Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Grammar of Joy

When I moved to Thailand last January, I knew I was giving up what I had at home.  I sold my cars, sold or gave away my furniture and cancelled what lifestyle I had.  I didn't know how challenging Thailand would be and how much it would teach me, despite my resistance to change.  Everyone told me that I would be having so much fun when I got here.  Considering I have rarely been comfortable with having fun, I found such comments quite unlikely.

If Buddhists were to teach English, it would only be in the present tense.  The past tense is filled with guilt for sins committed and sorrow for losses. Future tense causes us to worry, lose sleep, get angry and even cry about things that haven't happened yet and probably never will.  The present tense is here and now and the most brief.  After all, now only lasts for this moment, and then it is past.  The one time I have always had difficulty with is the present.  Yet Buddhism tells us to live in the present.  After all, what can we really do about the past or future other than feel guilt and worry.  Living in the present tense does thing the other two won't do.  The present tense lets you have fun.  Thailand is a Buddhist country and I am beginning to understand what that really means.

Two weeks ago, we were told that the teachers were to come in on Friday for Sport Day or some such thing.  I had no idea what that meant.  The day turned out to be a day off for the students and an all day party for the teachers from our school as well as a dozen other schools in the area.  Even though it was a day off for the students, they still showed up in school uniform, ready to see the teachers be themselves.  The day started with a parade down the main street of Chaiprakarn, about 20 km from Fang.  I drove my car with another teacher so we could make an appointment later.  The parade took about an hour, walking in the hot sun and I felt myself melting.
Rangsee Teacher band

A few of my students

The band does a dance

More of my students
The party continued on to the evening with drinking and dancing, but, being the party pooper that I am, I left after lunch along with the other American teachers.  As much fun as everyone was having, I couldn't figure where I would fit.

The next week I was told that for the month of November, every day would be a short day to allow the high school students to play games with the elementary school students in preparation for a final Student Sport Day at the end of the month.  At first, I was annoyed to have to shorten all my classes by ten minutes and to expect an even lower attention span from the students, but gradually I started to get it.

My western mind keeps worrying about what they are missing by not being in school, yet I am missing the point.  This is why they are in school.  Many of the students have dysfunctional homes just like American families.  When they are at school, though, they are among friends.  You see them wandering from class to class, sometimes arm-in-arm, smiling and laughing.  The photos above are not poses.  That is how they always look.

The British accused their own of "going native" if they started to dress and act like the locals.  Since I have been here, I have had my first opportunity to sing in front of a live audience, I bought my first ukulele, and am enjoying the least most days.  Maybe, just maybe, if I stay here much longer, I might finally ignore past and future and finally get to enjoying the present.  Perhaps I will go native, as well.

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