How Optimism Got Fired

The center cannot hold. Things have fallen apart. –Kenny

Movie time, Mr. Over Acting! -Baiyok

The story of Optimistic Kenny [last name not included] begins a while before I came to Thailand. Kenny is a 33 year old Nigerian man who has lived in Thailand for 3 years. Sometime during the summer break Kenny came to Bunditnoi 2 and begged Miss Baiyok (the school director) and Kru Kai (the manager) to give him a job. Later, Baiyok would tell us that Kenny had a record of poor behavior at Thai schools. Though his record was against him, Baiyok took pity and gave him the job.

Baiyok, by the way, speaks excellent English. She spent 20 years working at Disneyland in California.

Anyways, things didn’t start well for Kenny at Bunditnoi 2. He spent his first two days complaining about the schedule (a rather petty complaint about having to be at school before 7:15am instead of 7:30 as he’d assumed) as well as the management. On Tuesday he told management he would be absent the following day to take care of some visa arrangements in Bangkok. He was gone the rest of the week.

I arrived in Thailand that Friday. All weekend, Ben and Hannah tried to prepare me for Kenny’s negativity. When I met him on Monday, I was blow away—he was happy, funny, and polite. There wasn’t a hint of what I’d come to expect. In fact, my strongest memory of my first week at Bunditnoi 2 is the day we played a friendly game of keep-away with him after school.

The real Kenny revealed himself slowly over the next two months.

Kenny didn’t like to participate much. Every morning he would duck out of the assembly just before exercises began. Every time we went on trips with other teachers—whether it be to the temples in Buriram or the reservoir in Khon Buri—or even out to dinner, he would decline invitations.

Early on, Kenny invited Ben, Hannah and I to eat Nigerian food at his house. We were busy that night, and declined. He invited us again, and although we were available, he cancelled on us…a few times. Eventually we gave up on the idea of homemade Nigerian food.

Eventually, during our discussions before school, it came out that Kenny smokes marijuana. Now, I’ve had my fair share of pot-smoking roommates, so recreational pot no longer bothers me nearly as much as it used to. However. Kenny does not simply smoke it for fun. He smokes before he drives, which rubbed me the wrong way because of my family history of pot-related car accidents. But what bothered me even more was that Kenny smoke pot before work.

Hannah, Ben and I have had many discussions about this. Although our personal feelings about marijuana do not always agree, we are all of one opinion on this: you do not smoke before work. Especially if your work involves teaching children.

The “problem,” and the reason why we didn’t tell our managers about Kenny’s pot, was that Kenny was an excellent teacher. I mean, really good.

At Bunditnoi, we have an English class, where the students learn vocabulary and some basic phrases, but there is also a Conversation class (usually just called Conver). This class requires a teacher fluent in both Thai and English because this class is where they learn to apply their vocabulary and such in, well, conversation. Kenny was a great candidate. English was his first language, and after 3 years here in Thailand, he spoke more-than-decent Thai (although he did not read or write).

More importantly than his qualifications, however: the students loved Kenny. He was very good with the children and it showed in how enthusiastically they responded to him.

So when the things got worse with Kenny (Facebook name: Optimistic Kenny [last name not included], a source of much ironic laughter for us all), I had a very bad feeling. If anything bad happened, the students of Bunditnoi would be the victims.

My opinion of Kenny soured again on Saturday, June 13th. That evening we were visited by Sanjoy, an ex-monk who studied at IBC with Ben last year and now teaches English in Khon Buri, a town about 30 minutes from Pak Thong Chai. Sanjoy is, at his core, an altruistic, well-meaning person. He had come to Bunditnoi for a day early in the semester and met Kenny there. That was, to our knowledge, the only time that they met.

Not so. That night, Sanjoy told us that Kenny had approached him on Facebook the night before and asked if he could borrow 500 baht. This came as a surprise to us for a few reasons. Number one: Kenny had never approached us, the people he worked with every day, for money nor had he given any indication that he was tight on cash. But we were really surprised because Kenny made 2,000 baht more than we make each month and at least 3,000 baht more than the Thai teachers make. On top of that, he had a side job tutoring on the weekends! He was financially better off than any other teachers we knew. He shouldn’t be in need. Moreover, he shouldn’t be asking Sanjoy for money.

But Sanjoy agreed to lend him 500 baht. Forty-five minutes later Kenny was in Khon Buri, impatiently awaiting his loan.

Sanjoy came to our house to ask us if this was usual behavior, and whether he should expect to be repaid. At that point in time, we weren’t sure what to expect. The following Monday we all watched him closely, but he gave no sign of being in need, in debt, or what have you. A couple of weeks later we went on a trip to Pak Chong for an international congregation of Taoist-Buddhists (Kenny, of course, did not come). When Ben mentioned we would see Sanjoy there, Kenny gave him 500 baht to give to Sanjoy.

So as you might expect, my opinion of Kenny was really in a constant state of fluctuation.

The tension continued to rise between Kenny and the administration. He was late to school two days out of every three. He was often out of school altogether, although usually for legitimate reasons, such as taking care of more visa-related business or his work permit. Still, the school management didn’t appreciate his absences. They could deal with it in the cases I just mentioned…but he was absent a couple of times for no good reason. When he got back, we would have to listen to his complaints about how management treated him worse than other teachers by docking his pay each time he was absent no good reason. The truth is, the other teachers are only ever absent for maternity leave or teaching conferences. So his complaints were not justified.

Kenny’s side job was to tutor children in Nakorn Nayork, a town very close to Bangkok. As such it was very far from Pak Thong Chai. He’d drive out there every Friday night and drive back late on Sunday, usually after midnight. This undoubtedly contributed to his lateness on Mondays.

Tuesday, July 7th, was the beginning of the end. Kenny’s motorcycle got stolen from the Bunditnoi 2 parking. Or, at least, that’s what we heard when he came charging into the office, screaming at the top of his lungs that his bike was gone and it was Bunditnoi’s fault it got stolen. He was furious that there wasn’t better (read: any) security in the parking. He demanded to see the CC TV footage from that morning. He threatened to call the police. Then he actually called them.

Through all the fury, Miss Baiyok tried did her best to defend the school and make Kenny see reason that it couldn’t possibly be Bunditnoi’s fault. When she got angry at Kenny, which happened often, she always ended sentences with “my dear.” This illustrated a fundamental difference between the two. Kenny was trying to get the authorities on his side. Baiyok was trying to be nice.

There were a few interesting points about the theft of Kenny’s bike.

  1. Kenny was so upset because there were valuable documents hidden in his motorcycle, including but not limited to his passport.
  2. If Kenny had locked his bike, it would have been very difficult to steal. He said he locked the bike, so…
  3. If it was locked, only one person could have taken it: the bike’s owner.

Later that day, Baiyok was contacted by the owner of Kenny’s bike. The owner said Kenny had failed to pay rent on the bike for the past three months. Therefore, it got repossessed.

Despite this, Kenny was still furious at the school and did his best to get Bunditnoi blamed (and fiscally responsible) for his loss of property. He spent the remained of the day on the phone with the police, his embassy, and I believe his mother. Nothing came of it.

For my part, I offered to drive Kenny home that day. Though he had managed to get his documents from the bike, he hadn’t been able to get the bike itself back. So I drove him home. On the way I stopped for gas and he showed me, among his many documents, receipts for four months’ worth of car payments. He was still fuming about the ‘theft,’ and told me in no uncertain terms that he would only stay at Bunditnoi through the end of the month. He did not offer to pay for gas.

He was not in school the next day.

On Thursday, everything was normal. He showed up late on a motorcycle taxi, complained, and reiterated that he was looking for work elsewhere. But other than that, it was business as usual. I drove him home again, he thanked me, and that was that.

That Friday, though we didn’t know it at the time, was the last day Kenny worked at Bunditnoi.

On Monday he didn’t show up. After the school assembly we learned, over Line (a popular chat application that the Thai teachers use to communicate when not at school) that Kenny had gone to a conference at the Ministry of Education in Bangkok, ostensibly on the permission of Verut, another member of Bunditnoi management. Whether Verut knew about this or not I never found out, but nobody else knew about it.

For Baiyok and Kru Kai, it was, at last, the final straw.

Kenny got fired. Not the next morning at school, not in private. He got fired over Line, where all the teachers could see it (if they could speak English). Below I’ve taken a transcript of some highlights from that conversation. I’ve edited some of Baiyok’s sections for grammar.


BAIYOK: Kenny, I would like to let you know. We don’t care who you go to see. The best thing is to come to teach your kids and take care of your work. You the MAN who broke the rules, my dear. See your boss and take your money tomorrow. Bye.

KENNY [Gives a long message in Thai. Based on sentiments he had shared with us not long before, I guessed he was claiming to have been treated like a slave during his time at Bunditnoi].

BAIYOK: The Kingdom of Thailand is a country without slavery for a long time. You misunderstand, Kenny.

KENNY: I came to your school with a clean heart. I never came to make trouble. I never cared about the salary even though it was lower than my previous salary. You all know I always travel to Nakorn Nayork every weekend. What I make from my private classes can take good care of my needs. I came in peace and I will leave peacefully. I don’t hate anyone, all I wanted was a peaceful n honest working environment. Today I had to attend this meeting. Thailand’s Minister of Education was there to see us all. I told them I teach at Bunditnoi School. I came because the school encourages the students and teachers to practice what his MAJESTY taught Thais. They took the school’s address because they were pleased with the information I gave. Is this a bad idea or bad motive? I wish everyone peace. I came peacefully and I will honorably leave peacefully. May you all be blessed. I will miss my students greatly, this is a fact but I am sorry, the center cannot hold. Things have fallen apart.

BAIYOK: Movie time, Mr. Over-Acting! Hopefully, you understand. Good job Kenny. No more time in Bunditnoi 2. Thanks again. Good job.

KENNY: Lol…With all due respect, we are all entitled to our individual opinion. Go through my comments, there is no place I ever stated I am not working for my embassy. Over acting? No way!!!!! All I asked was for fairness, respect the terms n conditions clearly agreed when I signed a contract. Am I asking for too much?

BAIYOK: To the teacher team at Bunditnoi 2 school: from today we don’t have a teacher from Nigeria. We will hire a replacement as soon as possible. Thanks.

On Wednesday morning we saw Kenny again. He came in to sign an agreement of termination. Hannah and Ben were taking care of some visa issues of their own, so I was the only farang teacher present when he came in. Miss Baiyok and Kru Kai asked me to hang around, watch the proceedings, and sign the termination as a witness. I agreed.

What followed was an hour of denials and insistences that Kenny was essentially an angel who had done nothing wrong. He understood he was being fired, but wanted full payment before he went. Of course, Bunditnoi had his time cards as proof against him. They gave him pay for the number of days he had worked, and no more. Personally, I thought that was fair.

When we left the meeting hours later (if you’ll recall from my previous post, he showed up to it late), Kenny went into the classrooms. This was not a decent move. He had been fired and should have simply left, and not let sore wounds fester. But he went into his old classes and spent a few minutes with the students, saying goodbye and (believe it or not) giving them his contact information, including Facebook. In other words, he was making sure the students would never have a bad word to say about him.

I think I was right that the students ended up the victims. Although they have good memories of Kenny, the memories do not include the many negative aspects of Kenny. Furthermore, they were left without a Conversation teacher. Hannah and I covered his classes for one day, and then Yo-yo filled in for a couple weeks until Chan, a kind Cambodian man and an excellent teacher, was hired. However, because he is still in school, Chan can only be at Bunditnoi 2-3 days a week. It’s not a good situation for the students.

Very shortly after the firing occurred I saw on Facebook that Kenny had found a new job. Good for him, I thought. And then I unfriended him on Facebook.

Unfriending is not a particularly big deal to Americans. Usually, you don’t even notice if it’s happened, and if it did, you recognized it’s for a good reason. I unfriended Kenny because he had injected so much stress into my first two months in Thailand that I wanted nothing more to do with him.

He, apparently, thinks unfriending is a big deal. Here is what he had to say on the topic, word-for-word:

Just found out you got me deleted as a friend. Well that’s cool, friendship is a 2 sided stuff. You guys may have been brainwashed about me just to save face but to the best of my knowledge, I did nothing wrong to any of you. I was basically fighting for my right in contractual agreement. Thanks for the short period and I will always appreciate the times you gave me a ride home. One day the truth will be known, as long as my conscience is clear, I don’t get worried about what anyone thinks of me. I’m happy and satisfied at my new place of work.

Well. Say what you will about any of the events above, but I don’t think any of it was done by someone who didn’t care what people thought of him.

More on everything to come!

Be dareful.

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Embracing Pride

Raise our flag high, sky high. Embrace the pride in our hearts. -Paiyom Valaiphatchra

Note: I cover a lot in this post. The pictures, though space out, are all from the first event, ASEAN Day

In August, 1967 representatives of five nations assembled to sign the Bangkok Declaration. By signing the declaration these nations (Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and the Phillipines) became the first five members of ASEAN, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. This alliance, motivated by a desire for economic growth and fear of the spread of communism, has since grown to include Brunei Darussalam, Myanmar, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos among its member states. There are also several levels of ASEAN-Plus. ASEAN-Plus nations are candidates for ASEAN membership, or observers of ASEAN proceedings. Among the various ASEAN-Plus nations are India, China, Japan, Russia, and believe it or not, the United States of America.

One unifying force among ASEAN nations is the English language. Because no two ASEAN nations speak the same language ‘at home,’ the working language for all ASEAN business is English. This is one reason why Southeast Asian nations are always eager to have English teachers.

Every Tuesday in the English Integrated Studies (EIS) classes we rehearse “The Asean Way,” the anthem for the ASEAN alliance. Though there is a Thai version, we always listen to it in English.

On August 11th we celebrated ASEAN Day at Bunditnoi. For a week beforehand I’d been hearing about the celebration. The children prepared songs and dances. We practiced “The Asean Way” during the daily pre-school assembly. I was told that all the teachers, myself included, would be dressing in the traditional garb of an ASEAN nation. I selected Vietnam at random.

Oi

Teacher Oi representing India, an ASEAN-Plus country.

The day before ASEAN Day I got two little shocks: I was told that I, with Hannah, would be singing “The Asean Way” in front of all the students (no problem) and their parents (wait, what?)

Oh, yes. Because August 13th is Thai Mother’s Day and a public holiday (no school), we were also celebrating Mother’s Day on the twelfth. So we’d have quite an audience.

My second shock, and this one didn’t really matter, was that the rental shop where the teachers went to get our clothing didn’t have Vietnamese clothing large enough for me. So Poh, the teacher who picked up the clothes, decided I would dress Indonesian.

On Tuesday morning we arrived to a colorful display of gorgeous clothing. Not only teachers, but most of the students and all of the Anuban children (preschool and kindergarteners) were dressed up. Food carts were set up in our parking lot, selling Thai crepes (like thin pancakes filled with a variety of things, usually hot dogs) and other treats such as green goop fried in oil into a sweet green disk. Not sure what that one’s called yet.

food truck

Two EIS second grade girls enjoy food truck fare.

A few of the teachers gave speeches, and Verut, one of the school’s directors, handed gifts to a few students. Then several mothers came onto the stage and were presented with Best Mom awards! It was great! Like Teacher’s Day, appreciation on Mother’s Day here seems more…well, more than in America. I’ve never seen Best Mom awards given in American schools. A group of Anuban kids sang a Mother’s Day song, too. There are many Mother’s Day songs. Teacher Lheaw has shown me quite a few of them over the past couple of weeks. They’re all very sad, designed to make mothers and children alike cry. My mom would love it.

china

Teachers Piyak and Lheaw both representing China, another ASEAN-Plus country.

The Mother’s Day songs progressed into ASEAN music. As I said, the students had prepared several songs and dances.

This is a perfect opportunity to talk about conservatism in Thailand. In general, Thais are very conservative people. I should know. I once tried to hug a female friend who was in a funk and I was told very clearly, that is not allowed. When you go to a bar in Thailand and the music’s rocking, nobody dances. They just sit at their tables and listen.

But when you do get them to dance, it is quite a spectacle. There are some dances that are graceful and dignified.

Ik

Ik, Oi’s son. Ik is in EIS second grade.

Other dances are not. Thais, even Thai children can be very sexual in their dancing. For instance, a group of boys (mostly fifth and sixth graders) did a dance that was mostly pelvic thrusting mixed with a bit of pretending to spank someone. A group of girls (all preteens) did a dance in costumes that suggested they were grown, busty women. All the teachers seemed to love it, laughing and cheering and egging the students on.

The assembled mothers were more silent. I couldn’t help but wonder how they felt.

Eventually the teachers did their own song and dance. One by one the Thai teachers got on stage, each flanked by two students dressed in clothes of a matching country. Then we farangs went up, waving and pretending we were an important part of ASEAN Day (We really weren’t, we were just there to watch and celebrate. I loved it). The Thai teachers sang “The ASEAN Way” in Thai. Then Hannah and I sang it in English. Then we were done.

ASEAN

In my Indonesian clothes holding the Indonesian flag, about to sing. Photo by Kru Kai.

To round out the celebration the cooks at Bunditnoi made heaping piles of food of noticeably better quality than the daily fare.

Things wound down before noon and the administration let us go early. But my day wasn’t done. An hour later, Teacher Pen (nickname: pakka, the Thai word for pen) showed up at my house to take me to the Department of Labor. The day had come to finally get my work permit!

However, this also came with a little surprise. The Department of Labor wasn’t the only stop we made that day. We also picked up Pen’s mother (who makes silk in Pak Thong Chai, the ‘silk capital’ of Thailand) and drove to the hospital in Korat to visit Pen’s father.

I’ve known about Pen’s father for a while. A month ago she and I sat in Verut’s office waiting for Kenny, Bunditnoi’s ex-conversation teacher, to show up. We were there as witnesses when he signed his agreement of termination (blog post on that to come, I promise). While we waited Pen told me her dad was in the hospital about to get his foot amputated. I asked why and she kindly showed me a picture of the skin infection on his left foot, a picture that still haunts me. As luck would have it the foot didn’t need to be amputated, but the doctors had to replace the skin on the foot with healthy skin from other parts of the body.

Vietnam

An Anuban kid dressed in Vietnamese clothes.

Anyways after finally getting my work permit we went to the hospital.

Before that day I had never bothered to realize: in the few times I’d ever been to a hospital, I’d only ever been in private or semi-private rooms. If I’ve ever been in a hospital ward before, I don’t remember it. But Pen’s dad was in a ward. Granted, his bed was at the end of the line and the bed next to his was empty, so in a way it was semi-private. Still, there were ten other men recovering (or, for all I knew, suffering) from various illnesses and surgeries within the immediate vicinity.

During the whole time we were there half of me wanted to leave. The other half wanted to sit with each of the men who didn’t have visitors and sing to them. I was either not dareful enough or not kind enough to do the latter. And when I asked Pen if I should find a waiting room to give her and her mom some measure of privacy, she asked me to stay. Then she asked me to sit by his bed while she and her mom took care of him.

Ik

One of Ik’s EIS second grade classmates waits for lunch.

He was asleep when we arrived. I could swear he was a skeleton. The man had no muscle tone at all. His knee was a large bulb, from which emitted bones covered in skin. I could see his ribs, his jaw. All the bones in his hand. And the immense bandage covering the healing wound on his left foot.

I watched in some kind of weird awe while Pen and her mother emptied his containers of urine, undressed and bathed him, rubbed him with baby powder to help his sweating. He woke up during the course of all this treatment and chatted with his family. Apart from the location and the language barrier it was just like watching a normal family. They bickered a little bit but mostly they talked and made each other laugh. They talked with a nurse for a long time.

Aww

It seems like I only photographed second graders. Anyway here’s three more.

When a woman came around and delivered Pen’s father a tray of gray-white slop full of bits of rice, Pen and her mother gave him some real food we’d picked up at 7-eleven on the way.

Then it was time to leave. I’d certainly been the odd one out for the whole experience but I was proud to be a part of it. Pen will go back to the hospital this weekend, and her father should be out of the hospital next week.

More on everything to come!

Be dareful.

A Slice of Birthday Pindapata

When Mr. Bilbo Baggins of Bag End announced that he would shortly be celebrating his eleventy-first birthday with a party of special magnificence, there was much talk and excitement in Hobbiton. -JRR Tolkien

I spent my birthday weekend at Wat Pa Nan Lourne. This is a temple in the forest just outside of Pak Thong Chai. It is a massive complex that covers over 200 acres.

temple

Part of Wat Pa Nan Lourne, as seen from its porch.

My first day there was last Thursday, July 30. I was there with Ben, Narong (a Thai monk who studies at IBC), and Sila (a Cambodian lay man who studies at IBC). It was the first day of Vassa, or Buddhist lent. Vassa is a period of three months in the rainy season during which monks are expected to remain in one sanctuary, typically a monastery. They are free to leave during the day but they’re expected to sleep in the same place at night. This is an ancient tradition that actually predates the time of the Buddha and used to be practiced by ascetics. It began because of the dangers of travelling during rainy season. Narong was coming to spend the entirety of Vassa at the forest temple.

Anyways, on the first day of Vassa I listened to the monks chanting for about an hour. Then I helped them light candles in two concentric rings all around the temple’s inner sanctum. After lighting the candles we returned for another hour of chanting.

Candles

People light the inner circle of candles, as seen from the outer circle.

That night Narong gave me a bracelet of prayer beads. It was the first such gift I have received in Thailand and except for two books, it was my only birthday present.

We slept in tents set up on the temple’s porch, which sat high above the river. It was nice and cool at night. I was sleeping nice and sound when suddenly, at 3:30 am, I was awoken by the sound of chanting. Because monks wake up at 3:30 AM to begin the morning chanting. I groaned and managed to fall back to sleep.

I spent the next day (my birthday) writing. I was pleasantly surprised to look up from my “office” and suddenly find myself surrounded by nuns, who sang happy birthday to me. Ben was grinning ear-to-ear…and I knew who put them up to it. Later that afternoon Ben returned to Pak Thong Chai.

office

My office at the Wat.

My writing was particularly fascinating to the temple’s only novice, a 14-year-old boy named Phummiril. His mother is one of the nuns. Her husband (in her limited English she called him ‘my darling’) was very abusive to her, so several years ago she took Phummiril away and found sanctuary in the temple, thanks in part to the Sangha (Buddhist monkhood) and in part to the temple abbot’s generosity.

Anyways Phummiril would sit and watch me write for hours without saying anything. Then sometimes we’d play games for a while, or listen to music–he’d play me a Thai song on YouTube then I’d play him an American one. Then he’d get up and leave for a while, then try to sneak up behind me and scare me. It was great fun.

View

View from the office.

The next day I joined the monks for their morning alms-round, which was the highlight of my weekend. An alms round here is called pindapata. What happens on pindapata? Leaving their temples at around 6:00 am, the monks carry bowls as they walk barefoot through a community. As they pass through, the people come to the streets and give them food (mostly rice). This is how the monks live. They go on pindapata every day. In Pak Thong Chai a monk always gets more than enough food to eat. Whatever he doesn’t eat is shared with their guests at the monastery, meaning me, and then the needy people of the community.

pindapta

My friend Narong (front) and another monk on pindapata. Behind them in blue, Sila.

How did I help? Well as I mentioned, the monks get more than enough food (especially considering that most monks only eat a single meal a day). Usually they get more than they can carry. So Sila and I went on pindapata too, following the monks with giant pots. When somebody offered food that wasn’t rice, we put it into the pots (non-rice food always comes in plastic bags, so we didn’t have to worry about it mixing together) and carried it for the monks.

After somebody has given food, the monks on pindapata offer them a prayer. This is illustrative of a Theravada Buddhist monk’s primary function in the community: to give merit to the people who do good. I’m fuzzy on the details of what this kind of merit does for a person, cosmically and theologically speaking, but it is good to get. Monks give merit daily on pindapata, as well as to the people who give them tons of food or light candles and incense at various Buddhist holidays.

merit

Two women squat and wai (press their palms together) as Narong offers them a blessing of merit.

When we returned from pindapata we collected the food under a giant pavilion. The nuns then sorted the food into piles of what they and monks could and could not eat. The monks and nuns are supposed to be vegetarian. However, they’re also not supposed to complain about what somebody offers out of the goodness of their heart. If the monks only collected chicken McNuggets on pindapata, they’d damn well eat the McNuggets. But with such a hefty collection they could parse out the meat and give it to people who wanted it. Like me.

After sorting, we still were not ready to eat. The monks sat in a row with their hefty plates before them. There was a few minutes of chanting. Then the lay people present (me and Sila) had to offer the monks food from their plates before they could eat it. The offering is really simple. All you really have to do is pick up the plate and set it down again. The monks, at this point starving after several hours of calorie-burning chanting and walking, get the point. They’re eager to eat. You don’t actually have to feed them.

Now, we are also supposed to offer food to Lahmpoo, the abbot of the monastery. He is an 80-something year old monk who designed and over saw construction of Wat Pa Nan Lourne himself, starting 30 years ago and continuing to this day. He told me (through the translation of Narong—Lahmpoo does not speak English) that in two or three years’ time the temple would be very beautiful. He’s delusional. It’s already beautiful.

lhampoo

Ben makes an offering to Lahmpoo on the first night of Vassa.

Lahmpoo lives in a small enclave of the main building of the temple. On the cement walls outside his door there are hundreds of phrases written in Thai. I asked Narong about this strange display of graffiti. Apparently, when Lahmpoo has a thought he wants to share to the world, he writes it on his wall. I wonder what he would do with a Facebook account.

bamboo

The majority of Wat Pa Nan Lourne’s 200 acres is populated by bamboo.

I spent most of Saturday writing as well, though I stopped for a while to walk around the grounds of the temple. It is full of bamboo forests, and in the middle of that forest there’s a clearing with a big sleeping Buddha statue. As I walked through the forest I heard many noises I took to be monkeys or snakes. I was scared, but it was probably nothing like Hannah’s recent trip to Khao Yai.

Buddha

Does a Buddha sleep in the woods?

Anyways, I went on pindapata again the next day, and left the forest temple shortly after eating breakfast. I was incredibly grateful to Lhampoo’s generosity for welcoming me to stay at his temple. When I first arrived, he asked me if I wanted to stay for three months. Wow!

More on everything to come.

Be dareful