By Ellie Reich
In both Kalasin and Bon Mai the villages prepared a traditional welcoming ceremony for our group. The purpose of these ceremonies are to accept travelers into the community by performing rituals that create a welcoming and friendly spirit between the village and travelers. One of our groups favorite parts of this ceremony was the string tying ritual. We all sat in a circle on mats around an ornamental tree made from banana leaves and flowers that had cut pieces of string hanging from the leaves. A long string was passed around the group and each person held the string between their thumbs with their hands pressed together in prayer position. The purpose of everyone holding the same string was to spiritually connect us as a group. The village elder or shaman sat in the middle of the circle and opened the ceremony with a chant to welcome the group into the community. Once he finished the long piece of string was gathered again and the villagers retrieved the small cut pieces of string from the ornamental tree. They then proceed to individually tie the string around each of the travelers wrists beginning with the leaders of the group (in our case our professors Han and Peter). The purpose of tying the string around the wrist is to create a sense of everyone being bound by friendship and hospitality. It was a beautiful ceremony and a really interesting way to be accepted into the community.