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)