Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Masterton woman flowers in Cambodian parade

Former Wairarapa College pupil Lucy King during a two-hour Buddhist ordination parade she was invited to lead.

Former Wairarapa College pupil Lucy King during a two-hour Buddhist ordination parade she was invited to lead.

A former florist and Wairarapa College pupil has won the rare honour of leading a Buddhist procession in Cambodia, dressed in traditional Khmer clothing as flower of the parade.

Lucy King, 27, daughter of Masterton couple Janet and Miles King, said from Cambodia she took part in the parade at the end of June.

She said the experience came through her work at The Happy Ranch, where she takes tourists on horseback treks to neighbouring pagodas and ancient stone temples.

Monks at Wat Chouk pagoda, which is on her tourist trail, invited Ms King to take part in the parade after hiring horses to carry two of their novices.

The pagoda is an almost 17km processional walk "in the sun" from the township of Siem Reap, located in the Cambodian northwestern province of the same name.

"It was pretty amazing to be part of this and I received a lot of attention as I was the only foreigner and it's not often they would see one dressed in full traditional clothing," she said.

Ms King said the monk ordination ceremony is held once a year at all Cambodian pagodas and usually involves three days of ceremony and celebration.

"There were 10 new monks ordained in the ceremony I attended. All the female guests wear traditional white tops and long skirts while the men, it seems, just rock up in any old clothes.

"The parade is like a grand finale to their previous life before they settle into the monastery for some serious meditation. We walked for two hours from the pagoda towards town and then back in a huge loop, leading the horses on which the new monks sat praying the whole way and holding incense.

"They believe the gods rode horses so this is symbolic," she said.

"I was the only foreigner there so there was a lot of pointing and staring, obviously not often they would see a barang (a white foreigner) dressed up in their fancy gear."

Janet King, who with her husband runs Kingsmeade Cheese producing sheep milk cheeses, said her youngest of three daughters has worked at the Cambodian ranch for almost 18 months.

She said Lucy had chanced upon the opportunity for a career change during a trip through Asia from her then home of Sydney, where she had trained as a florist and was working contracts for mainly state occasions.

"She had a pony when she was 11 and she just loves her job even though they only earn a pittance.

"She has met people from all over the world and has totally immersed herself in the culture - learning the language and teaching English to the stable hands."

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