Saying ‘goodbye’ is colored by our culture. Thai people are community-minded and want everyone to be happy and so, saying goodbye is difficult and laden under-played feelings that are punctuated with ceremony. Ceremony is BIG here.
Today at the goodbye to one school they did it all. A big lunch for teachers, catered and loaded with veggies and fruit. Many farewell speeches and gifts to present to me. Photographs were taken at every turn.
The ‘student-entered’ good bye was a ‘string ceremony’ where each student tied a ‘blessed cotton string’ on my wrist accompanied with wishes of good luck, safe travels, and happiness in life. I received a hundred hand-made love notes from students with beautiful art work.
There was a special holy man who officiated, chanted in Laos (the local Essan dialect), sprinkled magic water with floating powder on me with a branch of flowers and then, on everyone. The more water that landed on you the better off you will be. Periodically, when he would end a thought, everyone ‘yelped’ to add emphasis.
Thai people are reserved, quiet spoken (so they always use a microphone) and don’t show emotions. This American, however, is the opposite. I wept and laughed and tried to stay present, looking in the eyes of each well-wishing person.
Today I wore flowers in my hair. I was saved by a ‘goodbye’ song I learned in PCV training. The uke and music has been my ‘magic broom’ here.