Saturday, February 19, 2011
Living here in Southern Thailand you see Buddhist monks everywhere, in their saffron or bright orange robes. They walk the streets collecting alms from people and typically have some "assistant" with them who carries a bag and stashes their cache in it so their alms bowl can be free and empty to receive more and more alms. It is said that the "assistant" is one who has somehow screwed up in society and is repaying his or her debt to society.
Seems it's all about getting the "stuff," though.
Less frequently you will occasionally see the lesser Buddhist nuns...heads shaved and donning their distinctive white robes. I've sat next to them in Songtheaws, passed them on the road and generally acknowledged them in passing only. But never a word.
Except for today.
Today I decided to stop at a small, make-shift market on the side of the road by the local Udomsuk Buddhist temple, or Wat, as they term them here in Thailand and I've come to understand that this Wat is mainly run by Buddhist nuns, as I've never seen a monk in these parts.
I was perusing the fruits, meats (mainly pork) and other delights when I suddenly heard someone behind me say, "Have you eaten?" I slowly turned around to see a woman adorned in the long, white robes of the Buddhist nun, with a shaved head and features I'd only attribute to a man...no less a woman. She wasn't the most attractive nun I'd ever seen, by far.
"No, I haven't eaten but I will soon," I said in reply, not really expecting her to understand.
"Ah! Good for you. The food is fresh and good here," was her reply.
"Well thank you, I'll definitely return here again then," was my answer, surprised the conversation had gone this far.
She moved in closer to me and I couldn't help but think of that "bubble theory" I learned in psychology class years ago...where we have these personal little bubbles and sometimes when a person invades our private bubble, we feel a twinge of uncomfortableness.
The nun was practically in my face and my mind was racing...I knew...had heard....monks could never touch a woman. They had something like 300 rules they had to abide by...so I was wondering about this elderly female nun...more worried about her screwing up than myself...
What if I inadvertently touched her? Would she be excommunicated or something?
It was then I was awash with other details...not so pleasant.
She was speaking to me but I wasn't hearing her...I was only thinking how horrible her breath stank. Her breath was like an open sewer...and I was fighting to keep the gorge down in my throat. Then her body odor hit me....putrid!
The languishing scent of perspiration on a woman is something that for me is pleasant...erotic even. But, the stench of a woman who hasn't bathed in months is not erotic at all...it is nauseating. Her smell was of this sort. She had a stench about her...not a smell....a putrid stench.
But, here is my final point...
This old, bald nun, who stank of stale sweat and sewer breath...smiled a smile at me that broke through all barriers and opinions...I suddenly felt a feeling of happiness...an uplifting of spirit. Her smile wasn't simply a grin...or a smirk...it was a total face thing...her whole face lit up and effected me in such a way that is difficult to explain...rotten teeth...but that smile.
And something I won't soon forget.
Mused by Jeeem at the following date and time: 2/19/2011 12:47:00 PM