For the Farang visitor to Thailand one of the big draw cards to the Kingdom is the sociability of the Thai people. Definitely not a nation of loners, Thais tend to do everything in groups – work, play, and study –a country where friendships more often than not are made for life. In fact if you are a person fond of your own space, well in Thailand you will find many intruders.
What makes it all seem to work is that wonderful Thai expression –“Sanuk” which literally means fun but is so much deeper than that. Anything that is seemingly important needs to have a fun element. Never more so than in important cultural events such as Monks ordinations, Kathin, Weddings, House Blessings – even Funerals which tend to be dreaded like the plague in the West.
The colour and the spiritual values of the above mentioned events are what make them significant. What makes them work in a practical sense is the sweat and enthusiasm of ordinary people. Nowhere is this more apparent than at the grassroots level in Thai villages.
When a villager plans a wedding, housewarming etc – they accept that several days of frenetic pace and hard work will be involved – but immediately help is at hand. As soon as word is spread Family, friends and neighbours instinctively offer their help. The two most important tasks to be completed are setting up the physical environment of the celebration and of course the food.
First stop then is the Village Temple. Many village Temples through donations over the years acquire a large inventory of equipment such as Marquees, tables, chairs, pots/pans, plates and cutlery. These items are seen to be a Community resource and loaned out to villagers for important functions with the obvious caveat that they be returned.
No ceremony could be considered important without the presence of Village Monks. As such food is very important at these ceremonies so that a meal can be offered to the Monks and for all the other guests to be fed afterwards. The acquiring of all this food is one of the immediate tasks. This normally involves taking a vehicle to the morning market of the nearby town to buy the meat, fruit and vegetables that will be needed for the vast array of Thai dishes that will be offered at the celebration.
By the time the truckload of food arrives the Marquees are being erected, tables and chairs being set up and tasks in general dealt with the efficiency of the “roadies’ at a Rolling Stones Concert. The opening photograph in this Blog shows the arrival of the Marquee. The Marquee had been in use at a Village wedding and was simply picked up by a bunch of the boys in the village and taken to a new location in the village for a House blessing that was being planned.
The next task is the chopping, dicing and cooking of the mountain of food that was purchased at the market. These tasks are dealt with efficiently but in a very Thai way. No sweatshop here.
The hard work is interspersed with laughter, beer and whisky drinking with a lot of impromptu horseplay. Somebody will wake up the sound system with its large mounds of speakers (Also borrowed from the Temple) and soon there is music to work by.
Once all the work is done, everything magically comes together and the ceremony/celebration is a success. Sitting down and eating and enjoying the beautiful food makes all the hard work seem worthwhile.
Watching Thai people contribute both their labour and a sense of fun speaks volumes about their culture. It also shows the seamless spread of Sanuk and proves that work and play are not mutually exclusive.