Wednesday, July 07, 2010

In Which I Start Saying Good-Bye

Eunice was off on a special side trip today, so I was the designated and only teacher for the morning class.

I was nervous, actually; the way I am before teaching any new class the first time. But it went fine, of course. Eunice left a great plan for me, I know the students pretty well by now, and we had fun together and accomplished a lot.

We've been going over "words of frequency" this week (always, almost always, usually, often, seldom, hardly ever, etc.). I put the words on a continuum up on the board and we discussed examples for each one. They started off with some of the same things we had discussed yesterday - life at the wat (We always go to morning chanting, we never eat after noon, we seldom go shopping, etc.). Phra Maha Pichet branched off a little bit by suggesting that the "Thai government seldom attacks." "Just red shirts, right?" I joked, and they all laughed.

My favorite quip of the day was when I asked Phra Vishan what was something he never does. He said, "Hmm..." and scrunched up his face the way he does when he's thinking hard. Phra Karn jumped in then and said, "He never dies!" They then quickly followed up with "He never stays awake!" Fortunately, the 79-year-old Phra Vishan has a great sense of humor and he chuckled along with the others.

Sadly, though, I had to say good-bye to two of the monks today. Phra Den only comes to class Monday-Wednesday, so today was my last day seeing him. Phra Vishan told me at the end of class today that he was going to Bangkok. "Hospital," he said, tapping his chest. I hope that meant a check-up on his heart and not surgery. Still, he's not coming back until Monday, so today was my last day seeing him as well.

I was a little surprised at how sad I was to have to start saying good-bye. Phra Den has some friends in Colorado, and he contacted them last night and told them all about me, his "English teacher." (He calls me, "My English teacher" more often than he calls me "Amanda" - it's both odd and nice to hear that title spoken with such respect all the time.) He gave me their phone number and asked me to get in touch with them so I could know about when they do their annual ceremony at his wat. He wants me to come back every year to attend the festival.

I've tried, half-heartedly, to explain that there's a lot of the world out there I want to see, but everyone I've talked to here want to know when I'll be back in Thailand again. They're so proud of their country and want to show so much of it. Phra Karn asked me when I was flying out and when I told him Saturday morning, he said, "Oh. I go to mountains on Saturday - I wanted to show you. You change your plans? Just two days! Wait two days."

I declined as nicely as I could, but it's really hard to say "no" to a monk. I explained that I missed my family, that I hadn't talked to them in five weeks. He said, "The mountains are very beautiful here."

Phra Den asked me about my exit plan in detail, and when he heard how early I was flying out Saturday morning, he offered to make arrangements for me at a hotel near the airport. I couldn't quite understand - he was either offering to book it for me or to pay for it for me, but either way it was extremely generous and very hard to turn him down. I tried to be polite, but he was very insistent about wanting to do that for his English teacher because "you have taught me so much." It was so sweet, but I just couldn't accept. He finally let it go, reassured, when I told him that Phra Bart was going to make the arrangements for me.

Oh, I'm going to miss these men. I'm not even letting myself think about saying good-bye to the Community kids yet, let alone Eunice and the other volunteers. I won't be weeping over it, but I am very glad that I've had such good people to work with here.

So much for my Buddhism lessons on not being attached, right?

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