Tuesday, June 22, 2010

In Which I Recall and Unwillingly Disregard What My Parents Told Me Every Time I Went Bike-Riding

Oh, last night turned out to be an adventure!

With all of my optimism for things working out, naturally I had to be thrown off balance again, right? Hubris and all?

First of all, I lost my dinner. Not in a metaphorical sense - literally. You see, since the monks don't eat after noon, to have dinner the kitchen packs a bento box for those who are still eating it. Yesterday, one of the American students here (Shaun) offered to take the bento box back to the men's dormitory, since there is a refrigerator there. He said, "Let's meet at 5:00" as the plan for getting it back.

Except we didn't say where. I looked all over the wat, but couldn't find him. It turns out that he fell asleep and didn't wake up until 7:00. Without having any idea where my dinner went and with the evening class approaching, I figured I would deal with the situation later.

The class went well. I participated a little bit, mostly acting as an example for the teacher's instructions. Only a few of the community kids came, for some reason, so we combined with the novice class. Eunice lead them through math and English - teaching them about subtraction and the beginning of that/this/these/those. She had the boys all line up on the platform at the front and had us practice math problems like "Eight monks take away three monks is?" while the boys demonstrated. Certainly a new word problem to me!

I was supposed to walk home with Oscar, but I lost him along with my dinner. He disappeared sometime after lunch. After class, I walked with Eunice, Paul, and Jessica back to the cafeteria for an Ovaltine (I abstained, since it was made with local ice). Still no sign of Oscar, the sun had well set by now, and there was a good rainstorm threatening to burst. Jessica offered to walk me to the guard's station to try to get a ride home.

Except the guard station was empty. The best plan of action we came up with was to look quite lost in the hopes that a passing monk would stop to help. One did, and Jessica slipped away to get to the evening chanting.

I showed the monk the note Phra Quan had written for me ("Please give me a ride to Phra Bart's house"). We looked around and found the guard, but after speaking with him a little the monk explained to me that the guard was new and did not know what to do.

The monk read the note over again, then seemed to come up with a plan. He said, "Come, come," so I followed. He led me down a few paths until we came to a little hut which I realized was Phra Bart's house... here at the wat. To my growing mortification, he interrupted the meditation session Phra Bart was in the middle of to pull him out to talk to me. I apologized, and explained the situation. He was very nice about it, fetched a flashlight, and led me back to the guard station. There, he explained in Thai what I needed and told me to sit on a nearby bench to wait while the guard went to get the motorcycle.

And so I sat in the dark, listening to the jungle sounds around me and watching the occasional lightening flash. It had just started to rain and I had just decided that I might be okay with sleeping on that bench if I had to when I saw a yellow light approaching. A different guard pulled up next to me on a motorcycle and kicked out the exhaust pipes so I had a place for my feet.

I hitched up my foot-length long white skirt above my knees, slung my purse across my back, climbed on, and held on to the guard's sides as he took off.

I think he could tell how nervous I was about the ride, because he was very good and slow about taking the turns. I've only ridden a motorcycle once before, and it was years and years ago when my uncle Jeff showed it off on one of our trips to Grandma's house. Here, as we zipped across the highway and then along the road past the coconut grove, all I could think was "Never ride without a helmet. Never ride without a helmet. Never ride without a helmet." I don't know how the Thais do it so casually - I developed a whole new level for respect for the school girls I see riding side-saddle behind their fathers, texting with such blase.

With my waving-hand-signals for directions and his responses of "okay, okay," we pulled up to the Trina house (which is the volunteer's nickname for it for reasons I have yet to discover). I repeated "Thank you" in Thai many, many times while wai-ing to the poor guard who was so nice to me. He waited until I figured out how to unlatch the gate and then took off back down the road.

I got inside to find Oscar. He had also succumbed to jetlag and had slept through the entire afternoon.

We raided the kitchen and found some Thai-version of Ramen noodles in one of the cupboards. After eating one for dinner, I proceeded to boil a few kettle-fulls of water to put in the refrigerator for the future. By the time I finished that, it was 10:00 and well past bed-time.

I was a little sick to my stomach this morning - maybe the water, maybe the food, I don't know. But things have been improving as the day goes on - breakfast this morning was a familiar noodle dish, lunch had some noodles as well instead of just the mysterious-bones-and-seaweed-soup things of yesterday. Jessica and Eunice discovered that Oscar and I didn't know about the secret way through the first gate (without either of them realizing the irony of exclaiming, "Oh, you didn't know about the secret entrance?"). Jessica showed me the trick after lunch, and it'll cut the walk from wat to house in half. Much more doable! Plus, I took charge of the bento box today, so I can make sure my dinner doesn't get lost again.

I did have my first meditation class just now. On the way there, it had rained just enough to form some puddles. The path I was on was technically part of the one of the buildings, so I was walking barefoot across the tiled marble, shoes in one hand and bento box in the other. Naturally, I completely lost my footing and slammed into the ground. And so my first meditation session was not so good - I was distracted by the amount of water my skirt had managed to soak up from the puddle; the throbbing pain in my hip, back, and shoulder from where I hit the marble; and the stupid fly that was very insistent about landing on my fingers and neck. Phra Bart told me afterwards that I was trying too hard to concentrate, that my eyebrows were all muddled and drawn the whole time. I had braced myself for this, knowing how very much I don't like being not good at something and knowing that I probably wouldn't be perfect the first time I tried meditation. There's another meditation session at 3:30, so I'll go back and try again.

1 comment:

  1. Amanda! I am so enjoying your blog, thanks for writing about Thailand in so much detail. You are so brave to try something so very far out of your comfort zone! I'm in serious admiration and wondering what I can do this summer to get me out of my comfort zone. Have fun in Thailand and contact me next time you're in SLC.