Gaudete Sunday

Today is Gaudete Sunday, the next-to-last Sunday in Advent. Advent, like Lent, is a time of introspection; a time to prepare the soul and mind. Advent encompasses four Sundays in anticipation of Christmas and Lent does the same before Easter.

During three of the Sundays in Advent and Lent, the priest wears violet vestments — a symbol of penance. Gaudete Sunday is one of two holidays in the Catholic calendar where rose vestments — which symbolize joy — are worn, the other being Laetare Sunday, the third Sunday of Lent. (A nice summary on liturgical colors can be found here:

In the West, pink is a culturally difficult color. It’s OK for women, but often taboo for men. It takes a big man to wear rose, and they don’t come any bigger than B16. Biltrix has a great photo of Il Papa in his rose vestments. (In Thailand, pink has become associated with the king.)

A trend we’ve been seeing in the pews is parishioners embracing the colors of the season. At the Saturday vigil Mass, the pews were filled with men,  women and children who had worked rose or violet into their Sunday (or Saturday) best. It’s a powerful external symbol of the inner states that  Advent and Lent are meant to touch.

Color on the edge of the Tibetan Plateau

Cousin Dang sent dozens of photos from her journey into China (including the unhappy looking monkey of the previous post.) The prayer flags are a beautiful expression of faith.

Weekly photo challenge: Merge

Last week, cousin Chooman  made the three-hour trip out of Bangkok to the Uthai Thani province to hear the preaching of a revered Buddhist teacher — one who not only taught her to meditate, but also her mother and late father. That journey, in a way, is a facet of this week’s theme. After all, what is a pilgrimage but a merging of belief and action?

MULTI-FACETED — The mirrored tiles at Wat Chantaram, Utai Thani, Thailand, add  sparks of brilliance to the temple’s interior. Each reflects a different angle of reality; each reality filtered through an individual’s perception; but all of this fractured vision coming together as one structure. (Photo by Chooman)

Other Merges:
More than black and white

And the mother page:

Dr. Jit-Kasem Sibunruang

We are mourning one of our aunts who passed last week. Dr. Jit-Kasem Sibunruang was part of a generation of great women from a large and very complex family that spans three continents.

Scan of undated photo of Auntie K. (courtesy of our cousins)

She was among the first Thai women to earn a doctorate from the University of Paris. Auntie K (also known in the family as Dr. Kasem) was a lecturer in Thai literature at the Sorbonne from 1951-1954. She left Paris for a few years, returning to serve as Officer-in-Charge at headquarters, Southeast Asian projects at UNESCO.

Auntie K was a professor at Chulalongkorn, one of Thailand’s leading universities, and an author best known for her work on Thai folk tales. Auntie K tutored the children of the Thai royal family in the French language. In 1968, she was decorated by the French government in 1968 as an Officier de l’Ordre des Palmes Academique.

[More about her life is in a 1971 issue of the Sydney Morning Herald.]

Her many works include:Wessandorn, the Charitable Prince, Contes et légendes de Thaïlande, Children’s literature in Thailand, Culture of Thailand Today, The role of tradition or religion in literature for ASEAN understanding, Coutumes de la vie siamoise d’après le poème populaire Khun Chang, Khun Phèn and others.

She was also a woman who knew where to get a good steak. We will miss her! Our condolences to her family.

Loy Krathong

Loi Krathong, or Loy Kratong, is a Thai festival of light and water. During the last full moon of the Thai lunar year, celebrants flock to bodies of water, even swimming pools, to set  adrift a krathong, symbolically setting adrift their own flaws and while showing gratitude and respect for nature. A krathong is traditionally a lotus flower on which the celebrants place candles, incense sticks, coins or other items. Many people use rafts made of banana leaves artfully folded into a lotus shape. Many people take pride in their loi krathong style, including my cousins.

LIGHT THIS CANDLE -- Cousin Dang has her krathong ready to go -- a small pink lotus flower with a birthday candle in the middle.

Loi Krathong is a joyful time. Ironically, some of the celebrations were cancelled this year in Bangkok due to flooding.

Cousins Dang and Nat were in Chiang Mai to mark a birthday and Loi Krathong. Dang was making good use of her new Olympus camera.

ELEPHANTINE -- Floats and lighted displays are part of the Loi Krathong festival in Chiang Mai.
FLOATING BY -- An elaborate float that's part of the Loi Krathong celebration in Chiang Mai.
FULL MOON -- The full moon competes with a lighted ferris wheel and fireworks during the Loi Krathong celebration in Chiang Mai.
TRADITION -- A woman in traditional clothing readies her krathong for the water.
IN TUNE -- This trio of university string players performs to raise money for flood victims.
FLOATING ON AIR -- Cousin Nat enjoys the festivities with Mickey, Minnie and other inflatable cartoon favorites in the background.


My adventurous cousin has provided more photos from her extensive sojourn in China, this time in Xi’an in central China, whose settlement dates back at least to the neolithic.


Elaborately painted roof trusses in Xi'an
Elaborate designs and bright colors mark these roof trusses in Xi'an.
Lanterns Grace the Streets
Red lanterns grace the streets in Xi'an.
Looking out the window of an ancient building.
A window in an ancient building opens onto the modern in Xi'an.
Elaborate Garbage Can
Even the garbage cans are beautiful -- this dragon-topped bronze garbage can cover keeps the aesthetics right in Xi'an.



Sweeter than honey.

My cousin in Bangkok loves ruang phung (“honeycomb”) flowers. Coming home from work, she was surprised to see a vase full of them. She loved these flowers that grew at her old house. Alas, the plant could not move with the family. She missed the sweet fragrance and how the shrub would explode into a yellow mass, alive with bees.  The gray cat in the background, Sour Orange, does not seem to share my cousin’s enthusiasm for these spectacular blooms.

ruang phung flowers
Ruang phung flowers brightened my cousin's day.