Two Embarrassed Fools Chasing a Monk

Walking along the road with a sack and a bowl

At 7am last Friday morning, I ran after a monk. Bel (an intern from Canada) and I had adamantly decided to wake up early, eat breakfast at the local restaurant, and then watch the beautiful procession of monks walk by. This was literally what I thought I would happen. The only thing of the three that did happen was: I woke up early.

 We heard from a Thai friend that the monks would be walking by around 6:30 for their alms. I must’ve been pretty excited for the morning because I promptly woke up 10 minutes before my alarm (which I promise you, never happens when I’m at school). I got up, went to the second floor to make sure Bel was awake – I did not want to miss these monks (although, not sure how I could have when an orange procession is walking down the street). So we headed out the door at 6:10 with cameras ready, groggy eyes, some baht (Thai currency) in our pockets and walked over a block for our breakfast. 

I am a foodie. I was extremely excited to eat at this neighboring local restaurant, which was recommended to us by our Thai friend, and I’m not quite sure if it should even be called a restaurant because it’s only open for 2 hours at the crack of dawn at a time when most people are still sleeping. We had been told it’s a really local place, more of a first come first serve type of restaurant and a place that only locals would know of. We walked a block, saw some tables, chairs, assumed it was the restaurant but noticed the gate was closed. I looked around, hoping we had walked too far and the restaurant was still open somewhere but sadly decided it was probably the place. The sign on the gate was written in Thai with red numbers saying, “5-6.” Apparently, we arrived ‘too late’ if that’s even possible in the wee hours of the morning. So we turned back and looked forward to the next best thing: monks.

I was surprised at how quickly light shines upon the world. I felt it was only minutes ago when I could just barely make out anything but when we got back to the Step Ahead center, the sun had already shown its face. We were making a simple breakfast in the kitchen when I saw through the glass doors, a single monk wrapped in an orange cloth walking barefoot along the road. I called out to Bel, ’Hurry up! The monks are coming!’ We grabbed our satchels of rice, ran outside and looked down the road where he had come, but there was no one else in sight.

I felt like a kid waiting for a very late parade.    

Feeling a bit dejected because my supposed to be exciting morning turned into a disaster. Until, low and behold I see a man in orange coming towards me. I looked at Bel and said, ‘Should we just give him our rice?’ You have to understand that although we didn’t specifically prepare this rice to give to the monks, we did cautiously wrap it in plastic wrap ready to give away. We debated what to do with our sad satchels of rice and I finally decided I didn’t want to my rice to go to waste, so I said, ‘Oh let’s just give it to him!’

Here comes the fun. We literally crossed the street and ran after him. Pretty sure he knew there were two Pharongs (Thai for ‘foreigners/ a White person’) chasing him. Pretty sure we looked utterly ridiculous running after a walking monk and even sillier because we had a handful of rice in our right hand and were holding our skirts with our left (You have to be conservatively dressed when meeting a monk). While we were running we decided it probably wouldn’t be good to sneak up and attack from behind, so we crossed back to the side of the street again and then frantically waved him down while trying not to look him in the eye. He accepted our plastic wrapped rice balls without any emotion or words and I will never forget the awkward in-between moments of wai-ing (palms together in a bow) to the monk and trying not to look up into his eyes and then even more awkwardly saying ‘Sawatdiikaa’ (hello) to the monk because I didn’t know what else to do. The image of our two little rice satchels sitting atop the filled bowl of rice (not wrapped in plastic) will forever be ingrained in my memory – it completely reflected how we didn’t fit with the cultural custom, how truly ‘pharong’ we acted that morning but how hilarious it all was as I look back on it. I hope we gave him something to laugh about on his barefoot journey back to the temple and that as he unwrapped the two little satchels of rice, that he would eat it with joy and laughter thinking about how two crazy North American girls had chased him down that morning.

Needless to say that morning was not as I expected.

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