Saturday, October 29, 2011

Monkfest 2011

Today was an exciting annual event in the village which volunteers have named Monkfest 2011!

For Monkfest, the village youth club, whose members range in age from 15 to 30, in conjunction with Sipicorn, our resident village monk, invited 20 monks to the temple. Almost every household in Huay Pakoot brought a donation tree up to the temple to be raffled off to the monks. The donation trees were beautifully decorated and on the trees were money, as well as other useful things like soap, toilet paper, and snacks. Some of the donation trees were made of actual bananas trees with bamboo stakes stuck into them, serving as the branches, with the leaves being all the goodies for the monks.Volunteers hiked up to the temple around 8am, just in time for a delicious breakfast of savoury rice and pork soup. We watched as everything was set up. There were chairs with an awning over it, tables for the donation trees, speakers and music, and many youth club members cooking food in the temple’s kitchen. It was amazing to watch the whole village slowly arrive at the village. Everyone had donned their traditional Karen clothing, along with some volunteers including Lindsay who was decked out in a long white dress and beautifully woven head wrap. The villagers brought the large donation trees in the backs of trucks, or even on motorbikes. By around 10am all the trees had arrived and several were raffled off to a few of the monks. Each tree was assigned a number and the monks drew numbers randomly out of a large silver bowl. The next event was lunch, which was really good! We gorged on pumpkin stir-fry, spicy pork, fish soup, cabbage stir-fry, noodle soup, and many other amazing dishes. Lunch was followed by a long prayer session, and then the rest of the trees were raffled off. By about 2pm the villagers began dispersing and cleaning up. It was a very full and fun morning, the best part maybe being the 5 baht ice cream cones being sold out of the front of a motorbike.
But Monkfest 2011 continued after dinner. At 8pm the whole village reconvened back at the temple for cultural music and dance performances. They built a bonfire, had a few fireworks, and then the show began. Six teenagers dressed in beautifully long white dresses performed a traditional Karen dance, followed by a few songs played on a traditional instrument which looked like the combination of a harp and a guitar. However, the highlight performance was traditional bamboo dancing where bamboo is placed on the ground and the dancers jump over the bamboo. Overall, the whole GVI Thai Elephants team felt privileged to be invited to take part in such an amazing festival.