Friday, December 26, 2008

A little Christmas cheer

Merry "shiner" Christmas !!! Now if she only had a few teeth knocked out too. I think it would tie the whole ensemble together. This is the gift that just keeps giving. This is what happens when you try to play soccer with the big boys. Poor Acacia has had two black eyes since coming to Thailand.

This was the day after Thanksgiving. We wanted to get in the Christmas spirit early this year. There are not that many reminders that it is Christmas around here. I don't think there is any snow in the forecast either.

Daddy's attempt to get a family Christmas picture. We tried to hold two of the cats on our laps, but they kept fighting so we opted for Tiger Lily.

Two of Santa's helpers showing off their nutcracker moves.

Ok, I lied about the snow forecast. We were able to take advantage of this small snow storm and plastered it against our sliding glass doors. I think the girls did a commendable job of making it look Christmassy.

Acacia showing off her favorite Christmas present the siamese webkins kitty on the right. She got her first webkins which she is carrying in her right hand from her good friend Brooklyn. Acacia loves her webkins more than anything in the world. In fact she has to go to a webkins anonymous meeting soon for her addiction. Thanks Karen!!

Shelly is supervising the girls with cracking their walnuts and almonds that they found in their stockings. The girls middle names are Fearless and Danger and they are interchangable for both girls. Hence the need for close supervision!

This is Christmas Eve night with all the Christmas lights on in the house. Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.

Acacia making the black eye look vogue. Christmas style

Acacia and her friend Yurina at her school Christmas program.

Acacia and her class playing Christmas songs on the recorder. They did a great job.
Proud of you honey!

Anna at her school Christmas program sporting the traditional Christmas grass skirt. I think Anna is going to be in the theater someday. She loves being on stage. You go girl!!

Merry Christmas everybody!!!!!
Love Brett, Shelly, Acacia and Annapurna

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Magha Puja Day

Magha puja day is considered one of the most important Buddhist celebrations. It refers to the worship that takes place on the full moon of the third lunar month (about the last week of February or early March) to commemorate the day on which Lord Buddha recited the "Ovadha Patimokkha" (the Fundamental Teaching) to his disciples.

This day marks the great four events that took place during Lord Buddha's lifetime, namely;

The time of the full moon in the third lunar month,

1,250 Buddhist monks from differents places came to pay homage to the Lord Buddha at Veluwan Temple in Rajgaha City of Magaha State, without any appointment,

all of them were Arahants (enlightened monks) who had attained the Apinyas (Six Higher Knowledges),

all of them had been individually ordained by Lord Buddha himself (Ehi Bhikkhu).

Later, the Magha Puja ceremony was widely accepted and performed throughout the country.

The evening of that day, Lord Buddha gave the assembly a discourse "Ovadha Patimokkha",laying down the principles of His Teachings to be followed by all Buddhists, summarized into three acts, i.e. to do good, to abstain from bad action and to purify the mind.

Magha Puja Day was never celebrated in Thai kingdom. King Chulalongkorn (Rama V) explained that "..the Magha Puja was never performed, the ceremony has just been practised during the reign of King Mongkrut (Rama IV) of the Chakri Dynasty". Having realized the importance of this day, King Rama IV ordered the royal Magha Puja Ceremony to be performed in the Emerald Buddha Temple in 1851 and to celebrate it yearly.

Later the ceremony was widely accepted and performed throughout the kingdom. It was declared to be a public holiday back then so everybody could go to the temple to merit and perform other religious activities in the morning and to take part in the candlelit procession or"Wien Tien" in the evening.

I set my alarm for 5am to drive out to witness this spectacular site of Buddhism. There were actually about 10,000+ Buddhist monks participating in this yearly ceremony. The first picture on this post was taken at 5:30am

I've never seen so many saffron robes in my life. It was amazing how quiet this place was despite the enormous amount of people here.

These are alms bowls that the Buddhist monks fill daily with food solely from the generosity of the Thai people. The Thai people in turn gain merit by giving food to the monks.

People came out in throngs, some of the little ones were a little tired but awfully cute!

The Thai people praying and paying their respects during the ceremony. The monks recited a chant for about 20 minutes and then they formed long lines to receive food from the observers

It was an incredible site to see so many people fill the streets.

I liked this shot for its surreal ghost like appearance. These two shots were taken earlier in the morning. Everywhere I looked I kept seeing monks coming from the side streets to take their place. It felt like they were never going to stop coming.

It was interesting to see the wide age ranges of the monks. Some of the monks looked like they were around 8 or 9 years old and some were obviously pretty old.

There was a stage set up in the middle of the street with monks sitting in chairs on each side of the stage. 5,000+ on one side and another 5,000+ monks on the other. They had 4 senior monks on stage performing the ceremony

This is my good friend Rachel who lives on this street and was not originally intending to watch this ceremony, but she had no choice because the whole street was blocked off and she couldn't really go anywhere. She lives on the 2nd floor of this building and I wanted to get some overhead shots. I asked if I could go up to her apartment to get some good shots. We were standing next to her landlord who has an apartment on the 6th floor and he offered his place to take pictures. What a great guy!

This picture is looking in the other direction. All that orange is the thousands of monks. AMAZING!!!!

This is the last shot I took before leaving. I had to go because I am the under 11 year old girls basketball coach and we had a practice that morning.

I'm so glad that I had the opportunity to witness such a spectacular display of the Buddhist religion in action. Something I would never see in America.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

World AIDS Day December 1st, 2008

The estimated population of Thailand is 65,493,000 people of which approximately 614,000 are living with HIV/AIDS. These numbers can be further broken down to Adults 15 years and older who comprise 600,000 cases. Women aged 15 years and older make up 250,000 of the total adults. Children from birth to 15 years old account for 14,000 cases of HIV/AIDS. The estimated adult HIV prevalence rate in Thailand is 1.4%. Total number of AIDS related deaths reported in 2007 is 31,000 (UNAIDS).

December 1st commemorates World AIDS Day,unfortunately due to Thailand’s unstable political circumstances the World AIDS Day celebration was quite subdued. The original plan was to have a march of WAD participants from each corner of the moat to the center of town. The central part of Chiang Mai is surrounded by a moat. Speeches were supposed to be given and lots of networking between HIV/AIDS organizations. This was curtailed by the government’s fear of large groups of people gathering due to the recent protestor activity.

Church of Christ in Thailand AIDS Ministry(CAM) along with 6-7 other HIV/AIDS NGO’s and FBO’s organized a WAD celebration in the sub district of Saraphi located in the southern part of Chiang Mai. The celebration was a gathering of approximately 150-200 people with a stage and several HIV/AIDS information booths surrounding the perimeter of the facility. CAM manned an information booth and also constructed a “tree of love” which was made from branches of a real tree. CAM provided heart shaped paper cutouts and people were then encouraged to write a note of love and compassion for people suffering from HIV/AIDS. These heart shaped notes were then hung on the tree branches like leaves on the tree. It was to symbolize that we are all connected even though we may feel like we are way out on a limb it still leads back to the center of the tree. We are all a part of one big tree and that we are all affected by each other.

This morning I attended a prayer service held at one of the Church of Christ in Thailand (CCT) conference rooms. The service was attended by several church members who are under the CCT and also several community members outside of the CCT. The Christian Conference of Asia (CCA) and the Asian Interfaith Network on AIDS (AINA) were among the groups represented at the service. There was an advent service with the lighting of 3 candles. One young HIV positive girl was brought up to light a candle and was prayed for by an Elder in the community. The young girl and her younger sister acquired HIV after being raped and both are now living in a place called “House of Love”. “House of Love” takes in children that have been abandoned, orphaned and HIV positive. The children are primarily from Hill tribes and are more at risk since non Thais have difficult access to health care and services. At the end of the service we all wrote a note of love and compassion on our heart cutouts and tied them to the tree branch.

Ajan Sanan Wutti the Director of CAM who is also a reverend participated in preaching church sermons devoted especially to HIV/AIDS in Phrao and in Saraphi. We were surprised during his sermon to the Phrao congregation on the directness of his speech regarding the church’s responsibility to acknowledge and address HIV/AIDS in their community. This is not the typical Thai way of sending a message across. The Thai’s tend to be very indirect and issues especially ones that are sensitive in nature like HIV/AIDS are often talked about in a round about way. The response from the congregation was positive and we will monitor if it will have a lasting effect.

Please pray for the people of Thailand and their continued efforts to care for those suffering from HIV/AIDS.