The floating house
07.11.2006 30 °C
Here I am, back in my usual seat at the Baan Unrak bakery/internet cafe. Baan Unrak (House of Joy) is another children's home, part of the Neo-Humanist foundation, only it's much bigger, is run by three women (Didis, aka sisters) and has by far the better facilites due to recent donations from some bigass bangkok company. Just had an incredible weekend - it was Loi Krathong, the Buddhist Light Festival, celebrating the end of the rainy season. Everybody makes little boats out of banana trunk and leaves, filled with incense, money and a candle, makes a wish and sets them free to float across the river by the light of the full moon. It was so beautiful to see the candles reflecting off the black ripply water. The boys got upset when their candles went out so they just dove(dived?damn these americanisms) into the water fully clothed and swam out to retrieve and re-light them.
Our wee school of rock played twice over the weekend, complete with the new banner we spent ages making!
Instead of paying to ferry everyone back and forth, Dada hired a floating house for the night, and there we frolicked, 42 kids, us 4 volunteers (Lindsay's cousin Kate is now here)and 2 dadas. We spend the entire time swimming around, diving off rafts and canoes, trying to keep our mouths shut tight after Musti informed us of exactly how the on-boat toilet worked..
Some of the younger kids can't yet swim so i put on a lifejacket and acted as their buoyancy aid - it's pretty tough trying to tread water with 3 kids grabbing round your neck.
The boy's concert was excellent on the first night, made quite a bit of money towards their college fund - though the unanticipated arrival of a dada from Baan Unrak and his impromptu ( and rather rubbish) Jimi Hendrix impression resulted in the manager retracting his offer of a venue for future gigs by the boys. I'm going to make sure he knows quite how sucessful his performance was.
Naoki and Olan's mother is here - she finally saved enough money to visit, and now is asking for a job at the home, which unfortunately Dada is unable to offer, being already in dire straits financially. it's so nice to see naoki with a spring in his step, barely leaving her side, and always wanting to do handclap games which we taught him, to impress his mother.
Bit of a fiasco at the home 2 nights ago, when one of the mother's psycho (and alcoholic) sons went on a rampage with a gun after a money dispute. The farm workers chased him off into the jungle and the police came. As a cautionary measure 2 dadas stayed at the volunteer house with us - one was an ancient crustacean of a man, visiting from india, with flowing beard and orange robes, then other being the new dada from the philippines who is pretty tiny and too has flowing locks (to ensure he doesnt attract women, apparently). Awoke in the morning to the bizarre sound of pounding on the walls accompanied by loud and stomach-hurling 'huh' sounds....I sent Musti off to investigate and he reported back that the ancient dada was engaged in a very energetic arms swinging, legs jumping tantric yoga dance. He kept it up for over an hour, incredibly.
I quizzed Dada1 last night about exactly what Neo-Humanism and its founding body Ananda Marga is and why does it claim not to be a religion when so much of what they do - the meditation, the tantric yoga and the various regimes they follow seem to similar to buddhism, hinduism and other indian religions. Dada2 (of the flowing locks) lent me a book to help with yoga, which also offers detailed guidlines on everything from washing your body to marital relations. Apparently we should hold our eyes open and splash water a mimimum of 12 times before eating. Women who are menstruating should take great care not to touch an adult male or exerting themselves unduly. And as for singing loudly or blowing a conch - forget it, at least until you're back in the 'safe zone'!
I didn't entirely understand his response, but basically he takes a much more rational approach to his spirituality, and is mosly concerned with his life devoted to community deveopment, rather than rigidly following guidelines which for the most part seem irrelevent to anything. He told me of a story he once heard a guru tell, ultimately boiling down to the notion of rationality. If a spiritual leader should say something illogical - ignore it; and likewise if a child should say something sensible and rational then accept it whole-heartedly.Most of Dada's ideas are concerned with the energy of the universe. "E=mc2", he explains to the older children regularly. "every action has an equal and opposite reaction". I guess it's similar to karma.
Every night the children have meditation, where they sing the words to an ancient mantra " baba Lam, ke va Lam", roughly translated as 'love is everything, everything is love'. Dada regrets that really the children don't think about or comprehend what they are singing so whole-heartedly and thus there wasn't much point in medidating. But the feeling of calm and comradeship which envelops you when you stand there singing with them surely is just as important, and gives them a real sense of security and community.
Which is exactly what these kids need.