We headed straight to the temple that Soraya visited on her last day in Thailand. To our surprise, Ghing had spent the past 3 days (between ceremonies in Chiang Mai) organizing and building a sala in Soraya's honour. A sala is a small wooden structure that you see all over Thailand, sometimes used to eat lunch in, get out of the shade, or most commonly to rest in. Soraya's new resting spot. The sign on top of the sala, in line with the theme of mis-spelling Soraya's name was written "Soraya Voster Pandola"...... at least the Pandola was right this time! Tony said it was perfect because the Thai's always pronounced her name with out the R. Surrounding the top of the sala were bright coloured Bhutanese prayer flags brought by Linda from Berkeley and inside a banner hung on the ceiling full of notes from Soraya's friends at the capoeira school. Just next to the sala was a 12 foot tall white prayer flag signed by Backroads friends in Berkeley and hanging from a long Bamboo pole. The scene was magical. The sun was shining, her parents were in the place Soraya most cherished and we were all quietly enjoying her presence. It was no surprise that as soon as the monks chanted to us, a little black cat poked it's head out from under the sala and came to say hi to all of us..... she actually went straight for Tony and enjoyed a good 15 minute head massage. Then the ice cream man arrived (pronounced "I-team" in Thai) and we all proceeded to yell "I-team, I-team" in Soraya fashion until we all held a delicious coconut ice cream in our hands.
A mouth watering lunch took place next right near Piak's home where we ate some of Soraya's favorite dishes - papaya salad, pakapow, pad see ew, sticky rice etc. After lunch Ghing took us on a walk through the field pointing out banana flowers, rice fields, lemongrass, garlic, longon fruit, jack fruit and all the other goodies right in their backyard.
The afternoon consisted of a group nap, beers, tim tams and more talking. It's hard to put words to the feeling that we all had inside - one of being so peaceful and 100% in the moment. Some of us have known the beauty of Thailand for a while now, some of us had just been exposed to it, and either way there was this universal appreciation for a magical place. The people who welcomed all of us into their homes - Ghing, Boom, Piak, Oye, and Yunn were the kindest hosts, treating all of us like they treated Soraya; like family.
As the night came to a close, we lit 33 fire balloons (for 33 years) and sent them up into the air - one of Soraya's favorite things to do on New Year's. We all made wishes as we sent each one into the night. One of Soraya's wishes was to one day have her ashes sent up into the sky attached to a fire balloon and fireworks! So our firecracker went up in style, lighting up the sky and all of our lives. After watching the last of the flickers of light escape our view, Amina said "It's like Susu is laughing all the way to heaven!"
Today, after returning to Chiang Mai, we received a message from Soraya's friends, Namgay and Djorji in Bhutan via Berkeley. It does a beautiful job in summing up the Buddhist view of leaving this world. "I'm glad I met Soraya two years ago when she came to Bhutan. She brought joy and happiness to all she met in this life that she left behind. The joy she has given to others in this life will be added to her joy in the next life. I lit three butter lamps at my alter on Friday Night and prayed that the light from my lamps safely guide Soraya in finding her way to the next life. We believe that the next life comes into being on the 46th day. We should not cry because the many tears turn into heavy rain, the noise from crying will sound like great thunder and Soraya's soul will be lost and confused in the thunderstorm."
Tonight, Soraya's yoga studio in Chiang Mai is putting together a practice in her honor that we will be attending.
Cheers and Cha Yo to the perfect day in Thailand!
More pictures to be added soon.
Emily & Linden