Saying Yes in Thailand
We were not born into this life knowing if we are going to become rich or poor, happy or sad, sick or healthy. But one thing that I know is that the human mind is a powerful tool to achieve anything. No matter the circumstances, greatness is when you push yourself above the odds.
That’s how I ended up in the back of a pickup truck with 6 strangers. Only one spoke enough English for us to communicate the basics, “where are you from? Do you want to go to the bathroom?” I had just learned days earlier that I had broken ribs and a blood clot on my left knee which prevented me from flying but not from living. A women, Kikie, who I met a week earlier asked if I wanted to come north with her to feed the poor villages and to bring them clothes. I didn’t even let her finish before I said yes.
Our first stop was a grocery store. We were picking up food and candy for the people in the northern villages. The supermarket was huge with many aisles and all in Thai. Being out of my element I had no idea what to buy so I watched the others and then I stuck with what I knew, Kit Kat’s, suckers and anything bright colored.
We loaded up and headed to pick up Kikie but first we stopped for a quick bowl of boat noodles. 9 baht. That’s 27 cents. I never even notice that money back home and here it’s an entire meal. Thailand has a way of putting everything in perspective. Finally we were on our way.
Kikie is building a guest house called “The Mothership”. These white domes sit in the mountains outside of Mae Win and carry with them incredible psychedelic views. That’s where I met up with Masha from Belarus, Guilla from Spain, Marco from Germany, and William from New Castle, England. But don’t let the England part fool you, he speaks in an old Viking dialogue called Geordie. Over the next three days I would try and communicate with Russian, Spanish, German, Thai and English.
With that many languages floating around you find yourself constantly lost in translation so you learn to go with the flow and just follow. Our first stop was to visit a Monk at a burned temple. I had picked up some of the culture and mannerisms already from the past couple weeks so I sat as we offered the monk money to rebuild the temple and then he blessed us while we poured water into glasses. I didn’t know why we were doing this but I do know I was overcome with a feeling of great loss and that’s when I started to silently cry. When we were finished we were asked to pour the water on a sacred tree (wrapped in an orange scarf) and to think about our loved ones that had died. I don’t practice Buddhism but I can tell you that I feel a stronger connection with it than any other religion. I of course thought about my father as I watered the tree.
We stopped at the market and got meat while William made a fire for us to cook it on. It was my first night there and the sunset was to surreal to not have a beer with it. And after a few, we were headed to the local karaoke bar to have some more. A Thai karaoke bar is something you have to be present at to get the complete experience. There were only three men and the woman who I assumed was the owner. They were excited to see us and next thing I know we were sharing Lao Khao (Thailand Moonshine) and language lessons. They traded marijuana for cigarettes and then we all sung the only song everyone knew in English, Zombie by the Cranberries. I danced to Thai music and before it was to late to return, Marco, William and I loaded up Thai style on the scooter and headed home where we sat in the dome for one last joint and listened to Radiohead. Sleep came fast and hard.
Day two was early. The truck bed was filled with clothing and food and we all piled on top and headed out to the villages. Our first stop was local. Maybe 25 families and a School house. Since being in Thailand I have experienced kindness that doesn’t exist any where else in the world but on this day I was transcended into the center of it. The village people were patient and thankful as they only took a few items that they needed making sure that they left plenty for everyone. I could tell that possessions make them uneasy. If they have more than they need then they will want more but if they have nothing then they have all that they want and are happy.
The school was blissful. I’ve always had a weakness for animals and children and Thailand is in an abundance of them. The kids have the same simple mentality as the adults, they only took what they needed and none were upset if someone got more, in fact they seemed happier if someone did.
Next we stopped to see a women who Kikie had been building a bathroom for. The women had a small hut and a hog tied to a tree outside and to go to the bathroom she had to walk a very long distance. She had nothing. I’ve seen some homeless that had more. When asked what she needed, a bathroom was her only reply and even that came with hesitation.
The roads we took were winding, rocky, rutted, dusty, and over steams. All were covered by thick jungle forest and a heavy heat. We shielded ourselves from the sun with scarfs, the grit from the dirt stuck in our teeth from smiling so much. We could have fell of a cliff and wouldn’t care.
The other villages were very remote. We hiked to some and ate strange fruit from the trees along the way. Kikie use to be a nun and a forrest guide and watching her navigate through the jungle gave comfort that we were in the best hands we could be in.
The cats and dogs are all beat up from fighting each other for their place in the world. They look starved and you can count ribs on most of them. We fed them too and they took with the same patience and softness as the people. How can an animal be so hungry and yet have food in front of them and not ravish it?
Since I’ve been in Thailand I’ve been told that I have a good inside. That I am good luck to others and that I have something special to give. A woman at Don Intonation, Thailand’s Highest mountain, approached me so she could introduce me to her meditation master, a monk from the Surin Provence. We kneeled before him while I asked questions and the women translated. If I didn’t have good inside me before it would be impossible to leave here without it.
Thai people are always asking “are you happy?” And just the simple act of asking it makes you naturally happy. No one back home asks this. It’s always a robotic “how are you?” With an even more robotic “fine” answer. Here they want to know if you are happy. They want you to be as happy as they are. I can say that I’ve never been happier. It’s a pure happiness that can only be achieved by letting go of everything.
At night we slept on floors, ate with our hands and listened with our hearts. The sounds around us soothed us to sleep, elephants, hogs, chickens, dogs and birds. Our showers were cold but non of us cared. We didn’t need anything else. We didn’t even need the shower itself. We just sitting around in the present moment. No past, no future, only now. Maybe that’s why I hadn’t once thought about my broken ribs or torn knee. I didn’t even feel them anymore.
The gift I will take home is peace and even though the root of suffering is attachment, I can not help but be sad to leave this place. So much of my heart is here and with these people. I’ll miss the silence. I’ll miss completely putting my life in the hands of strangers. I’ll miss the truth and calmness that came from it. I make these things my home and carry it with me always.