My friend and I had an interesting discussion at lunch today. Very politely, she raised the question as to whether I am "co-opting" culture and the possible ethical conflicts. She raised this within the context of a discussion we were having about the acculturation process in general.
In a word: No.
My interpretation of co-opting culture would be to assume the target culture should be adapted to my/our way of thinking or distorted to fit my/our own personal needs. In other words... hegemony.
What I have chosen to do is adopt it. That is an entirely different matter since it challenges me to change to fit it, not the other way around. It elevates me. I do not elevate it. It is not "taking the best and leaving the rest" like some kind of smorgasbord.
There are messages between the lines of what I do. By changing my view of the world, my behavior and my thinking, I am most definitely enriching my life and hopefully becoming a better companion and friend to the people who surround me. Personally, I believe it is making me a better person.
Using the clothing as an example, Thai clothing is very modest. While it is pretty, it certainly doesn't fit into this culture's standard of beauty. The particular style I have chosen is far more village than Bangkok. It is not "modern", not revealing, not provocative. Most of the skirts or sarongs I wear go to the ankle. Most of the tops do not show cleavage and those that do are tasteful. The message I am sending is "I am a modest person". In response, the external world sees that I respect my body. I respect the bodies of others. That is the exact message I intend to send.
The behavior I have assumed as a result of this is causing me to be more mindful and courteous. I put the sensibilities of others ahead of my own. The needs of others take on more importance. With an occasional lapse, I've learned to watch my temper and my words. Mindful speech matters. By giving up aggression and assertiveness, I allow myself and others to relate on a far more cooperative basis. It is a gentleness that appeals to most. Graciousness goes a long, long way.
I am not vegan but the transition of my diet to Thai-based has certainly brought me to a healthier diet. My diet includes a lot of vegetables, fruit and rice, very little red meat and quite a bit of fish. This certainly can't be harmful. Mindful consumption is important.
I have found that giving up materialism and consumerism has brought me to a higher respect for all life around me, the things around me and a consciousness of the way I view others. This culture teaches that human value is determined by participation in the economy. A lawyer has more value than a customer service representative, as an example. This culture diminishes the disabled, the elderly and the poor. It diminishes extended family. It places the individual above the common good. It diminishes primary relationships, turning them into utilitarian contracts. I am very aware of how much this has crept into my thinking and I have always been socially conscious, so I thought. Now, I deliberately watch for this and change it. It's very subtle and pops out in the most unexpected places. (Just today, I read a rather vile post on one of my Buddhism mailing lists in which a member ran down homeless people. Two years ago, I wouldn't have challenged it. Today, I did.) It has increased my compassion.
My ex-husband used to say that the only good idea is a better one. What he meant, in my interpretation, is that we should always be open to something new. This, even though I've been at it for a while, always poses new challenges and they are good challenges. How to live in a western setting with the values I am adopting encourages nearly constant growth. Sometimes we change the external and the internal follows along. That is the basis of all social engineering and can have a positive application as well as the more common negative one.
There is absolutely no truth to the notion that I am "co-opting" Thai culture. I respect it far too much. I have adopted it and try to live up to it as best I can. My only hope is that I will do it with the honor and respect it deserves.
May all have a peaceful, restful night ~
Saturday, September 30, 2006
My friend and I had an interesting discussion at lunch today. Very politely, she raised the question as to whether I am "co-opting" culture and the possible ethical conflicts. She raised this within the context of a discussion we were having about the acculturation process in general.
Posted by thailandchani at 9:09 PM
It's after 8.00 AM and I have just dragged my lazy, tired farang ass out of bed! It would not have occurred by now if it wasn't for one hungry pooch jumping all over the bed. Once I fed her, of course she had to go outside. Whatta shame! Autumn is here and sleeping is so cozy.
I have a few thoughts to share and they're not warm and fuzzy. One of the things I want to bring to the table in addition to the Thailand stuff is authenticity. It's important that it doesn't become a cutesy, shallow blog about clothes, housewares and adopted customs. Instead, I want to be able to communicate not only what led me to make the decision to move to Thailand but also what continues to convince me that it is Right Action.
If you read yesterday's blog, you know that V. bolted from rehab. That's his choice and it isn't my job to run him down or talk about how he should have done what others think he should have done instead of what he thinks he should have done. Those of us who are in recovery know that we get sober when we're ready to get sober - for our own reasons - not because someone else thinks we should.
What I want to talk about is the people who surround him. The cast of characters includes Che, one of his oldest and best friends. It also includes his mother, his sister, his brother and his girlfriend. Those are the key players. There are others, here and there.
One of the amazing things about group dynamics and being an outsider is that I can watch this stuff from a detached perspective. While I am a participant, it's not as part of the "inner circle". V. is a friend of sorts. He's not a close friend. He's a housemate. Sometimes he is a particularly annoying housemate. Sometimes I want to kick his ass. There are times when he gets drunk and plays loud music. At those times, homicide feels like a viable option.
There. I've said it. Thailand Girl is far from a saint. There's no Boddhi tree in the back yard. The short, stocky woman in Thai clothes is very human. I have a temper. Sometimes an f-bomb is the only thing that works when something is sufficiently irritating. Sometimes I am a judgemental witch widda "b". I'm opinionated. We're all subject to the vicissitudes of daily living and we all learn at different rates. I'm not so detached that none of this affects me. And growing is a hard process. There are times when it's harder than others.
Okay. Watching this interaction over the past few weeks has caused me to pause for thought.
Everyone in this drama has an agenda. Every person in his "inner circle" seems to have plans for V's life, regardless of his own. There are more egos around here than ~ as the old saying goes ~ Carter's has Farter-Starters. He is surrounded by a self-involved bunch of people. Each one has his or her own preconceived notion of what V's life will be after he gets sober. And each one has a personal stake in the outcome. His mother wants to see him make money so that he can pay her back for all the credit card debt he has incurred. His sister wants him to get sober so that she can claim credit since she is the one who tracked down the detox center and pulled strings to get him in on short notice. His brother just wants validation that he is doing anything at all. His girlfriend makes plenty of noise about wanting him sober but doesn't really. When he's drunk, he gets generous and buys her expensive stuff like plasma TVs. She's a good-time girl and that is apparent. Che wants to participate because when V. gets sober, he'll be able to work again and Che will make money from V's efforts.
There is not a single person in this who has said, "I want to see V get sober because he'll have a higher quality of life and will have choices that he does not have now."
This is utterly mind-boggling. At what point in human history did we determine that this sort of utilitarian manipulation of other people's lives for our own gain became not only acceptable ~ but a cultural more'? And what's worse is that speaking openly about it isn't even considered unseemly.
I'm not such a mindless, uneducated dolt that I believe this sort of thing doesn't occur in Thailand. There is no utopia. I am up on the news and the recent coup is certainly enough evidence that self-interest above the common good is alive and well, even in my beloved Land of Smiles. At the same time, I don't believe it is as prevalent in day-to-day life among regular folk like you and me. There is a gentleness and graciousness present in the culture that allows people to breath a little sigh of relief and relax. There is a social expectation of kindness that sooths a western soul and convinces us that there are in fact kind people in the world who aren't out to "get us" somehow. (Yeah, just because I'm paranoid doesn't mean..... bleh bleh.)
I want to hear just one person tell V. that he should get sober because he is a free human being who gets to make choices about his life. I want to hear one person tell him that even if others don't like it, that as long as he harms no one, he should make the choices that will give his life meaning and vibrancy. "Follow your bliss"! I want to hear one person tell him "I will stand behind you, even if your choices wouldn't be the same as mine." I want to hear one person say, "If you decide to run off and become a beach bum in Belize, I see nothing wrong with that. It's your life. You own it."
I'll be waiting a long, long time, I suspect.
It's going to be a lazy kind of day here. This ongoing drama is taking its toll. Aside from a lunch commitment already made and unavoidable, it will be a day of books, music, gardening and napping! (Anyone else finding more tomato worms than usual? It's become hand-to-hand combat between the little critters and my sheers. I do not kill them but carry them out to the front and drop them on the concrete.)
Sometimes taking a break from the world can restore us and that seems like the best thing for today and tomorrow. When I do this, there is no phone, very little TV or computer. Once I've checked the news, the TV is off for the day. It's fully restorative time with good food, beautiful reading and music ~ just getting back to the important stuff.
Hope everyone has a wonderful weekend!
Tired Thailand Gal
Posted by thailandchani at 8:24 AM
Friday, September 29, 2006
Today did not turn out to be "full Thailand mode" after all.
A few hours after I wrote my morning post, fully intending to disappear into Thailand-LaLaLand, we got word that V. bolted from rehab. For a while, we had no idea where he might be. Che had instructed us to not let him back in the house and we intended to follow that instruction.
Things don't always work out as we plan.
D. and I were talking in the back yard when the doorbell rang. I went to answer it and, sure enough, it was V. We had locked all the doors and gates. He was unable to get in on his own. We'd made it impossible for him to get any money. All of his credit cards are frozen, his bank account and so on. Needless to say, it was awkward. I'm not the sort of person who is comfortable with toughness. There is enough toughness in the world without my contribution. I couldn't turn him away. We let him into the house. Of course, he was initially angry about what we'd done and I apologized to him for following Che's instructions without critical thought and without consideration of V's position. We called Che, told him what had happened and he will be here later tonight.
V. had quite a tantrum, told us he was leaving, moving out on Sunday and an assortment of other unpleasant statements. The truth is that we want him to stay but we want him well.
V. went on to tell us that the detox center where he'd been taken was "full of bums" and that they did absolutely nothing to help him. He sat around all day, watching TV and talking with people who couldn't even hold an intelligent conversation. I do understand his frustration with that.
We're not sure what will happen now until Che comes over and talks with all of us, including V.
The stress of this hit me and it hit hard. I have been physically ill and emotionally drained all afternoon and evening. If I am up until 9.00 PM, it will be a miracle. I'm exhausted.
So.. it's been a rough day. Tomorrow, of course, is another day. Things will look differently after some rest and quiet time.
The thing I am most grateful for are the friends who surround me. I am especially grateful to CJ, my old friend and another ex-drunk, who called and knew I was in trouble before I even realized it. The gift of such friends is something I never thought was possible.
Thank you, CJ. Now I remember why I adopted you. :)
May all have a peaceful evening ~
Posted by thailandchani at 7:22 PM
After watching the news this morning, all the violence and political propaganda, I am so ready for Thailand!
Some days I wake up and wonder why I am not there. Practical considerations aside, I begin to yearn for it. That's silly, I know. "Yearning" will not get me there. Nor will "wishing". Now is the time when I must carry out a practical plan and follow through on each part, as time consuming and frustrating as it often gets. This is the time when I must behave as an adult, even though I feel like a child. :)
The only thing holding me back right now is money. Mean green. That will only resolve itself at an unknown point in the future. I believe I know how it will occur, how that money will come to me, but I have no timeframe. It involves a trust and some other gnarly matters and that all depends on whether or not I have been disinherited. At this point, I have no evidence of that. My family situation is more of a "cold war". It's not full blown insurgency. No nukes have been launched from either side.
Not to get too far into that. It's a very touchy subject and far too personal for a blog.
Today is an empty day. I do not have to go anywhere or do anything. The dog is fine, I am fine, D. is fine, V is questionable but not in my hands. We have everything we need for today. So.. for now ... I will go into full "Thailand mode". I will surround myself with it, drink it in and be as satisfied as I can be with the circumstances.
I hope all will have a day filled with whatever makes you happiest ~
Posted by thailandchani at 8:02 AM
Thursday, September 28, 2006
We (Shanti and I) just got back from our store run. I was out of a few things that are essential to life here. Fish sauce, eggs... Diet Coke. The store owners know me well enough now that they don't even complain about the dog. I'm very fortunate.
Anyway, I hurriedly got dressed, put on some flip flops and took off. It is a three-mile walk to the store and three miles back. It's a bit warm today so I didn't even bother to make an effort to look good. Bleh. Some days are like that. I didn't want to have to carry Shanti too far in the heat and she can't walk the mileage I do. She's just a little critter so I usually have to carry her 60% of the time. It was a race against the afternoon sun.
It was more crowded than usual at the store and it seemed people were coming and going in every direction. Immediately, I felt completely overwhelmed. My house is a very peaceful, quiet place. Additionally, I am blind in one eye which makes my range of vision fairly limited. Not complaining. It could be much, much worse since I would have no vision if it hadn't been for surgery a few years ago. Still, it makes my external environment trying at times, especially if there is a lot of activity. By the grace of Something Above, I managed to navigate the store, finding everything I need. Fish sauce, curry paste, brown rice, eggs and, yes, gawdblessit, Diet Coke!
I went up to the check out area and waited mindlessly. There were perhaps two others ahead of me. Of course this little store and the owners are known so everyone has to chat for a minute or two. It's accepted. We don't hurry each other. The owners of the store are an older woman and her son. Occasionally, I see his wife there but not very often. He is probably my age or a bit younger and his mother is likely mid-70s somewhere. She is my elder and I always respect her as such by greeting her in the traditional way. ("Sawadee kaa, Kuhn Suchin" with a little wai. She smiles in response.)
I felt some sort of human energy to the left side of me but didn't pay any attention. The people ahead of me were done and I dumped my stuff on the counter, greeted Kuhn Suchin and found my money buried in with the four tons of junk I carry around. Suddenly, I felt someone on my blind side put an arm around my waist. She said, "Oh, you are just darling!" Mind you, I have never seen this woman in all my life ~ not in the store, not on the street, not on the Most Wanted List for the local police. Seriously. I don't know who in the world she might be! She could be one of the Manson girls for all I know.
My instinctive reaction was to become irritated with someone for startling me like that, for touching me without permission (which is something I truly don't like) and for making me sound like a little Barbie doll. Darling? No. I am not "darling". I felt a momentary flash of anger.
I thought back to what I'd written this morning about kreng jai, keeping ego in perspective and realizing the world isn't all about me. It was a good opportunity to put some of that in practice. Despite the fact that she irritated me with her words, took liberties I did not give her and scared the cr*p out of me, I chose to look at her intentions. She meant to be kind in her own way. She meant to compliment me.
"Thank you,", I said to her, "It's kind of you to say that." I gathered up my stuff, picked up the dog and left.
We are all learning all the time. It's good to have a challenge occasionally to "practice as we preach". I stand corrected.
I hope all have a wonderful, sunshine-filled afternoon ~
Posted by thailandchani at 1:14 PM
As usual, comments and email get my mind going. During the night, a few emails trickled in and the one that triggered these thoughts was from a man who questions the "nuances" of kreng jai. Nuance is hard to identify without a root understanding of the core.
So, I sat here with my tea and concentrated entirely on that question. A little bit of mor lam music and a pen and paper brought these thoughts. What is the core? What is the pivot? What makes it work? This is all speculative, of course, and just a smattering of my own thoughts on the subject. As always, I am open to correction or additional tidbits for thought.
My pen started flying and this is what came: It truly is the ability to put the self aside and focus on others. It is more than politeness. It is a healthy balance of ego than we generally see in this individualist-obsessed culture. It is the ability to fully realize and accept that "I" am not the center of the universe, that it's not all about me, my wants, my desires, my ambitions, my "self-esteem" (you have no idea how much I detest that phrase!), my position in the social marketplace, my rights, my identity.
Living in this world is a group effort. Regardless of how much we may want to get beyond this, we do need each other. When I was younger, the radio shrinks and psychology pundits in the media were yapping endlessly about self-sufficiency, making choices for our own benefit without regard to the impact on others ~ that being a good cowboy would lead us all to fulfillment. Self fulfillment and self-actualization became the watchphrases of the day. Instead of the intended result, we instead have a society of alienated, lonely people without any moorings. Divorce rates are higher than ever since we now expect instant gratification, instant intimacy and disposable people. Children are growing up without guidance as everyone is out to seek their own star. We have come to value independence over connection. Friendships are shallow and utilitarian. It was supposed to bring us "freedom". We find wisdom where we can and it would seem Janis Joplin was right. "Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose." True freedom is something of an entirely different nature.
Social harmony requires social standards and behavior that is predictable. Kreng jai offers social harmony. It offers a grounding influence in an often chaotic and random world.
It also does offer some benefit to the self as well. If I had to do a off-the-cuff analysis of my social relationships today as compared to my social relationships of 30 years prior, I would say that the lovingkindness I experience from others and have been able to offer others in return has increased by several orders of magnitude. I believe people want to express this part of themselves but need to know they are doing it with a safe person who will not harm them for allowing that vulnerability. The quality of my interactions has improved in every imaginable way. Deep listening, right speech, kreng jai and other fairly simple principles have provided me with the ability to have a life worth living, a life that is filled with laughter, joy, compassion, empathy and authenticity. We are a wonderful species, if we just allow our true nature to prevail over a social engineering program designed to benefit a small elite. Think about it!
One final note for my ex-drunk friends watching for updates: V. is fine. He has settled into the facility. It's difficult to know yet whether it is acquiescence or resignation but he seems to have connected with a few other guys and is spending time interacting with them. Physically, he is doing much better. We miss him here at the house, although we certainly don't miss his drunkenness. It will be good to have him back when he gets well.
Wishing everyone true freedom ~
Posted by thailandchani at 9:30 AM
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
Just a few pictures of the area where I will be moving. Khorat and Khon Kaen in North-Eastern Thailand. Okay. I am new to this picture thing so please be patient with me. :) The upper right picture is the one on my screensaver. This is what I see in the evening as I relax in my den.
Peaceful night, all ~
Posted by thailandchani at 6:15 PM
Two things to mention this morning:
As I sit here, CNN is showing a news conference with the coach of the Dallas Cowboys. The reporters are asking him about the possible attempted suicide of a player named Terrell Owens. The coach was visibly angry and left the conference. Who can blame him?
I just have to ask: How is probing into that man's personal pain going to benefit the news-viewing public? Why is it necessary to fill the airwaves with this intrusive examination of his life? This is the kind of tacky, tasteless news coverage that camoflages the real issues of the day that should be brought to public scrutiny. Bush and Company continue to trash the country while we talk about the private lives of celebrities and athletes. Talk about Nero fiddling while Rome burns!
For the sake of all that is good, let that troubled man work out his personal issues in private! We don't need to know! I wish him well. He needs friends, family and professional help - not the gawking mouths of public citizens (including reporters) who don't know him but want to capitalize on his misfortune.
This brings me to the main topic of the day. Someone asked me last night on an email list what it is that draws me so strongly to Thailand. (Thanks for making me think about this, Carlos. :) Simply put, it is kreng jai.
Kreng jai is more than just a behavior, although it will definitely manifest that way. It is a way of viewing the world and our place in it. It is a way of viewing others. It is graciousness. It is consideration of others before the self. It is an ability to take joy in the success of others. It is non-competitive. It is thoughtful. It is compassionate. It is a way of considering our words and the impact they have on the general energy pool. It is a commitment to kindness. It is reserve. It is dignity.
It is the antithesis of what I perceive in my culture of birth (as opposed to culture of choice) which is dedicated to individual success at all costs, assertiveness that often comes across as rude or pushy, competition and focus almost exclusively on "self-esteem".
One is repugnant to me and the other is soothing, comfortable and natural.
While many people get a kick out of my theatrics with the clothes, the furnishings, the cooking and the lifestyle, I want to communicate the depth of this, too. That stuff is fun and I definitely enjoy doing it and I enjoy the pleasure it seems to bring to friends. Allowing my creative, quirky, eccentric side to express itself matters, but I also want to be very clear that I am not making a major move to the other side of the world because I think the clothes are cool. I may not be the sharpest tool in the shed but I'm not stupid enough to move for such a frivolous reason. Thailand holds such a strong soul connection that I am willing to do the hard stuff by acculturating myself over again and starting a whole new life post-50. Thailand is home to me. It's time to go home. I am soul-weary. Not depressed. Not upset. Just soul-weary and wanting to go home.
I'm not a particularly high intellect, nor am I an old soul with any special wisdom. I'm just an ordinary person and an ex-drunk who has a history of making some very bad choices in life. When looking at those bad choices closely, it became apparent that breaking it down and examining it with brutal honesty was necessary to create a life I can live with and that will be worth sharing with others. That will free me from root survival mode to an ability to contribute to the well-being of the world instead of using my energy trying to hide from the onslaught of verbal, physical and spiritual violence and toxicity in this culture.
This has been with me for many years, long before the booze or the other chaos of my young years. It has been around long before my family and I came to a parting of the ways. It was long before a series of trashed relationships and broken marriages that left me even more battered and bruised by trying to fit into a foreign world.
At nine years old (and in my day, that was a little kid - not a little adult), I got in trouble at school for questioning competition and saying it was wrong. By the time I was 14 in middle school, I was in trouble for challenging capitalism. It wasn't possible to fit in with the social values of marketcentric culture so it was difficult to make friends. I can not and will not commoditize other people or myself.
Given all of this and much more, it is my way of saying that "kreng jai" was a part of me before I knew what it was called. It is my primary reason for making the decision to move to Thailand. The natural beauty of Thailand and the nice people are important but not important enough to stage a move of this magnitude.
That's enough soul-searching from Thailand Girl today! It was a long night so a movie and some relaxed time on the futon with the Great Dog Shanti sounds very, very appealing.
One last note for my ex-drunk friends who want to know V's status: He is at this point argumentative and threatening to bolt from the detox center. Hopefully, the professionals there will be able to talk some sense into him. We are not allowed to call or visit him during the detox period. Continue good thoughts, please. Give him peace.
I hope all will have a wonderful, peaceful day ~
Posted by thailandchani at 11:46 AM
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
I love Keith Olbermann. :)
For anyone who's fed up with Fox News and their ways...
FOCUS Keith Olbermann: A Textbook Definition of Cowardice
Keith Olbermann: "Our tone should be crazed. The nation's freedoms are under assault by an administration whose policies can do us as much damage as al Qaida; the nation's marketplace of ideas is being poisoned by a propaganda company so blatant that Tokyo Rose would've quit. Bill Clinton did what almost none of us have done in five years. He has spoken the truth about 9/11, and the current presidential administration."
Alernatively, if the links above do not work, try these:
The text and video can be found at:
I'm tired. D. made a very delicious cabbage salad and I made some Thai chicken. We're both feeling on the tired side so it's food and a long nap, in that order. A nap and a movie is wonderful here in the afternoons. It's very peaceful. The garden has been tended and all the morning necessities have been done. Shanti has already beat me to the bed and is snoozing. When I come back up for air, I will work on the lemongrass story. It is very funny and light-hearted.
See you tomorrow! I hope you will enjoy Olbermann.
May today be wonderful for all ~
A weary Thailand Gal
Posted by thailandchani at 11:42 AM
Just one more update on V. Things have changed as they often do, and most often without any forewarning at all!
Last night Che came by for a visit. He brought Chinese food and good will. He visited with V for a few hours, told him to pack a bag and took him off to detox. They left around 9.00 PM. He will be gone for 5 days. After that, Che will take him to a 30-day program.
Things seem to happen for the best under most circumstances. In the longrun, this is probably best for V, instead the more circuitious route we'd come up with yesterday. I'll be curious to hear V's updates as everything progresses.
We're grateful to Che for all of his effort in this - and his willingness to take charge of the situation, make the decisions and manage somehow to convince V. to cooperate. It was unusual to see. V followed along with everything Che wanted without argument.
So I will end the V. saga with the thought that I honestly believe he will be back, his spirit will be back and he will choose a life for himself that is bearable and fulfilling. It usually happens in the oddest ways, at least by my experience. We caught this in time.
When I chose my path, I knew it was right for me, felt it viscerally and carried it out, regardless of anyone else's interpretation of my motives. Outside of a healthy respect for the input of friends and trusted others, I made the final choices. I hope this for him, too. Often when we least expect it, we find wonderful acceptance and fulfillment from following our hearts. People sense that. They know when we are authentic. Of the many reactions to my "unusual" way of life, no one has ever indicated they believe I am doing it for attention, for show or affectation. My happiness shows through and people respond to that.
I have heard a disturbing level of discussion among certain of V's family members that he is "so capable of making lots of money" as though that is the highest value. It disturbs me that anyone would put that kind of pressure on him or "judge" his value, depending on his contribution to the economy. One person's reaction last night was not "I hope he does well and that this will bring him happiness." The reaction was "well, what about work? He's not going to be making any money." What kind of sickness has brought this country to such a utilitarian approach to our relationship to each other? It was pounded into my head as a young person growing up, too. It was all about being a "productive citizen" which really translates to contributing to the economy. I am as practical as the next person but also know that when it's time to bail from that life, it's time to bail. If I hadn't done it two years ago, I would be dead today. I was in the grey area where V. is today.
V. is the kind of guy who loves books, art, literature. He is a gentle spirit who has spent too many years in the cutthroat, competitive car sales business. It has finally worn him down to the point of agorophobia. I know from personal experience the damage that can come from spending far too many years living up to the expectations of toxic and sick social system. By the time I got out, I was nothing more than a shell. I hope he comes out of rehab with the strength to discover his true ambition and live it to the fullest. As I told him one day, perhaps he will decide to become a beach bum. I know of a perfect place and it's about ten thousand miles and one left turn. :)
A comment on "comments". I appreciate the comments that have been left for me here and hope there will be many more. By nature, I am a very accepting person and can take criticism - even a bit of ridicule. I'm thick-skinned. However, I will be deleting comments that include foul language. Someone left a comment last night that is verbally disgusting and it will not be remaining on the site. Feel free to speak your mind - but please watch your language. Thank you. :)
More on other matters later. It's still early here. There is a slight chill in the air which feels refreshing to me, but Little Dog Shanti is reacting differently. She doesn't want to go outside yet. It is as though she stands by the door, turning up her nose. Eventually nature will prevail. Today is expected to be warm in the afternoon. She needs to be walked when it is not too cold and not too warm. It would seem this little dog has me well-trained.
May everyone have a wonderful day today ~
Posted by thailandchani at 8:18 AM
Monday, September 25, 2006
All went well this morning at the hospital. The three of us sat side-by-side for nearly three hours before we were finally able to get someone to spend some time with V. It got rough a few times when V. threatened to bolt. After that occurred and we talked him into staying, we got into an interesting conversation about things. That seemed to keep all of us occupied.
V. was getting increasingly agitated as time went on. D. was fine for quite a while and she began to get agitated as well. I can relate to this because I used to be very impatient and coulnd't tolerate waiting. I got permission from both of them and went to the admitting desk and very politely asked when we might plan on seeing someone. The woman I spoke with was very kind, looked over toward V. and could see that he was becoming increasingly anxious, probably a result of his fear of open spaces and the fact that he hadn't had a drink for quite a while. The woman did manage to get someone quickly to see us.
We went back to a small cubicle and unfortunately ended up directly next to an absolutely howling baby! V. was laying on a hospital bed and I watched a deep red develope around his neck and begin to creep up his face. When I questioned him, he said he was fine but it looked like a panic attack.
The long shot of this is that the doctor gave him a clearance to go to rehab. The plan is to take him tomorrow morning to a psychiatrist, then to his workplace to pick up a check and then he will go into detox by afternoon. He will be gone for 30 days. Che will handle all of that.
We are still very hopeful that with rehab and by addressing his underlying psychiatric issues, he will have a chance at life.
Thank you to all who sent emails, positive thoughts and prayers. Call me naive. I believe such things work.
I do not intend for this blog to become a daily litany of the trials in my momentarily chaotic life. It won't be necessary for me to mention this here again unless something truly significant happens. This is supposed to be a place for discussion of other things, some light, some not. Part of the reason I wanted to bring it to light here is that it is so significant that I am able to participate in this, handle it and be helpful. There is a time when that would not have been possible. When one is unaccustomed to being a significant presence in the lives of others, we never know what our capabilities will be when confronted with something difficult or delicate. I am honored to have been able to help and be an integral part of helping with another person's healing.
But for tonight, I am bone-tired. I also unfortunately pulled a cartlidge in my knee while exercising. Such is the woeful life of Thailand Girl. Getting old ain't for sissies. :)
All will be well in the morning.
May all have a peaceful and restful night~
Posted by thailandchani at 7:34 PM
All is going well. V. woke up in a cooperative mood and is in the shower. The three of us will to to the emergency room and then Che will come over to take him to rehab! We are all elated at the progress and truly have some hope now! So, off we go! V., the tall skinny guy, D., the owner of the house who is a perfectly coiffed, perfectly dignified woman and eccentric little Thailand Girl. The earth will shake at Sutter Hospital today because as odd a crew as we are, we are all determined to save V's life! We were joking, all of us - even V. - that we would be a good TV series, like "Tales of the City".
More later ~ and thank you for continuing good thoughts! We're not finished yet but this is the best beginning we could have hoped for! We are very, very happy!
May all be at peace ~
Posted by thailandchani at 11:57 AM
Today will be a crowded day for us. So far, V. is still sleeping and we will leave him to sleep until he wakes up naturally. Then it will be off to the hospital and then to the clinic. Who knows what we will meet there. Our highest hope is that he will cooperate with us, without having to call Che for back-up reinforcement. We'll just have to see how the day developes. I am afraid for him and want to make sure all goes well. It is not my style to be melodramatic but I don't believe he will live another week if we don't get him help right away. It is far more than just his "being a drunk" as one of his friends says. He is in the grey area between life and death. His spirit is fading away. We will do all we can to bring him back to the life side with the knowledge that we can not choose for him or the fates.
Meanwhile, I have time here to answer Bonnie's question about clothes. It is something light to keep my mind away from all we have to do today!
When I was a teenager and in college, I loved clothes! I was always the one to buy the latest thing and am not afraid to go out to the edge with fashion. Even though I am short and on the pudgy side (not fat or obese - but round, stocky build), it never stopped me from buying the latest stuff from the magazines. I love color and design. Before I chose Thai, I always wore Bohemian clothing.
When I decided to create the style I have now, it was to have a taste, not to get drunk. (Perhaps this is a bad analogy at this time.) Additionally, if I had been able to leave for Thailand when intended, I would be buying Thai clothes so I just began early. I mix traditional clothing with everyday Thai clothing and do a lot with accessories. This is the point where a digital camera would be useful! (laughing at my own foolishness in not owning one yet!) For special events, I will wear very traditional clothing that stands out. It has taken me a year or more to complete this wardrobe.
Anyone who sees me will obviously know that I am dressed in a distinctly Asian style. I also buy a lot of fisherman's pants, Thai tops with a bit of a traditional flair, sarongs, skirts with a traditional look, lots of Karen Hilltribe jewelry and denim from northern Thailand. I also use a lot of Thai scarves. Instead of a purse, I carry a Buddha bag. They cross over the chest to one side rather than over the shoulder. I get comments at the local Thai stores for food supply. They like to tease me and we laugh together. If I am lazy one day and wear an old pair of jeans with only a Thai top and rubber flip-flops for shoes, they tease. "What's the matter with Thailand Girl today? Are you sick?" It is all in good fun. (One day, I will tell the lemongrass story!)
All of this to say ... I do not look like a clown but no one would mistake me for average, either!
This play with fashion is enjoyable and it reminds me of my spirit's home, makes me feel "connected" and others seem to enjoy it, too. So it is all good.
Honestly, I buy much of it on eBay from a few favorite sellers in Thailand. I buy so much that shipping is disounted. That helps, especially with winter coming and I will be buying more!
I will check in later today to give a progress on V. Please think good thoughts for him and for his life.
May all have a wonderful and peaceful day~
Posted by thailandchani at 9:46 AM
Sunday, September 24, 2006
For those of you who do not know the situation, I will summarize in a paragraph. After a few posts, you'll definitely have a good idea of what's been happening here.
I live in a house that is divided into three separate units. Each unit is occupied by one of us. The owner of the house has the biggest section naturally and V. and I occupy the other two. V. has a drinking problem, a serious one. His days are usually spent getting up, having coffee, watching the news and then his drinking day begins. Since his alcoholism is quite progressed, it usually requires only a few shots of vodka to pass him out. He wakes up after a few hours and does the same again. Two weeks ago, we honestly believed he would die. He was very, very close.
That's the background.
Today, an old friend of his came by to check on him and verbally kick his behind if necessary to go into rehab. It worked! Tomorrow, we take him to the emergency room for detox and then he will go into a treatment center for two weeks, guided by his old friend Che. Che will come over to take him to the center, once we get back from the hospital.
After six months of hit-and-miss starts and stops, this is finally light at the end of the tunnel. Since Che has stepped up to help us, we believe it is not an oncoming train this time. V. will finally have an opportunity to get well. Truly well. He is sick enough that he needs to be in a hospital or treatment center. It's not something that will be cured by AA meetings. There are medical and psychiatric conditions involved as well as drinking. After treatment, he will then be free to build the life he chooses instead of the life imposed on him by his illness. He has made offhanded statements that lead me to believe he has felt a similar soul-death to mine. This is the first step in his having the ability to own his existence and start making the choices he wants to make. I will take advantage of our friendship to consistently remind him of that. His choices are his own. Not mine. Not his family's. Not his girlfriend's. So many people lose precious life energy, trying to keep up with the expectations of those around them. (May all beings be free from the tyranny of my expectations!) When we impose our expectations on others that are only to satisfy our own ego needs, we are stealing from them.
I am not saying that we don't have responsibility to others. Clearly, we do. The key to this is having the freedom to express that responsibility in an authentic way as opposed to maintaining a Potemkin image of a life someone else designs for us. There can be no honor without free will.
I will tell more of V's progress as time goes along. The air has lifted here. We are breathing again. We are no longer afraid of waking up to find V. dead in his apartment. V. is having his last drunk and he knows it. I remember from my own drinking days how the oxygen left the room when I was present, making it impossible for anyone around me to be truly happy or free. The demands of my illness on my surroundings were very similar to V's impact on the environment here. The thing is that I couldn't see it, just as V. doesn't see it. My heart goes out to him. I hope he will finally have peace.
May all beings be free from the causes of suffering. ~
May V. be free from the causes of his suffering.
Posted by thailandchani at 6:40 PM
I was asked to start this blog by a few email list friends who have found my rather unusual lifestyle interesting. Who knows why? However, I am flattered and honored so I will give it a good try.
There are so many things I must learn to do this well. For one thing, I have to buy and learn to use a digital camera because sharing photos will be important.
For now, I will start with an introduction for those who are not already familiar.
I've had an unusual life. For more than 50 years, I have lived in a place and culture that never felt right to the inside of me. People would talk about their hopes, their dreams, their way of life and it never made sense. There was no common root to link us. That led to a lot of isolation and even a period of substance abuse, during which I drank myself silly every day. After I got sober many years ago, the feeling of isolation and "apartness" remained and there didn't seem to be any solution. I wasn't awake enough internally to know that there were many possibilities. There was a whole world outside of my self-imposed one-room prison. In AA, they call it a "dry drunk". A more accurate description in my view is that my soul was withering away. I wanted connection so badly but didn't have the skills or knowledge to create that for myself. For reasons I will not be blogging about, I became alienated from my family of origin and wasn't too great at creating a family of choice. I was like a weed, growing in a garden that wasn't watered or nurtured. That is an experience I will try to describe at some point but may not have the words.
I began to read. I took in ideas the way a thirsty person takes in fresh water. I was hungry for ideas beyond my immediate reach, for things that would link me somehow to this odd world which I perceived as being so unreachable. Where were others like me, others who had a non-aggressive, non-competitive approach to life? Where were those for whom western culture was little more than soul-sucking? Where could I go that wasn't reduced to a glorified marketplace? The religions I investigated wanted to either pick my pocket or force me into a box that wouldn't fit. Inevitably, parts of me would begin falling out the sides and I would lose my new community.
Books became my closest friends as I soaked in the ideas of people ancient and contemporary, religious and atheist, conservative and liberal, western and eastern. My first "AHA" moment occurred with the discovery of Voluntary Simplicity. Writers of these books provided me with validation that others existed who thought there was more to life than hunting and gathering, power-over and soul-searing competition. These writers showed me that a life could be rich and full without lots of "stuff" or even craving for "stuff". I'm hardly a die-hard "back to the earth" person. I like gadgets. Still, the overall philosophy resonates deeply with me. To this day, I live simply. Everything I own will fit into the back of my compact car - and I like it that way!
The second awakening for me was discovering Buddhism. Never before had anything so gently reached to the depths of my soul and brought out the loveliness I knew was within all of us. The practical philosophy resonated with the left-brain and the art, chants, the history and the study of the Noble Truths fed the right side. My soul began to blossom.
Then ~ I found Thailand. That little corner of Southeast Asia completed the picture of who I would become. I am not naive and am certainly aware of the problems there. At times in this blog, I will be very open about my feelings regarding Thai politics. That aside though, the culture feeds my soul to the core of who I am. If there is indeed reincarnation, I have lived in Thailand a significant number of times. It is my spirit's home.
Okay. Now for the eccentricity that has appealed to my email list friends: I am unable to move to Thailand for another few years due to some financial restrictions. I live on a small pension and the Thai government requires a certain amount of money in a Thai bank account before allowing a retirement visa. Right now, that amount is beyond my reach. This is creating a deep hole in my life. Having tried so very hard to discover where I "fit" and having finally found it, I feel a deep yearning to be there. In order to maintain my well-being which was hard-won over many years, I had to do something to bridge my connection and fill this vacancy.
I decided to bring Thailand to me. I live in a small unit which I slowly began to furnish with Thai silk accessories. I cook with beautiful Thai cookware. I have many beautiful pictures from friends in Thailand or ones I've discovered elsewhere. I often can be found sitting quietly in my garden, playing mor lam music while I read or tend to the many things which grow beautifully outside my door. I wear Thai jewelry. My clothing is nearly all Thai. I am learning the language.
Most importantly, I live the culture. The gentle manners, the food (Yes, J. I've lost weight! :), the respect - all of those things that make life smoother, kinder and more harmonious have been incorporated into my daily existence.
On the other hand, I am still very western in the respect that I am passionate about politics and social responsibility. I can often be found at events where we gather to raise awareness on issues such as human rights, peace, health care, economic equality and helping in any way I can to exile BushCo and predatory capitalism to the ashheap of history.
Now that winter is coming, the gatherings at Cesar Chavez Park will not be quite so frequent. However, if you are in this area and happen to come by any gatherings, look for the short, stocky, eccentric-looking woman in Thai clothes with a little dog named Shanti. Say hi. I would be thrilled to meet. For those who can not, I welcome your comments and input to the blog.
May all beings be free from the causes of suffering ~
Posted by thailandchani at 10:44 AM