On Friday, nine Buddhists monks — a very auspicious number — came to our new office to perform a blessing ceremony to bring luck, happiness, and good fortune to us.
On Thursday evening, the staff prepared the office for this ceremony. Since the ceremony was to be held in our main conference room, they had to remove all furniture and put special mats on the floor. In addition, they brought in an altar and put together special places where the monks would sit on Friday. On the altar, the staff placed a Buddha statue, a container of water, three sticks of incense, lotus blossoms, and candles.
Their major effort, however, was encircling the entire work area with a white string, called Sai Sin. The staff strung the string high along the walls of the office near the ceiling. The string was ultimately tied around the Buddha image (see picture on left), and the remaining skein was placed on the altar. The perimeter of string symbolizes that everyone is together and that all are connected with Buddha and the cosmos.
On Friday, one of our managers lit the candles and incense, and the lead monk (in brown robes in the picture below) unwound the string and passed it to each of the other monks. The monks held the string while chanting so that the power of the chanting would be infused throughout our work area.
After about 30 minutes, the staff presented the monks with gifts including food and fresh flowers. It is important that the monks are provided with food early since they fast after noon each day. Once they finished their meal, the lead monk walked around the office and sprinkled holy water on the staff and the furnishing. The water on the altar became holy since it too was infused with the goodness from the chanting.
The ceremony ended with the lead monk putting white paste symbols and gold foils above the entrance to our office. I am told that these symbols are in Pali, the liturgical language of Theravada Buddhism. They are supposed to protect us by keeping evil spirits away, so we will not be taking them off.
We had originally scheduled our annual company outing for last fall, but we had to postpone because of the flooding. On Saturday and Sunday, we journeyed about 200 kms northeast of Bangkok to Nakhon Ratchasima. Nakhon Ratchasima, also known as Khorat, is the largest province in Thailand. Located on the western edge of the Khorat plateau, it is known as the gateway to Issan or Northeast Thailand. Issan is a relatively poor, rural area in Thailand, and historically it was the boundary between Laos and Siam.
We left Bangkok around 9 a.m. on Saturday and stopped for lunch at a restaurant on a lake that was formed by a dam on the Lam Takhong River in Nakhon Ratchasima (point B on map below). The food was excellent, particularly the smoked, roasted chicken. The smoke imbued the meat with an absolutely fabulous flavor and the meat was incredibly moist. The grilled fish was also superb. As seems normal at every Thai meal, there was far more food than we could eat, so we packed the extras and took them with us as we backtracked to our hotel (point C).
It took us a about 45 minutes to go from the restaurant to Villa Paradis, and the staff there was quite efficient in getting everyone checked into their rooms. We gathered in a meeting room at 2:30 p.m. and began team-building activities. After a simple count off — neung, song, saam, see, haa — we had five teams. The event coordinators tasked each team to come up with a team name, a team song, and a team dance. Luckily for me, I had what turned out to be one of the most creative and energetic young woman on the staff in my group and she quickly took charge. Note, while there may be some pictures floating around of me dancing, I just pray that there is no video.
The teams all went outside and the games began. After 90 minutes or so, the activities were finished and my team — the Eagles — had soared to second place (or first loser, I guess.) We then had a couple of hours to eat, drink, relax, and clean up before our evening event — Cowboy Night — that began at 6:30 p.m.
Everyone changed into their cowboy garb. I don’t know when the last time was that I saw so much plaid in one place! Many of the female staff wore boots, but with heels more suited for a fancy evening out than for the ranch. There were, of course, quite a few cowboy hats and lots of denim. The most creative costume, however, was the young woman who came dressed as a cow! One might think that she worked in marketing or advertising for Chick-Fil-A at some point in her life, but there are no Chick-Fil-A franchise in Thailand, so I don’t think that it is very likely.
We had all sorts of prizes and gifts to give away. Prizes were awarded in a photography contest for teams and individuals who were most creative showing off their company shirts. Other prizes were given for best costumes while gift baskets were awarded purely by lucky draw — an absolute Thai favorite event.
During dinner, a DJ provided music, but the real show began after dinner. Two of our staff acted as emcees, and after they did an introduction and told some jokes, it was Karaoke time. Thais rival the Japanese for their fondness of Karaoke, so no encouragement was needed to get people up on stage to sing their hearts out. Perhaps it is because I have no musical talent (I can’t even whistle and I can barely hum!), but I am always amazed at the vocal abilities of other people; there is simply no way that I would ever get up and sing in any type of public venue. (However, I could do a PowerPoint.) But on Saturday night there were solos and duets as well as people leading audience participation songs. Indeed, some singers would go from one song to another, seeming almost unwilling to yield the microphone. People were dancing to the music until after 11 p.m.
Sunday was an easy day. Breakfast was available from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. so people could wake as early or as late as they desired. We left the resort just after 10 and were back in Bangkok by 1 p.m.
Idiocy, Part 2
While the Obama administration proclaims that the economy is moving in the right direction, this chart from the Labor Department belies that notion.
If only the government could get all the unemployed to stop looking for work, then the president and his crack team could report an unemployment rate of zero!
Kop Khun Krab.
© 2012 Kurt Brown. All rights reserved.