There was a funeral in the village today. Both the death and funeral date were announced a few days ago over the village loudspeaker.
In Western countries – at least where I grew up in the Bible Belt – funerals tend to be a place for mourning and grieving. One day to “say your goodbyes” and commonly spend copious amounts of money on a wooden box that eventually will rot and pay fees for people to arrange flowers and music for someone who is already dead.
Funerals here last a couple of days, from what I can gather somewhere between 2 and 7. If you knew the deceased at some point in time, you generally go to the funeral. In a village of only a few hundred, it’s a community affair.
The village has communal tables, chairs, etc. that are used for events such as this. Men friends of the deceased will collect and assemble these either in the family’s yard, or, if they don’t have one large enough, in the street. (I learned this the hard way after cruising the motorbike up on the program after turning onto an unknowingly closed-off street – if only I could understand either those morning announcements or street signs…) As in most countries, the women cook an array of food enough to feed a village (pun intended).
The morning of the cremation, the men go into the forest and cut any dead wood. This is used for the burning of the body, and is quite frankly the part I found most interesting. (That, and the fact that the joke’s on the tourists given the crematory is shockingly close to where they come to wash the elephants in the river.) Everything out here is by the land and is given back to the land. Nothing is wasted, everything returned.
I know that this post would probably have been more both interesting and factual had I gone to the funeral and more so if I had taken a few pictures. But being the obvious black sheep in the crowd, I opted to not even ask. I’m sure someone has; just use that Google machine.
Anyway, I've made it pretty clear in my will – calling out certain people – that I’m to be burnt wherever I kick the bucket. Do not fly me back home; do not waste money on a casket. And even though it’s not in there (yet), I won’t be too disappointed if you all take off work for a week and have a little celebration… After all, I’m not going anywhere…
If you’re still with me, here are some pictures of some elephants; they live down the street.