We met the two new volunteers from Project Trust last week, our first week back in Phana after the summer break in England. The two girls are from Scotland so I guess they may still be just 17 years old. How young they are (and contrastingly, how old I am) was brought home to me in our first conversation.
One of them asked me "Do you have full moons in Phana?" and I was well launched into a response that centred on Buddhist Observance Days, lunar months and so on, having firstly assured her that we do indeed have full moons as well as quarter moons, half moons, new moons and no moons. When she laughed I suddenly realised that she and I were not speaking the same language and this had nothing to do with her being Scots and me being English. It had everything to do with the 50+ years difference in our ages and interests.
Oh well, nothing much I can do about that.
The subject was topical because two nights later it was full moon.
Pensri had said that she was interested to try to follow the customs as they were when she was a girl. This particular month's tradition is to pay respect to ancestors, and Pensri had almost certainly not been in the village at this time of year for more than 50 years.
So before going to bed, Pensri prepared for the ancestors a dish of food which she intended to put outside at dawn the following day. Dawn in this case meant the official time of 3.30 a.m. when we would be awoken by the temple drum. But just in case we were not, I set the alarm, too.
Here is the dish of special delicacies (traditional ones, people know what the ancestors like) that she prepared. You may be able to see two small pieces of toast, one with marmalade and one with marmite, and a chunk of cheese. These were for my mother, Pensri said, because she might be out in the garden too on this special night.
We were woken by the temple drum, and soon afterwards here was Pensri out in the garden with her offering to the ancestors.
You may have noticed a certain creature heading for the dish. I am not certain whether Thai snails fancy marmite, but I am very sure that my mother would not have wished to share her little feast with such company. Or is this a manifestation of her karma, I wonder? As we turned to go back indoors, the moon was even more dramatic than it had been earlier.
But this was not yet the end of the old-style traditions. Pensri was up again at 6 a.m. ready to take an offering to the monks at Wat Burapha, where the ashes of her parents are interred.
This offering to the monks is made in the form of a raffle, the name of the monk and the number of the offering matching. The idea is that no monk will be personally singled out even though some offerings may be more elaborate or more delicious than others.
Pensri had a great time there, and all her various relatives were pleased to see her. The old ways certainly live on in Phana.