Bending my knees I brought the box to two centimeters from the ground and let it fall with an unceremonious thump. A half hour later I had the whole cardboard family settled in my room. Boxes cluttered the floor. Items were strewn wherever there was an opening, like a Hollywood extended family intruding on my home. Navigating the obstacle course that my room had become I perilously maneuvered around my mountains of things. I tiptoed through the stacks, leaping into the hallway and flailing my arms in the open space. Spinning around I sighed at the mess before me. My hand crept to my head, my nails softly tousling my hair in hopes of soothing my racing thoughts.
I shook my head amazed at the amount of things I had managed to stuff into a pick-up bed, drive thousands of kilometers from Kamloops, B.C. to Brooks, Alberta and unload into my old room. I was moving into day two of unpacking what I had packed together in a day. I must be a modern Mary Poppins. It was ridiculous! The boxes had neatly taken my trinkets and decorations. The garbage bags had gobbled up my clothes. But the regurgitated things were tussled and askew meaning I had to rearrange them before setting them into place in their new homes.
Finally finished I fell unto my bare bed and looked back on the number of moves back and forth from school. Was there any traditions or routines that I performed after or before those moves? I thought to myself.
- I’d rearrange my furniture almost immediately upon entry.
- Moving into residence on campus I’d spend all day watching cable television because I don’t have it at home.
- Moving home I’d read a book all day from my family’s library because I don’t have immediate access to a library on campus.
But that’s pretty much it.
No fanfare, no opening of a special wine or baking of a special food. No stalking around the room for ghosts or invitations to good spirits.
Oh, wait. Except the two little Buddha figures I place by my window.
Oops, correction, the two Laughing Buddha figures that I place by my window. I just took a peek at Google to double check if rubbing their bellies is lucky and found out that in fact the two little figurines display a figure called Laughing Buddha, not the original Buddha Siddhartha Gautama. It seems this Buddha came upon the title as a result of cultural, philosophical, spiritual and historical overlap. According to an examiner.com article, the figures by my window originate from Chinese pre-Buddhist folklore as Budai. Budai is known as Hotei in Japan and the lucky god of happiness and abundance. In China Budai is found in business establishments and people rub his belly for good luck.
For me, the little guys are so cheerful I can’t help but laugh and feel merry whenever I see them. They are doing a great job!
Whenever I move I also hang a dreamcatcher near the window.
I just read that they originate from the Ojibwa people in North America. Their spider web shape is designed to capture bad dreams and direct good dreams down the feathers toward the sleeper. Seems I have been placing my dreamcatcher in the wrong place! That’s why I haven’t been dreaming lately. It’s been directing my good dreams towards the windowsill… I can see the story now, like a Hans Christian Anderson tale, my windowsill contemplating its lucky exposure to a flood of good dreams.
Then there is the Chinese lucky coin tassle I hang on my doorknob.
A Chinese exchange roommate had given it to me at university. Looking around online I found a site selling them and advertising them. The site claims that Feng Shui coins and a red tassle represent abundance and wealth (I have a blue tassle). The charm should be placed in purses, homes, cars or places where negative energy is detected. I’ve been managing my money pretty well lately and collecting surprise grants, scholarships and prizes so I’d say this charm has been very helpful. Or I’m just awesome.
Next to my Chinese coin charm hangs an evil-eye ward, called a nazar (amulet) in Turkey, which my Opa (Grandfather in German) found in Egypt.
The amulet is hung in homes, offices, cars, children’s clothing or part of jewelry to ward off an evil eye glance believed to cause injury or bad luck upon the victim. I haven’t broken a bone in my life or needed stitches (knocks on wood). Could be a charm’s protective shield or my wariness around stupid things. Either way, why push my luck?
So in a post that I began with the intention of diving into the traditions of moving into a new home I found myself learning about the surprising origins of a few things in my possession. I was going to talk about salt, knives and flashlights but I guess that will wait for another post: maybe one featuring when I actually move into a new place abroad and not back into my old room.
After travelling and living in Thailand for ten months (waaayy after I wrote this post) I learned about a few more items to add to this list.
They are in the garden centres EVERYWHERE in North America and we totally abuse and mis-use them by placing them in our gardens.
When I was in Thailand I learned how deeply the Thai’s respect their buddha statues and casts. They have so much reverence for them the induction presentation for study-abroad students at Thammasat University featured a “please don’t take disrespectful tourist pictures of buddha images” slide.
The biggest no-no (aside from being silly around buddha statues) was to stand higher than a buddha head. One’s head is sacred in Thai culture—and your feet are dirty.
This was taken in Ayutthaya, one of the ancient cities of Thailand’s historical kingdoms. It’s a hot tourist spot and the buddha image wrapped in the roots behind me is one of the great icons of the area.
The little sign in the right-side corner there is asking tourists to kindly pay respect by being photographed at an angle lower than the head.
This is very important to many Thais. Putting a buddha image’s head among your flowers is probably equivalent to burying a Jesus icon up to his neck in your garden.
If you see those heads in the garden centre, either leave it be or put it in a high place of prominence. While I realize you might be nowhere near Thailand and probably wouldn’t expose your cultural mistake to anyone it matters to, this just might save you from a big embarrasment.