“Beauty and grace are performed whether or not we sense them. The least we can do is try to be there.”
My apologies for the lack of updates recently. Life moves quickly, everywhere. I am going to throw it back to 3 weekends ago. The highlights were meeting a new friend, May. She is wonderful. We visited some temples and just walked around Chiang Mai and chatted. My favorite part of the day was engaging in “Monk Chat.” Which is, just as it sounds, talking to a monk. It is an opportunity for Westerners to learn about Buddhism, and the monks to practice their English skills. As previously stated I get nervous around monks, but they were super nice and informative, of course. I really enjoyed learning about their way of life. It is quite a beautiful and peaceful one and takes a lot of discipline, thats for sure. Here is an excerpt from a Q and A about Buddhism that I loved:
“So Buddhism doesn’t threaten unbelievers with eternal punishment in hell?
Certainly not! Such threats may have been necessary in ancient times to keep people in line, and were used in conjunction with the promise of rewards in heaven. This kind of approach was also used to get people to join particular religious groups, with threats of eternal punishments and assurances of rewards.
Buddhists do not accept the concept of a jealous god who punishes his creations just because they choose a different religion. Practically all civilized nations respect and guarantee the freedom of religious thought and practice, as enshrined in the U.N Charter (Article 18). Torture furthermore, is banned by all civilized nations on earth. So how can any god that supposedly created all of us be any less civilized? Thus, Buddhists find such Threats of eternal torture in hell quite hard to believe.
For example, what kind of being will send or allow another being to burn in a fiery hell for ever and ever? Take a simple lighted match for example. Just hold it under your palm. Can you tolerate the pain for just a few seconds? Can you hold that match under someone”s palm for just one minute watching them scream in agony? Can you do that to anyone for all of eternity? Such viciousness is beyond imagination.
Furthermore, if it is in your power to stop such intense and endless suffering, would you not do so? Would any sane and rational being not do so? There can never be any justification for such merciless cruelty for any possible reasons and under any conceivable circumstances.
The Buddha never used any threats, or tried to force anyone to accept His Teachings. He believed in freedom of thought. He recognized that not everyone will accept His Teachings, and that people progress differently and will choose different paths for themselves. He preferred to explain His Teachings in a logical and reasonable manner, and wanted people to understand and realize the Teachings for themselves without fear of any punishments from Him.
Buddhism is not about threats or rewards, but about Knowledge and understanding.”
Also that weekend Kelsey and I found where are the cool kids hang out. A bar called ” Warm-Up Cafe” down on Nimon road by Chiang Mai University. Kelsey and I met some very drunk pilots and hung out with them. They were pretty hilarious. One of them kept apologizing to me about being drunk and then laughing when I tried to speak Thai with him. We found a bunch of silly farang to share a song taew back to the hostels with and that was quite silly, in the best way. Walking into a 7-11 at 3am we met a bunch more travelers and I briefly chatted with a woman from England. I instantly liked her. She was doing some solo travel for the next 6-10 months. She said, “I decided to quit my job and travel….to find myself, to figure it out. And here I am at 3:30 in the morning, drunk at a 7-11, eating a sammie.” I thought it was quite brilliant. John Lennon got it right, I’ve quoted it once on this blog, and I will do it again, “Life is what happens when you’re busy making plans.”
The next weekend was quite spectacular. It started on Friday with a field trip to the tallest mountain in Thailand, Doi Inthanon. It was an absolutely spectacular day. I got to spend it with the Matayom 501 students. We took song taews ( mini buses) to the mountain, where I unfortunately got a little car sick, but from there it was all rainbows and butterflies. We got off at the highest peak in thailand. It was beautiful, and very cold! The kids had hats and gloves. It was pretty fun to hear their reaction to the weather. Although, many of you know how I deal with the cold, so I did have on about 4 shirts. A lot of the kids told me how much they look forward to touching snow. Which made me think about how beautiful and magical it can be, and how it felt as a child.
Highest point in Thailand!
Next we went on a hike. It was a good one. For those of you who know my hiking ability, you know it happens at a very. very. very slow pace. Luckily the kids and I were on the same page here. It was not a long hike, but there was 900 steps. So it was a good one. And the view was just amazing. The clouds rolled over the mountain top and it was magical. One of the students, took the time to translate what the guide was saying. She would also stop and take pictures of nature and talked to me the whole time. It was very lovely. Plus there were a lot of selfies with other students, which was fun.I also learned the meaning of 555. Which I have not stopped using since. 5 in Thai is pronounced “ha” so instead of lol, 555. I love it so much.
Magic. Can you tell which one is me? 555
Wave and I taking in the view.
The worm in the tree. So adorable!
We then stopped at a mountain top market and I just about lost it. Best strawberries and avocados I have ever tasted. I spent every baht I had. We then went and had a picnic by a waterfall. After walking around this area, we headed back. I think everyone in my song taew took a nap on the way back.
Over the weekend , I continued to spend a good amount of time outside. It started with a quick stop to the Sanpatong Market. It was awesome, but at first overwhelming. Anything you could possibly want was there. Food, frogs, hammocks, clothes, machetes. I got some new work clothes, pictures coming for you Angela! From here Kelsey and I went to the Chiang Mai rock quarry. It is incredibly beautiful. Here I did some cliff jumping. At first I was quite nervous, but with some encouragement from some nice French gentleman and some new friends that live in Chiang Mai I did it, here is a little video:
(I did have to edit a minute off the beginning…no shame!…and also delete about 4 other videos of me not being ready to jump. Mai Pen Rai!)
The following day Kelsey and I went to Bua Tong Waterfall, nicknamed “Sticky waterfall.” It is called this because of the calcium carbonate that has formed on the rocks and makes them not slippery. So you literally walk down to the bottom of the waterfall and climb up it! It is fantastic. And worth the sore butt from the two hour motorbike trek to get there. Which reminds me, I got a motorbike! It was a little intimidating at first (driving on the opposite side of the road, knowing how to drive one, park one, turning one on….etc), but I started to enjoy it pretty quickly! Have no fear. I wear a lovely read helmet to protect my life.
Bua Tong Waterfall. I slacked on the photo taking, so I had to borrow this and the Crazy Horse photos from the internet!
I googled the type of motorbike I got and this is what came up…clearly this is the brand new special version. Mine is a bit “vintage”.
Check out the rock quarry, Bua Tong, and some motorbiking in Kelsey’s go-pro video:
That bring us to the present weekend. On Friday, I met up for dinner with friends of friends. I honestly feel so lucky to have people that will go out of their way to help me out. Thank you Kristen! I met a lovely couple and there little guy. We had a nice dinner at a magical place. It is essentially my childhood dreams in a nutshell. You get to eat and play on an epic outdoor play land. Like tree houses and stuff…. no McDonalds land . After that I took a nap…..for 2 hours. Then I talked to my parents and went to bed!
On Saturday I volunteered with CMRCA (Chiang Mai Rock Climbing). It was great. I went on a cold motorbike ride into the city at 6:45 am. I wore 6 shirts, no joke. I arrived and rented climbing gear. I rode with all the other volunteers to the mountain. We spent the morning clearing paths, and picking up trash. I got to meet a lot of really great and friendly people. The people who worked for CMRCA were awesome. One of the staff members, Katie, took me into one of the caves and then to the top of the mountain for an incredible view. After cleaning we had a delicious lunch and then were allowed to run wild and climb.
I met a bunch of cool kids from Michigan. They are doing the most epic study abroad program right now. Basically they get to travel around Thailand doing awesome outdoor activities such as hiking, kayaking, rock climbing, snorkeling etc. They were also cool enough to let some of us without rope and ATC’s climb with them. Although I have loved climbing and belaying for awhile now, this was my first time climbing on a real mountain ( Dad, don’t tell them about the time I was too scared as a 10 year old to even try). It was absolutely incredible and beautiful. Way better then indoors…because, the view. Yep.
So excited !
After returning to downtown Chiang Mai, I stayed in a hostel/guesthouse. It is called ” Be Beez.” I really liked it there. It was super clean, the people who owned it were really nice, and it had a beautiful garden patio. An added bonus was how well the water heater worked. The warmest shower I have been able to take in a while. Swoon. Although, other than showering, I was too tired to do much but lay down and stare off into space. I gathered myself enough to wonder to Aum, a vegetarian restaurant I have been dying to try. I got lost, natually. I pulled out my map and a very nice Thai man came and helped me out. With his help I made it there rather effortlessly. I had Khao Soi and a lemon/pineapple smoothie for dinner. It was delicious, but I had pretty amazing vegetarian food earlier in the week at Anchan, so I was not quite as impressed.
As I wondered back to my hostel, I came to the same intersection and was confused once again. But the same nice gentleman was there, I think he was working nearby. He smiled at me and asked if I was heading home. I said yes, and he asked where. I hesitated while weighing the risk of telling a stranger where I was staying. (I have seen the movie Taken, and although I believe my Dad could save me in the same way, I do not want that to have to be a scenario.) But I needed to take into consideration I was wondering around in the dark, by myself, so I went ahead and told him. He gave me great directions, and I was happy to make it back. People are awesome.
Sunday morning I woke up early. Another night of a 9:30pm bedtime will do that. I went down and had a hearty American breakfast of two fried eggs , toast, coffee, and O.J. And then headed off to yoga at Wild Rose Yoga. It was a really nice class, and it definitely challenged me. I have taken a variety of Yoga classes, but I enojoyed this style a lot. It was called “Dynamic Flow” and the class description was, “A more classical style yoga class, infused with western vinyasa sequencing.” After, I met up with a new friend from the rock quarry, Jerome, and went to Akha Ama coffee. It was delicious. The man that owns it, has his own coffee plantation in Northern Thailand and uses his own beans. The location was really awesome too. Although I think I may prefer Ristr80. I need to spend more time at both to make a fair decision. Such delicious coffee. Following we got some vegetarian food, and then went to a waterfall by Doi Sutep called Huay Kaew.
Beautiful view of Chiang Mai
Walk in the woods at Huay Kaew Waterfall!
As for school, I still have been really enjoying it. As I get to know my coworkers and the students better, it just makes it so much better. All of the people who work at Sanpatong wittayakom are so kind. They really go out of their way to help. One of the teacher’s has brought Kelsey and I Thai desserts at least once a week, so delicious! Another classic moment was sitting in a staff meeting and having no idea what was going on. One of the other teachers looked at me and asked if I understood anything, I smiled and shook my head no. And then, the teacher sitting next to me translated what was going on. So cool.
There are always challenging aspects, but that is with every life situation. One challenging aspect was not being able to be home for Thanksgiving with my family and friends. However, it was fun to teach the students about it. Some of my kids loved making hand turkeys, and when I gobbled. Which I did to the point that most of you would probably think I am crazy. But charades, right Lauren? We also do a radio broadcast once a week. Thanksgiving happened to me my day to pick a song and prepare a speech. So two students, Ken and Ying, read about the holiday in English and Thai. And then we played the song “I’ve Got Plenty to be Thankful For” by Bing Crosby. They did fantastic and I thought it was a lot of fun.
Even though I was not in America for Thanksgiving, I am incredibly thankful for my Mom packing a surprise Thanksgiving and Christmas gift in my luggage! It’s wonderful to be so far away and still feel like part of the day. It really made my day. In addition I got a pretty awesome postcard for my pen-pal, Brett. He sent it 3 weeks earlier…but the point is it got to me on Thanksgiving, Which was pretty great! Last but not least, I want to say congratulations to Caitlin and Steve on getting engaged! I have said it through various ways in social media, and perhaps I am just trying to make up for the part of me that is sad I cannot be there to celebrate with you right now, but one more time, yayyyyyyyyy!
Listening to: Lewis Watson- Outgrown