Friday, April 18, 2014

Thung Yai 2.11

The times that were most interesting to me while at Washuku were the ones away from the worksite – after all, I was just part of the cleanup crew and my daily work was not all that interesting.

One of these times was when Lungpaw Boon Long lead a caravan of trucks out past the school and over to Hin Tung. I drove one of the trucks to what amounted to be a photo op.

Another time, Lungpaw instructed me to drive the women out to visit Lungpu Yao and his wat at Pee Chu. Lungpu Yao was Ajan Satien’s other pupil, in addition to Lungpaw Boon Long, and is Karen.

Still, another time, Lungpaw had me drive him, Ajan Chang, and some of the women back to Lungpu Yao’s temple for a reunion. I took some shots, after asking if I could. Here's the best of the batch:

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Thung Yai 2.10

After telling myself for years that I would never succumb to energy drinks, I did cave in a bit when we drove in to Washuku, along the route I drove in northwestern Thung Yai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary. I had a couple of small bottles of the monks’ favorite drink: M-150.(Ingredients: water, sucrose, taurin, inositol, caffeine, niacinamide, panthathenol, pyridoxine HCL, riboflavin phosphate sodium, artificial flavor, citric acid, caramel and sodium benzoate as a preservative; basically B-vitamins, caffeine and sugar).

During the subsequent days of construction at Ajan Satien’s khu-thee, I also chewed betel nut (areca nut) [Lao: Màak or Mark (ໝາກ); Thai: Mahk (areca nut), plue (betel)] several times – something I had told myself 14 years ago (when I saw my wife’s grandmother in the act) that I would never do. The act itself struck me as gross because it involved spitting and stained teeth.

Local monk Lung Tah Som introduced betel nut chewing to me properly and I found that one could do it without looking like a lowlife. I actually liked it, although I would not go out of my way to seek it out.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Thung Yai 2.9

Thip had a great time in the camping-like environment of the Kamattan wat at Washuku. The whole scene reminded me of the dream I used to have of being part of a clan or tribe who would go out camping together often. Although I did a respectable amount with my sons when they were younger, and also solo, I regret not doing more camping away from the city environments with family and friends.

(Ajan Satien's Kamattan temple at Washuku; view from the east)

(Kamattan Wat at Washuku; view from the west)

(Temple restrooms)

(Kitchen area)

(Preparing food for Jahn Hahn and our breakfast)

The nights certainly did get cold. I slept with sweatpants, long-sleeved shirt, fleece jacket with hood, socks and cotton gloves inside a light sleeping bag that itself was inside another sleeping bag (rated to 20-to-15 degrees Celsius; 68-59 degress Farenheit) and… still felt a bit cold at times throughout the nights.

(Morning fire)

Monday, March 24, 2014

Thung Yai 2.8

Bamboo forests sound a lot like creaking pirate ships with occasional weirder sounds that I can’t identify.

Today, I again was struck by the devotion of the student to the teacher; or, in this case, the kuba (regular monk) to his head monk. Lungpaw Boon Long was determined to keep the legacy of Ajan Satien alive and we were all joined in with him in doing our best to accomplish that.

It was Winter Solstice, so I found myself trying to explain why, even though it’s the coldest time of the year, the earth is actually at its closest point to the sun…

At night, we went to the Karen harvest festival, held in the village’s largest open space (not counting the school yards). The harvest festival was referred by the Thais as being like American Indian celebrations, but I found it more like a typical modern-day American presentation. The pictures aren’t the greatest, but here are some:

Interestingly, there were quite a number of Buddhist monks present, but none other than our group were Kamattan.

(Khun Paw left front, Thip and Lott, Lungpaw Som with lips pursed and some of our monks front row bamboo elevated)

Friday, March 21, 2014

Thung Yai 2.7

We had come to the temple at Washuku to do some repairs to the foundation of Lunpaw Boon Long’s teacher, Ajan Satien’s khu-thee (monk’s abode) and put a hat over it to retard its deterioration. So, this was a work trip and once at Washuku, we were all focused on the khu-thee.

(Ajan Satien’s ku-thee)

Over the course of the week, I performed various duties, including helping to move steel, burning old bamboo, brush cutting and weeding, brush burning, recycling, clearing paths of bamboo, assisting sanding of wood boards… basically, wherever an extra hand was needed, I tried to contribute.

(Lungpaw inspecting the ku-thee’s foundation)

The night of our first full day, I just stood and stared at the night sky. I hadn’t seen so many stars in the sky for several years!

(Some shots of Lungpaw Boon Long in front of his teacher’s abode)

Monday, March 17, 2014

Thung Yai 2.6

Although I consistently got better at 4-wheel driving the route into northwestern Thung Yai, I still got in trouble a few times; two times seriously. One was a shift issue and the other was an acceleration issue. My passengers that day have some stories to tell!

All the way along, I was careful to keep my eyes on the track ahead of us, not even daring to look at the beautiful scenery surrounding us. This was in keeping with necessity, as I guestamate that in the course of the day’s driving, I made thousands of minor decisions that strung along second-to-second. Focus was, if not everything, certainly at the top of the list.

 Yes, it was a real challenge for me, but in the end I received positive reviews from Lott and those who travelled with me and those in the truck following who could see how I was doing. It helped to have Thip along to translate more complex sentences.

 After we finally reached the Kamattan temple at Washuku that Ajan Satien founded, I again brought up my joke about getting my diploma from the “Kamattan School of 4-Wheel Driving.” The best of the drivers, a guy I call “Big Baby,” joked back, in return, that I don’t get that until I can drive the route also using 4th and 5th gears.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Thung Yai 2.5

I slept pretty well in my tent pitched at Gosadeng with the rest of our four-truck group of Kamattan monks and lay people; probably more due to exhaustion than comfort. Of course, my wife Thip and I slept in separate tents, as it was the polite thing to do. Surprisingly, it was not as cold as I thought it would be, but the cold would come in subsequent nights.

Thip’s father Khun Paw (Nah) even bathed in the Song Kalia!

(Khun Paw at upper right; Thai washing dishes lower left)

(Thip and a Bikkuni [a kind of temporary Buddhist nun] preparing our morning meal)

After jahn hahn, held in the open field at the Gosadeng communications center, we hit the track/road on my second time behind the wheel and first full day 4-wheeling the route to Washuku.

(one of the prettiest spots along the trip: Mae Khasat waterfall)

Several of the climbs seemed at least a 45-degree angle and were a real challenge for me. It was at this time that I had my first big insight: I’d jumped at the chance to drive thru Thung Yai, pretty much just thinking about myself; how exciting it would be, what a challenge and certainly a memory to rack up. But, actually driving it and being in situations where I could have lost it and killed or seriously wounded myself and my passengers – or, at very least damaged the truck… that’s when I realized this trip was more about responsibility to others rather than just a thrill for myself.

(Thip on the footbridge at Lankah Pass, over the Khasat river, just before leaving the Sanctuary boundary)

(another view of the footbridge and Khasat)

This second day, I learned the wheel widths a better, learning to travel in the grooves made by previous trucks. I also learned to let the truck “drive itself” to some degree, not being too strong on the wheel, and watch the tilt of the truck. I never got out of gears 1, 2 and 3 in high low.

I also discovered that driving with bare feet was the way to go; much more sensitivity.

(most of the route we traveled our second day in)

(Some other drivers, L-to-R: Thai, Yah, Lott and “Big Baby”)