the monk looked stearnly at the girl in front of him, who giggled nervously she sat with her feet pointed politely away from him. he loomed crosslegged on a wide wooden chair above her.
white pieces of knotted string lay in his lap, resting in the folds of his orange robes.
“where you come from?” he asked.
i had met franzi only three days before, at a hostel in bangkok. it was our second day in chiang mai, and she felt claustophobic anywhere but around nature, so we rented motorbikes to visit the biggest mountain in thailand, doi suthep. we were now the only foreigners in wat prahatat, having arrived after the sun had already set.
“germany,” she replied. the monk looked for clarification from the three thai girls who were sipping milk tea from plastic bags and watching us with curiosity. “yer-a-ma-ny,” one offered, and he nodded.
he pointed to the necklace hanging from her neck and she showed it to him. “buddha?” he asked. she shook her head. “for protection.”
the monk pointed to the shiny black stud in her nose and looked at her, questioningly. she quickly touched the small piercing and giggled.
he held a small pair of scissors up and made a snipping motion, threatening to cut it out of her nose.
he laughed and she laughed and she leaned playfully forward to push him on the wrist at the audacity of his suggestion.
the three thai girls gasped behind us.
“you’re not supposed to touch a monk –” i quickly told her.
not quickly enough, obviously.
wide-eyed and embarassed, she looked at me and then back at the monk, who grinned a toothless grin and held up the pair of scissors again.
transgression seemingly put aside, he tied the white ribbon around her wrist and prepared an amulet for her. he motioned that she should tie it around her neck.
she began to get up but he motioned that she should stay sitting.
he took a suspiciously broom-like object, dipped it in the blessed water next to him, and then started muttering the prayer for good luck and protection.
the monk sprinkled water over her as she pressed her hands into a form of respect.
whack. he smacked her on the head.
sprinkle, sprinkle, sprinkle.
whack. the broom thing rustled on her shoulder.
we stumbled out of the buddha hall, giggling.