Monday, May 16, 2016

Evenings, 2016

When I was much younger, the night time was the right time. As a freeform disc-jockey (1970-75) and then as a rock DJ, my shift was usually overnight. When I was a beach park ranger (1972-74), it was the same deal. I was, in fact, the Midnight Ranger (MidnightRider)!

As I grew older, it has been hard for me to give up the late night. I just felt I didn't want the day to end.

Now that I am in my upper 60s, I've had to leave the late nights behind. Not to say they don't occur, but generally late nights involve alcohol and my body just can't handle drinking late at night any more. It's not a challenge of mind over matter, it's what my body tells me. So, most nights I'm in bed by about 9pm with a wake-up time of around 5am the next morning.

The hours prior to bedtime go pretty quickly.

Following the usual after-work beers at Bann Nah, I'm usually the last one to leave the construction site, checking that all water is turned off and a light is left on to discourage thieves. Speaking of thievery, I am very happy to report that in the two years we have had valuable wood and tools on the ground, there has not been one thing taken from the building site. I'm not sure if it's just good luck or maybe because our new home is associated with the temple; maybe a combination of the two.

After the ten minute motosai ride back to our village home, I'll put our motorcycles away, inside the house – actually in our living room – and take down the laundry that's been drying all day and put it away. By this time, my wife will be getting ready for her last trip to the temple, which is actually just a short evening ceremony that she and her girlfriend Mai attend.

Thip's back home around 9 or 9:30pm. By then, I will have showered, brushed my teeth, caught up on correspondence and ready to go “nite nite.”

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Afternoons, 2016

How I spend my afternoons depends on the weather more than anything. The“Rainy Season” (East Asian Monsoon Season) lasts from June thru October. During this time, when it’s raining, I tend to stick close to our village home. I might log extra time on the computer because temperatures are cooler and safer to run the machine; read, hand write or putz around the house. Sometimes I take advantage of the rain water and wash my motorcycle and if Thip’s around, I’ll do hers, too.

But, most afternoons are clear or cloudy and that’s when I do my hard labor – not that it’s all that hard. Most of what I do is “grounds keeping” both at our village house and at our farm house (Bann Nah). This amounts to cutting grasses and brush, trimming trees, burning old wood, digging and moving dirt, and watering trees and plants. These past several years I’ve been helping out at the construction site, also; doing mostly clean-up.

I stop work somewhere between four and five, having put in about four or five hours. I like to eat before sundown so that my food fully digests before going to bed. Thip either fixes me my early dinner or buys something for me. She may or may not eat with me, depending on what she’s doing. She has gotten more and more involved in helping around the temple and chedi construction site, so I often do not see her for several hours-long stretches of time.

Afternoon going into evening, often I’ll follow dinner up by treating our workers to some after-work bia (beer), at Bann Nah.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Mornings, 2016

In the several years I have been retired in the Thai countryside of The Isaan, my daily routines have changed, in big and small ways. I’d like to say they have “evolved,” but, no, they just change. Some things stay the same or have changed just a little, but more of my daily routine has changed than not.

In 2012, my first year morning routines looked like this: Mornings, 2012.

By 2013, they had morphed somewhat, to look like this: Mornings, 2013.

Between 2013 and 2016, my mornings retained some elements of where I started from, but especially changed in 2014-2015 due to my “community service” job of driving our Kamattan monks to and fro from the temple to the village, so that they could easily go on their alms roundsbinta baht – shortly after sunrise.

My morning usually began in the dark, when I heard Tah Nah go by our village home in his tuk-tuk, on his way to the temple. He drove one group of monks to the neighboring village of Ban Pak Whet and I took another to our village of Nong Soong Pleui. He got an earlier start than I did, obviously, and was usually sweeping and/or burning brush by the time I arrived at the wat.

Now that I no longer drive the monks in the morning (I donated our tuk-tuk to the temple), I get up a little after my wife, who is already cooking and steaming rice at four or five A.M., still in the dark.

I still do my body stretches – even more important than they were a couple of years ago – and then get up and out. Sometimes we sleep upstairs like we used to, but most of the time we’re downstairs for the convenience of being close to the bathroom. Both upstairs and downstairs, we have replaced our mosquito netting with simple netted tents on bamboo platforms that have the advantage of not only being raised off the floor, but also being enclosed all the way around, including the base. No more geckos wanting to sleep with us!

One of the first things I do is “drain the dragon,” brush my teeth, and drink some water. Then, I move our motorcyles outside, out of the living room. Sometimes Thip leaves early and if I’m going to do one, might as well do both.

After a shave, I take a shower (ab nam). We have two types of shower arrangements. One is an electric water heater and shower head that’s handy when it’s cold. The other, much more frequently used, is a typical Thai/Lao shower: a big plastic bucket on the floor next to a water tap and a smaller plastic bowl floating inside. Using the small plastic bowl, I throw cold water over myself a number of times during the course of the day – not just the morning or evening. It’s a good way to stay cool, clean and neat. Many Thai homes have cement cisterns in place of the big plastic bucket, but I’ve found that the plastic bucket is much easier to clean, brighter, and while it is susceptible to mineral stains, it is resistant to mold which easily grows on cement.

About this time, the village loudspeaker might kick in. Information from the head man and his assistant is relayed this way; some of it useful, many of it calls for money for various things or recognitions to people who have donated to various things.

Around 7am, our Kamattan monks come by on their binta baht and we sigh baht as all part of the tak baht observance (the alms rounds).

Afterwards, I get started on the day’s laundry and Thip takes off for the temple to help prepare food for the jahn hahn ceremony that takes place every morning. By this time, I will have had my coffee and obviously got dressed – usually a soccer shirt with shorts to the knees and thong sandals.

(our home in the village)

While my wife is away, I get on the Internet and plug into world events, my communications, writing projects and gaming.

Thip will be back shortly after noon, usually, and I will have already eaten my breakfast of muesli, milk and fruit and decided upon my tasks for the day.

(the view outside our village home front door)

Friday, April 15, 2016

Lungpaw Poems

In my first two years retired in Northeastern Thailand (2012 and 2013), our head monk Lungpu Boonlong wrote two poems he directed at me. In fact, I believe they were written specifically for me. My wife wasn’t entirely happy with my translations. However, I think they get the jist of what Lungpu was trying to convey, although not with the proper poetic form which is so highly regarded in Thai poetry. So that they are not lost, I am adding them here, now:

(Lungpaw Boon Long speaking and Lungpu Shy meditating on what's being said, 2014)

Dear My Friend

Poem by Lungpu Boon Long
May 2012 / 2555

I went out so far
Looking for happiness.
I walked far in search of it
And had many problems along the way.

A long time ago,
When I left the village where I was born,
I went to many cities
Looking for happiness outside of me.

Dear My Friend,
It’s not the same as I thought.
It’s very different.
Reality is always different
Than what we imagine.

Inside the cities,
I thought everyone had fun and peace.
But, I found everyone was fighting.

Today, I can see
Happiness can be anywhere
When people share and give,
In all situations
Thereby be true friends.

Walk With Good People

A Poem by Lungpu Boon Long
May 2013 / 2556

Clouds covered the sky.
I sat down from walking,
feeling very tired.
My fellow monks were tired, too.
I wondered,
“Why are we struggling so hard?”

The sky grew dark,
As doubts grew strong.
It is times like this,
That negative thoughts thrive.
Innermost mindfulness is required.

Yet, I still could not stop asking:
“Why are we struggling so hard?”

A ray of light broke through the clouds.
I could see it shine on the rice farmers below.
My people, the ones I care about;
The ones I teach
And try to bring closer to Buddha.

I knew then
That all problems
-- including my tiredness --
Can evaporate
In the presence of Good People.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Chedi Retrospective

As I write, the chedi building is being constructed ontop the old “Love Shack I,” built back about 2001 and “Love Shack II,” built in 2012.

(Thip on the chedi dirt pad, mid-2015; note our farm house in the distance)

Our temple’s chedi (stupa) started to become a big thing in our lives when we donated four rai and sold four rai to our wat in 2013. We did this so that it could be constructed outside the temple walls, be big enough, and – most importantly – realize the dream our head monk Lungpaw Boon Long for a place for meditation in that area:

Here’s a shot of the chedi location, taken in mid-2014, after the upper land was filled in but before the pad itself was built up. Note the red temple roofs in the upper right, our road to Bann Nah on the right, the temple pool in the foreground, and some remaining trees that used to be part of our upper farm land:

Over a year later, in the Fall of 2015, the chedi was dedicated.

The chedi dirt pad is now solidified and the temple and the community have begun building up the cement foundation and posts:

(Thip center with black sweater; Lott on her left and Naht in front of him)

(Bann Nah off in the distance)

Friday, March 25, 2016

Bann Nah 36: Retrospective

My wife Thiphawan remarked the other day that in a few months we will have been in building mode, at Bann Nah, for two years. I laughed, because to me, we’re already pushing three. She’s counting from when work began on the structure. I count from the time we donated and sold land to the temple, for the building of the temple chedi (stuppa), and our decision to build a new “shack” out in the middle of the rice fields that were left (9 rai).

Here’s what the original lower part of 17 rai looked like, purchased for the family to rice farm on, back in 2000:

Pre-Bann Nah

2010 – 17 Rai video – “Love Shack I”

Bann Nah History to Date

2013 – 17 to 9 Rai video – the beginning of the chedi pool and Bann Nah pad

2014 – Bann Nah 1 – plan expansion; on the pad
2014 – Bann Nah 2 – history of previous structures
2014 – Bann Nah 3 – making way for the chedi
2014 – Bann Nah 4 – more on the plan expansion
2014 – Bann Nah 5 – electrical lines

Our “farm house” (aka “bungalow on stilts”) as of March 2016:

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Bann Nah 35: Water Tank

A temporary fix, we installed a 2,000 liter water tank on a metal stand about five feet high. Thip designed the stand, red oxide painted the metal and we paid a local crew to weld it. I connected the PVC from the well to the tank and created ports for multiple use. Our workers were away, so we are now in a mode where we are trying to do as much of the work at the farm on our own.

Eventually, we will move the tank to a much higher tower so that we will be able to have water pressure to the second floor of Bann Nah. The tower will have a roof to shade the tank, as well as a lightning rod.

The temporary tank set-up now gives us the ability to easily water plants and trees that Thip has put on the pad’s periphery; mango, papaya, doolean, mak mee (jackfruit), palm nut, coconut and other trees I’m not quite sure what they are. She’s doing well with the trees, but struggling a bit with the vegetables due to the exposure of the pad to the sun; little to no shade.

Having pressurized water also makes it easier in preparing and cleaning up in the outdoor kitchen.

This winter of 2015-2016 was not an exceptionally cold one, but it lasted far longer than previous winters I’ve experienced in the Isaan. For example, I estimate winter season, last year, went for about two months. This year, it was a solid three.