depicting mountains and rivers back dropping a verdant tree bursting with life of all kinds. The side walls were graced with hand paintings of parables. Akin to stain glassed windows, each held a story. I imagined what they could be: one was Sampson slicing his long ponytail near the river, the woman holding her child as a man snuck out the window was some spirit delivering a child in the night, and of course thre were many teaching moments by tranquil water as old taught young all their mistakes and successes. In the shade inside the walls of the temple I felt somewhat at home, imagining a similar scene at various churches across Wisconsin. The weary patrons ( me because of heat and the ones at home due to snow and cold) finding some solace in a holy place on a special day. Carols and parables to weather life's storms.
That afternoon, After mixing up the compost pile, we spent some time fashioning stakes for the asparagus out of bamboo. I learned more words from Pee Hom and time slipped by under a sun much hotter than any winter one I'm used to. After a bucket shower in my new solar heater (a black bucket), I spent the evening helping with dinner and tossing a laughing Serena up into the sky which was lit with a blazing sunset over the mountain. Now a golden crescent moon stands in the suns place and dims the nearest of the numerous stars. There are no carollers, jingle bells, or reindeer here in the Thai mountains. Today was not even a full day off of work. It was hard to really believe that December 25th was upon me. However like a constellation recognised halfway around the world, Christmas was a solid similarity that gave me a line in the sky back to all the people I care about in the world, all sharing in a common holiday. So whether you are tucked up with cocoa next to a Yule tide flame, sipping piña coladas on some beach, or simply enjoying time with those you love, one farm bum in Thailand is wishing you a very Merry Christmas indeed.