Yesterday I went to see “Aida” performed by the National Opera House of Belarus and staged at The Thailand Cultural Centre here in Bangkok. I got a ticket at the last minute but still got a good seat, at the back, on the ground floor; it is a good theater to see and hear in.
This was the first time I had seen “Aida,” an opera by Verdi, set in Ancient Egypt, concerning wars, a hero and two women who love him; one powerful, one lowly. It is probably a tragedy but I would describe it as a sweet tragedy because the two lovers are together at the end!
You can find out the rest of the story for yourselves.
I chose to go because I like Verdi and this is one of his most popular operas. I enjoyed it but I think the production was a bit dated, first performed in 1953, it showed its age in the ballet scenes especially they reminded me of 1930’s dancing. The main singers, however, were good and to see all those performers on stage was magnificent.
This is one of a number of artistic performances staged each year and known as Bangkok’s International Festival of Dance and Music, I hope to attend more events while it is on.
Today I attended the 100th day ceremony carried out after a person has died. This was in memory of my maid/ housekeeper/ friend/ interpreter/cook, ‘Tip’s niece, Khun Nayathon, who died, from a heart attack probably caused by her leukemia, age 29. This ceremony, also known as Tham Bun (making merit by offering food to monks), is usually carried out 100 days after the cremation.
I arrived at Khun Antchare’s house about 8:30am as I had been told the day before not to be late and we didn’t know how long it would take me to get there by taxi as the house is on the outskirts of Bangkok and traffic can be bad, however I made it in 30mins.
Khun Antchare is ‘Tips sister, the mother of the deceased, she was surrounded by members of her family. At such times Thais really support each other and this family is a large and loving one. I felt very welcomed and comfortable even though I don’t speak Thai very well.
because I was early someone went out and bought me an English newspaper, “in case everyone is busy and doesn’t have the time to speak to you, you have something to do”
The family had been busy since 5am preparing for the ceremony. They had a big awning set up in the side St. outside the house under which were placed tables and chairs as well as the furniture from the living room.
The living room had to be cleared as that is where the monks sit on cushions on the floor to do their chanting. Also in the living room the households main Buddha image is placed on an alter which will be immediately to the right of the abbot. A sacred white cord (sai sin) keeps out evil spirits and protects everyone and everything inside it so it must be passed around the entire house and garden and end up back in the living room in the hands of the monks while they chant.
The monks arrived at 10am and began their Pali chanting while everyone sat around with their hands in the wai gesture, rather like a Christian’s way of praying but without the crossed thumbs. Thirty minutes later the monks were seated at tables and served a large variety of food; they have to be able to eat before noon for they cannot eat again until the next morning. The men served them and after they had eaten, they went back to the living room for a five minute chant during which the the mother pours water on herself wishing that the food benefit passes on to the spirit of the dead. Finally the abbot or head monk blesses everyone with the holy water from the bowl over which a candle has dripped its molten wax into and made holy. The monks then leave.
At this point we were all invited to eat the food, of which their was plenty. Their were about 40 people present, most of them family but some friends. The food was typically Thai and very pleasant; three main dishes, salad, vegetables and a soup. Followed by lots of fresh fruit and some Thai desserts. Their was water, juice and coffee to drink. I left at about 1:pm and later the young people started to drink beer and whisky and talk. It was also the anniversary of Khun Nayathon’s birth, she would have been 30 years old. Her boyfriend was there for some of the time but I think he had to return to work. It was a very positive experience because although it was very sad at times it was also very happy with lots of happy moments and some laughter in amongst the tears. No one should have to mourn their child, even though I know it happens.