The seventh week of PST was a bittersweet one, as we said goodbye to our practicum classes. Well, sort of. After week seven, YinD volunteers don’t teach in classroom settings anymore, but rather spend the remaining weeks of technical training planning a camp and volunteer project with our fellow trainees. Yes, our students are our camp attendees and project participants, but it’s just not the same.
While it’s true that these students can barely speak my native language and I can barely speak theirs, it’s seriously amazing how well we’re able to communicate. A smile, shrug or sad face really do have universal meanings and, regardless of setting, a friendly face is always a nice sight.
After a long week of practicum, Thai language lessons and additional language tutoring sessions, I was beyond ready for the weekend’s non-studious activities. I spent Friday evening with my host mom and aunt as they tried to “teach” me how to make pad thai at home. For those who don’t yet know, pad thai is about as generic as Thai food gets, but that’s so okay with those of us who could literally eat it constantly. (Okay, not constantly because I recently was served it for breakfast and was totally unable to eat the whole thing, but you get what I mean.)
Remember when I said I was making cooking strides with my host mom because she finally let me pour oil into the pan? Yeah, that privilege was quickly revoked during the pad thai lesson. Even my mere suggestion of helping resulted in giggles and full on laughs from both sisters.
Regardless of my ability to assist with the process, the pad thai turned out to be a huge success and I’ve now decided that all pad thai should be served with lime because the addition makes it infinitely more delicious. If you haven’t tried it yet, do yourself a favor!
Saturday brought our much-needed Rest Day, the first Saturday we’ve had completely free since arriving in Thailand. Lazy Saturdays are definitely not a thing here, but I had a perfectly relaxing day none the less. I spent the day doing laundry, milling around the market with my friend, Gen, and going for a relaxing bike ride with a small group of trainees. We ended up at a riverside restaurant, where we enjoyed Pepsi and Chang (Thai beer), and talked the hours away.
I attended my first Thai wedding on Sunday morning, which was an experience, none the less! A neighbor of my friend, Sarah, was getting married and Sarah’s host mom invited a couple of us to attend the wedding with her. We were to be dressed and at the neighbor’s house (site of the wedding) by 9:00am, a time apparently typical for Thai weddings. What we didn’t know was that the party actually started well before sunrise and by arriving around 9:00am, we were actually very late to the party.
Shortly after our 9:00am arrival, the groom’s procession started, during which the groom, his family and friends made their way to the bride and her entourage. Processional participants carry cookies, candy, gifts, money and other items with them as offerings to the “barriers” they encounter along their route. The barriers are members of the bride’s family or friends who literally hold strings, belts, necklaces or ropes up in front of the groom to keep him from making his way to the bride. As tradition has it, the bride’s barrier people must make the groom prove his love and worth before he is allowed to see and marry his bride.
One of my favorite parts about the processional was the sugar cane stalks and banana trees that were carried in at the end of the parade. The sugar cane symbolizes hopes for the couple to enjoy a sweet marriage together. In a not-so-subtle way, the banana trees symbolize hopes for the couple’s fruitful marriage. The trees at this wedding even had pink and blue ribbons tied around them! Again, very subtle.
After the groom reached his bride, who was waiting in the upstairs part of her parent’s house, the wedding guests crammed inside the one room to see the ceremony take place. As the token foreigners at the wedding, we were, of course, invited up and positioned right in front of the action. In complete honesty, I have absolutely no clue what actually took place during said ceremony, but after a couple of minutes the couple stood up and re-positioned themselves in another part of the room. After this, every wedding guest tied string bracelets around the wrists of both the bride and the groom, wishing them good luck and congratulations as they did so. I guess it’s sort of a Thai receiving line, if you will. The best part about the receiving line was that Sarah’s host mom volunteered her to be the one handing out string to each and every wedding guest.
When the string tying procession was finished, everyone dissipated back downstairs where the meal was waiting. Fish, pork, rice, vegetables, noodles and many, many more dishes littered our tables, as did bottles of water, soda and Hong Tong, the ever-present Thai whiskey. Keep in mind that by the time we sat to eat “lunch” it was barely 10:00am. Needless to say, I did not partake in the 10:00am “whiskey on the rocks” tradition, but there were certainly many guests who did.
After eating and taking many wedding photos with the happy couple (who had no idea who we were, mind you), the four of us made our way back to Sarah’s host house and hung out until our neighborhood English lesson.
For a “rest weekend”, it certainly was both eventful and memorable. The days and weeks seem to fly by here, but our rest weekend was a good reminder that we must take time for ourselves between the chaos and busyness of Peace Corps pre-service training.