Thursday, 20 November 2014

Postcard from Laos: Early morning

It's quarter to six, and outside is still night.  Only the grandmother is awake.  She moves about slowly, preparing herself.  She has  a low stool and a square, faded, red pillow.  She puts a white sash over her one shoulder and across her chest.  She stations herself on the sidewalk, in front of her daughter's little craft shop and guest house.  She sits there as the light turns grey, waiting.  At her side is a round wicker container of  rice.  
The young monks turn the corner.    They are all dressed in identical marigold orange, their robes draped over one shoulder and belted at the waist.  They are bare-footed and bare-headed, their hair shaved off.  And they are young.  There can't be many among them that are more than 20 years old.  They pass by silently, single file down the street.  When they reach the grandmother, they each pause a moment and open their satchels.  Into each one, she deposits one small, sticky clump of rice.  Twenty, thirty times she does this, and then the monks are gone, passing around the next corner.  
The ritual is not over yet, though.  She goes inside to a shelf high up on the wall, behind the desk.  She says a few words as she lights two sticks of incense and places another small clump of sticky rice on the altar.  Satisfied, she takes off her white sash and gives a small smile.  "Sabaidee!" she says to me.  The day can start!

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