Mai Pen Rai, Be Happy

Oh man, its only 7:45am and I already have so much work to do.  I still need to write a lesson plan for today.  I didn’t have time for coffee before coming to the office….Alright, lets bust out this lesson-plan before…

“Maxwell!  Come sit.  Eat some langsats with me,” chimes Ajan Sumalai.

Dammit, why is everyone here so cheery?  Its too early to be so nice, I need my coffee.

Ok, maybe I don’t actually think that way (langsats are delicious!), but sometimes I feel like I am that guy…and I’m from the west coast!  Life is really relaxed here, which wasn’t my initial impression during my first weeks wandering through insane traffic and shoulder-to-shoulder walking markets.  Its not that people in Thailand do any fewer things during the day, its just that they don’t do them with such a frenzied and desperate persistence as we may do in America.  People are just calmer and happier here.  So happy they could sing!

Happiness as a culture is pretty simple really, but often we only talk-the-talk in America.  To perpetuate happiness, people in Thailand constantly spread their compassion.  “Share the love” is a common theme with Thai people (Except for the taxi drivers…paed sip baht to get to Thapae gate?  What planet are you from?).  I volunteered to help teach Thai teachers some English language skills on saturdays.  The above teacher wanted to share with us a song, completely interrupting my lecture on how to ask questions in English, which was a riveting one I might add.  In fact, it was such a meaningful lecture, it drove these four educators to share some love.

Yes, that is four grown men “cheating”….or “sharing answers.”

The Thai in my office are extremely friendly and giving.  They often share fruit or random bags of pork with me.  They had me at random bags of pork.  Everyone in the English department at Prince Royal’s College has helped me to settle in Chiang Mai in some way or another.  Ajan Jasmine helped me move all my bags from one apartment to another on a random Tuesday at 10pm at night.  Ajan Sumalai spent a whole Sunday afternoon driving me to a garage to help me buy a motor bike.  Why yes, ladies, that is a basket on the front.

Don’t think that this kindness is limited to my fellow teachers, however.  At a random bar hidden in the alleys of the old city, my friends and I sat surrounded by candles, the bar owner, his few buddies, and the sounds of Cher reggae covers.  After a couple of rounds, the bartender asks if we wanted some barbecue.  When we asked “Tao rai?” he looked confused.  “No pay, we are just barbecuing, do you want some?”  Next thing we know he’s bringing us platters of bbq pork back fat and bbq cow udder.  “Its the thought that counts,” was painted on the faces of my vegetarian friends.

Madame T has opened up her home to me, always refills my drinking water free of charge, and often offers to take me out to dinner, even though I think she is having trouble making ends meet.  I’ve tried refusing these types of offers on several occasions, to which she usually replies, “We have to share,”  and hands me some sweet bread.

“Who says we have to?” would be a completely insane question to ask following this statement.  Its the way of life here, and I’m pretty ok with it.  We Americans are constantly attempting to impart our ways upon other cultures (Case in point: sending me to Thailand to teach English).  In actuallity, we might be in greater need of the sharing and kindness ingrained in the Thai lifestyle.  I’m not trying to preach, but I think it would do wonders for the stress levels and societal gaps.  It has certainly helped my sanity and personal well-being so far.  I realized after volunteering on Saturday that I had learned a lot more from that teacher’s singing than my class of Thai educators did from “Why, What, When, Where, How: Getting to the Bottom of Things,” with Ajan Maxwell Honch.

And in case you’re wondering, cow udder tastes a lot like chicken….really chewy chicken.  Do I have any teet in my teeth?

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