Sunday, April 27, 2014

Thung Yai 2.13

We finished work on Ajan Satien’s khu-thee a couple of days after Christmas. There was no closing ceremony, which surprised me, but we got to etch a few words into wet cement to show when we had been there and done the work.

That last night, Thip boiled me some water so I could have a hot shower. That was a luxury. She had also kept up my daily laundry, which was one of those simple pleasures that I enjoyed that most guys did not.

Next day, after Jahn Hahn, we loaded the trucks and were off, headed back to Wat Erawan in Thong Pha Phum.

I did not know I was one of the drivers entrusted with bringing us back safely until ten minutes before departure. Of course, I had hoped I would, but I did not take it for granted. That I was again chosen confirmed that I really had passed “The Kamattan School of 4-Wheel Driving.”

With greater confidence and now knowing the route in a basic way, I was able to speed up my driving. Added to this was that Lungpaw Boon Long was in the other front seat and would help me by telling me what highest gear I could go into, in particular stretches. The four truck caravan made much faster time this way and, in fact, made it out of Thung Yai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary in a single day, arriving at Thong Pha Phum before midnight.

(Thip's father, Khun Paw)

The next morning, during Jahn Hahn at Wat Erawan, the temple’s head monk Lungpu Sakhon advised: To get good at anything takes a long time and patience, especially Kamattan Buddhism.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Thung Yai 2.12

Christmas at the Washuku temple passed uneventfully and was really just another day. Those few people who knew that I had been “Christian” and that my family in America are Christians, wished me a “Melly Krit-mutt” and the stars twinkled that night, but that was about it.

Except that I thought a lot about my Gault-Williams, Gault and Williams families much more than usual. How would they be spending their Christmas, this year? I was happy to find out later, when I returned home to the Isaan, that they all invested in quality time together.

Here is a picture of my wife and some pictures of the chedi (stupa) that sits next to Ajan Satien’s khu-thee in his honor:

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)