Since we arrived, I have been recording sounds whenever something struck me and I was able to open the voicememo app in time. It doesn't happen all that often, but some came out well. Here are some sounds that have stuck with me, and some stories that go with them. You may want a quiet room or headphones, a few of the audio files have low volume.
The Thai Visitation Song is more of a chant that was sung at the visitation for the husband of a co-worker. It is sung in an ancient language that few people understand - other than the Monks. We were sitting and eating food provided by the family of the deceased when they performed this song. Susan and I both found it striking.
Loy Krathong was our first big Thai celebration. At the Friendship Garden (where we live), the party was a very memorable night. This is one sample of the traditional music that was performed using large hand drums, guitar, and voice. The singer would change throughout the night, but I liked the emotion this voice displayed.
Not long after arrival we had our first lunch at Hands of Hope (or Mittapap - where Susan works). This recording is of her co-workers singing a prayer they do before nearly every meal, the patients also sing it at the Care Center (Botsoowan - where I work). We thought it was beautiful and were so glad to be reassured that music would be a part of our lives here.
Here is the sound that accompanied the picture I gave the following description:
Looking at this photo, actually reminds me of a sound. I will never forget the quietness that accompanied the harvesting of the rice. The quietness of of people slowly walking through a field of tall, dead grass. A swooshing and a soft crunching. A sound that belied the heat and physicality of bending over, pulling a bundle of rice toward you, grasping it with the other hand, and cutting the stalks.
This picture is of a group people living with HIV, whom are helping harvest the fields of the Sisters of Good Shepherd on their day off. Susan and I were just home from the hospital, so the walk to visit them took a lot out of us. Nonetheless, as we watched them, my heart longed for my body to have the energy to assist them.
In theory, winter has arrived. The main changes I have seen are some yellowing of dying leaves before they fall, and sometimes a strong breeze. We had a specifically windy night about a month ago, and I thought this recording captured some of the night sounds coupled with the rattling of the dry leaves of the banana and coconut trees behind our home.
Here is a popular Thai traditional song performed by a cover band at the Loy Krathong festival in NongKhai. We have heard this song sung many times since this performance, most recently by my co-worker Krisida at a Christmas party.
Okay, I promise I did not spend the entire Christmas Eve Mass focused on my phone and recording audio. With homesickness in full force at times over Christmas, we found the familiarity of the music comforting and the Thai singing beautiful. Wow!
The predominate gift exchanges are 'secret buddy' and 'lucky dip'. In early December we had a community night and everyone picked an ornament with a name on it. The fun twist on the 'Secret Santas' is that there is a box. Over the weeks before Christmas, you occasionally drop a little snack, gift, or just a piece of fruit for your buddy. On the day of the party we would sit in a circle, the above songs would play, and people would exchange gifts. It was one gift at a time, the person giving would stand, dance around as the music played, sometimes pretend to give the gift to someone, then dance some more, and eventually with a lot of laughter and excitement they would surprise their buddy.
At the, Mittapap Christmas, a group of people travelled from a distant village. Far enough, in fact, that they slept on the floor at Mittapap the day before and after. The group that came are afflicted by a considerable group of illnesses, and many are blind. The keyboardist and drummer were both blind. This is an improvisational style of music that is also common here in Thailand.
Another unexpected gem. At the Care Center Christmas party, the son of one of our co-workers mentioned that he played guitar. I grabbed my guitar and this is one of the songs he played and sang that evening. I believe this is a Thai pop song. Listen closely and you may recognize the harmonizing.
We ended the Christmas party with what seems to be a common Thai New Years song. Like once upon a time when 'Auld Lang Syne' seemed to be known by everyone in America, everyone knows the words to this song. There is a lot of pride around this song because it was written by the Thai King. Susan played it, which was touching to many who were there.
Hope you enjoyed the audio files, and look forward to sharing with you again! Happy New Year!