empresspatti (empresspatti) wrote,
empresspatti
empresspatti

Monk Bowl Village

I’d seen Buddhist monks carrying alms bowls in Thailand and Cambodia. Miss Peg had one displayed at the palace. I wanted one. Most of the begging bowls were made in Ban Batt. The Embassy Wives were going there on a field trip so I signed up. To my surprise, Miss Peg came along. She’s usually a solo act.

To understand the group I found myself in, a quick tutorial:

In Bangkok, food shopping is challenging when you don’t speak the language and grocery stores are stalls on street corners.

For expats, it is common to have a full time, live in Nanny and Housekeeper. Childcare, cleaning, laundry, shopping for food and cooking are done by the help. The total monthly cost is maybe $400, tops.

This economic reality left a lot of women free to lead a life unimaginable except to the very wealthiest in the US. They get their butts buffed daily at various spas, lunch, shop (custom made silk clothing is cheap in Bangkok) and generally lead an existence devoid of any of my ordinary life drudgery.

Most of the women on this trip hadn’t lived in the US in decades. They were an interesting bunch. I was blissfully oblivious to the pecking order although I did notice the posturing.

Miss Peg didn’t clue me in, so it was a really funny moment when I understood that she was looked at with wonder and dismay because, in spite of her, um- her husbands position, she did her own housekeeping.

I almost suffocated, keeping my mouth shut. Miss Peg shopped, cooked and did her own laundry. She didn’t lunch and spa, the rebel. OUTCAST!

This man is the proud patriarch. He graciously welcomed us into his home and gave us a tour, demonstrating how the bowls were made.


He told me he had woven this little wall hanging.


This is the beginning and the finished bowl. Each bowl has 8 seams, which are hammered together, according to Buddhist specifications. Copper is hammered into the seams. The glaze finish is hammered on. It was a noisy place.


This woman was tapping on the glaze to finish the bowl.


It was a very poor community without running water. They used rain catchers.


I thought the bowls were beautiful. I stepped right up and bought three in various sizes.


I was squeeing over my loot when Queen Bee pulled me aside. Miffed, she told me that I “hadn’t even bargained and now they’d all have to pay full price.”

“Are ya kidding me?” I said. “Look around you. We live like Gods compared to these people. I’m not going to haggle over a few dollars.” Queen Bee was not pleased.

I apologized to Miss Peg, homeward bound on the sky train, “I must have really put my foot in my mouth, but didn’t realize she was serious about not paying the asking price.”

“I have to watch myself because I live here.” Miss Peg grinned at me. “I was happy to see you upset the natural order of things.”

Miss Peg and her loot. Which she paid full price for and will dust herself.
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