The figure you see in the center of the picture in the distance is a man I see nearly everyday.
He carries an umbrella to shield him from the sun, and does a shuffle-walk with a wooden crutch because of a problem with his one leg and foot.
In addition to the umbrella and wooden crutch he carries garlands of jasmine flowers, which are commonly sold at traffic lights such as this one in the picture, or at flower markets.
These garlands are used as offerings in front of Buddha statues, pictures of monks, in front of photographs of deceased relatives, or hung on spirit houses. When hung in one’s car, they are believed to have the power to prevent accidents. Some friends have said that they can be given to guests to wear like a lei as like a “welcome.”
But this man sells these garlands everyday at the large intersection near my neighbourhood. Rain or shine. Heat or stormy winds. Peace or protests…
On the morning of May 20th, the day after violence, rioting and arson broke out in parts of Bangkok and a few select places in other parts of Thailand, including Chiang Mai, business in Chiang Mai at least was back to normal. Normal and yet not normal – with a sense of quiet and a desire for peace and restoration for Thailand as a whole. People had to keep working in order to make a living. Life couldn’t just stop. At markets, grocery stores and 7-11s people were out stocking up on supplies, unsure of what was going to happen next. Would the violence escalate? And the man with the umbrella selling jasmine garlands? He was in his usual place at the traffic light, shuffle-walking along, making his living.
The curfew that had been in place for about a week following the incidents on May 19th has been lifted – as far as I know. Life is still continuing on as usual. Signs of any arson in Chiang Mai are gone but subtle hints of the concerns still remain. I did a double-take when I recently drove by two soldiers sitting with their rifles, guarding a particular bank in Thailand.
Prayers are very much still needed for Thailand, but I’m thankful for the calm and peace right now.