Friday, September 6, 2013

Mornings Revisited

Wow, another great trip to Lao completed with only memories left over! Now it’s time to settle back in, at home (ban how).

As I wrote in 2012, there is no average day here in the Thai countryside; at least for me. Yet, some things can be averaged out and written as part of a general pattern:

A year and a half later, I still get up late (about 5:30 a.m.). Pahwet marching his cows off to pasture, with their bells a’ringing, usually lets me know that if I don’t get up now, I won’t have enough time to sai baht (when a lay person performs tak baht – morning merit making).

Before getting up, I’ll stretch those muscles that hurt – usually lower back, side waistline, buttocks and neck. Neck stretches help me with occasional tension headaches.

After I’ve opened the all-wood windows upstairs on the southside, downstairs I open the front double doors, turn out the front patio light and move Thip’s motosai outside, ready for her to ride to temple for jahn hahn.

The top of the big stand of neighbor's bamboo overhanging our back yard.

Some mornings, the village loudspeaker will be activated and our assistant village headman will relay important information like a call to a village meeting, events at the local temples, fundraising of various sorts, government assistance programs, health clinics, village clean-ups and more. Whenever money is collected, every person who has donated is mentioned, along with the amount they’ve given. This happens a lot.

Not long after coming downstairs, I’ll you-know-what, brushing my teeth at the same time. After getting off “the throne” and using a type of bidet (toilet with “bum gun”), I’ll pour cold water over my bod’ to really wake up! Even though we have electric hot water, and with the exception of wintertime, I still prefer this method because I have more water volume. The village water pressure combined with the electric water heater means a much slower flow.

My ab nam (shower) is followed with an electric razor shave. I’ve had about a half dozen Norelco razors in the last 25 years or so and I recommend them highly for those who prefer an electric razor shave over razor blades.

My selection of clothes has changed. When I first got to The Isaan, I would wear multi-patterned silk shirts, cargo shorts and sandals. My wife let me know, last year, that this typical expat attire made me look “old.” Now I wear synthetic fabric sports shirts and shorts that are very popular here in Thailand amongst males and females; from kids up to guys in their 30s. Thip tells me I now look “younger.” Judge for yourself. Here’s what a waist-high view looks like.

I never thought I would opt for synthetic fabric over natural, but I now prefer this attire. When the shirts get wet from sweat, they act as a cooling agent on the skin whenever there is air movement. It’s like wearing a mini, portable “swamp cooler.” Having a shirt on helps protect much of my upper body from mosquitoes, also. The shorts feel almost as if I don’t have anything on; no weight at all and the fabric is flexible.

One type of attire that is still with me, ever since my freeform radio days in the beginning 1970s, are denim shirts. At first I thought these would be impractical in Thailand, but as every USA country boy, farmer or rancher will attest, they are hardy and utilitarian. They get totally soaked with sweat after brush cutting, but protect me from the sun, debris and mosquitoes.

While I’ve been getting ready, Thip has steamed sticky rice (khao nio) and prepared it in small bamboo baskets. She usually has some goodie for the lead monk; bananas, mangoes, jackfruit, cookies – usually fruit from our land, as is the rice from our farms.

At some convenient point (we are on a deadline, at this point, getting ready for the monks to walk by on their binta baht), I’ll attend to water management chores of making sure there are plastic bottles with water in the freezer, the ice cube trays and drawer are full, and that there’s refrigerator water full enough for Thip’s cooking and our drinking.

Out of respect for the monks, I’ll also sweep the road in front of our house, time permitting.

We then sai baht while the monks binta baht. It’s all part of the tak baht custom that sees Buddhist monks walking through villages, towns and even cities, accepting food from people who not only show their support for the sangha, but also make merit by giving. In English, it is known as “alms giving” and to the monks as the “alms round.”

After tak baht, Thip prepares further food for the temple and jahn hahn, prepares my coffee and light breakfast that often times is dragon fruit or pineapple, sometimes eggs, and banana muffins. My coffee situation has been upgraded. Last year, I was content with the pre-packaged 3-in-1 instant coffee, creamer and sugar. Now, Thip has cut out the sugar by buying straight dark roast instant coffee and adding her own canned milk. The taste is stronger and I like eliminating some sugar in my diet. I have plans on further coffee upgrades, but for right now this is fine.

After taking care of me, Thip will head off to the temple for jahn hahn, while I only attend around once a week. From the temple, she’ll go on to the family house to help take care of her mother. The remainder of my morning is spent on the computer, catching up on communications, gaming and writing.

See how this has changed from last year: Mornings1, Mornings2

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