“Your washing isn’t ready yet.”
I had asked Bubpha if she could pick up my washing from the lady in Phachi I employ this morning, after realising that I was in dire need it back today. So when she arrived and told me this it wasn’t what I wanted to hear, and I faced the prospect of wearing dirty clothes for the third day running. Wonderful.
At least I could distract myself with the various games we played in lessons. As I waited for Prathom 6 in the school hall this morning i started bouncing one of the footballs that had been left in the room around, so when they eventually arrived this turned into an impromptu game of basketball with Nai, one of the students I play football with, holding a basket up at the other side of the room whilst I tried some shots. I actually made a few of them too, so clearly all of this unplanned sport I’m doing at the moment is starting to pay off.
Prathom 5 in the afternoon was an interesting one. Bubpha had them playing a game that she had made up which involved two groups forming lines, denoting themselves as ‘mother’ and ‘father’, and then trying to cut through the other line. I won’t lie, I didn’t have a clue what was going on with it most of the time. The kids seemed to have fun with it though, and Bubpha wants to film us playing it tomorrow so she can send it to some other teachers around Thailand who she’s told about it. Who knows, maybe I’m witnessing the start of something big in the primary school game world.
On the day that I met her way back in June Bubpha explained to me that she was a Christian, so despite my general lack of religion I let her know I’d like to come to her church service sometime. This evening she took me up on this, and after stopping off in Phachi to pick up my finally completed washing (never have clean clothes felt so glorious) we travelled with her son Pekeng and his girlfriend to Ayutthaya’s baptist church. This shouldn’t have been a new experience for me, but my only previous interaction with any sort of service was a yearly christmas eve nativity production that took place at our local church, which I grew out of after turning 10. I went with all the possible cliches in my head, basically – a decrepit churchroom, two hours of near silent prayers, and everything inbetween – so I was surprised to walk in and find a live band playing to about 50 dancing churchgoers, all within a room about half the size of Watphachi’s school hall. They were all really into it too, and the bright blue church shirts everyone was wearing made me feel like I massively stuck out in my terrible white Thailand floating market top (like I said, my clean clothes were getting scarce). Still, this didn’t include everyone, as the band’s bassist was wearing a similarly coloured shirt but with the word ‘Faithbook’ plastered on styled in the logo of… well, you can probably guess.
After the band stopped playing we were introduced to the pastor, a slightly quirky looking man wearing an interesting tie and trousers combination, and myself and several others were mentioned and greeted for being new to the church this week. Part of Bubpha’s reason for bringing me tonight was because some missionairies from Korea had stopped by the church, so we got to see a few song and dance numbers from them. The first two dances were pretty crazy, plus the dance music itself was far too catchy considering they were all traditional religious songs, but the last performance the group put on was an interpretive piece focusing on a girl who had refused God at the beginning of her life but turned back to him, and was accepted, after she had fallen on some bad times. I guess that’s not really too far-out for a church service message, but it didn’t stop all of the dances from being massively entertaining, and this is coming from someone who you’d have to pay to get to a dance recital under normal circumstances.
Of course, there’s always that one guy whose dancing has to upstage everyone else. Tonight it was apparently Morgan Freeman’s long lost brother.
We didn’t even end up reciting traditional Bible prayers in the end. Once the dancers had finished the pastor returned to the front and told a few stories I didn’t understand, what with them being spoken in Thai, before the Korean missionairies handed out parting gifts of hand-fans and skincare packs before they left for their next destination. The church provided food for everyone afterwards and I was introduced to a Chinese teacher working in Ayutthaya who spoke english, so we discussed our different teaching experiences. Apparently in his school most of the students can already speak fluent english, so I’m sure Watphachi would surprise him.
Bubpha even bought me a church shirt which was nice of her and gives me more of an incentive to go back, if only so I can wear it at the only place where it makes sense to. I don’t think experiences like this ever make me want to become religious, but I can definitely see why people would join. I enjoyed tonight mainly because the church gave a real sense of community, and through my own cynicism I think I’ve maybe not thought of that as a benefit of religion before.