28 June, 2008
My partner bought a jasmine flower wreath for the Buddha that was given me by a monk a month ago. With our room smelling like fragrant jasmine we went to sleep, and I dreamt I became a monk. It has been in the back of my mind as worthwhile way to end your life.
So today, with the dream still alive, so I went to temple and did a prayer and sat for 1/2 an hour that had string tied from every Buddha to web hanging in the room. I think this is consecrated string from the eye opening ritual of a new Buddha image. Some joker would call it Wat Silly String. Then after I bought two more Buddha amulets from a monk out in front of this same temple. On the way there I was approached by two black men from Liberia, and being in an open-hearted frame of mind we chatted for awhile and exchanged numbers to meet a couple of days later. But as the day wore on, it seemed in my mind the real life spam characters who just happened to meet me, a single man with ipod on. It began to smell fishy, and two phone calls later plus a text message, I think they thought they had found a ‘mark.’ Count me out.
Venturing on, to get amulets in cases I ran into a street seller who spoke enough English to engage into an hour-long conversation about my Buddhist temple and practice. I also had with me Buddhist teachings by Luang Por Liem Thitadammo called “No Worries.” We talked about the importance of Dhamma and meditation to find the peace of mind to self-examine our actions. It was a good talk, with the two of us agreeing about everything. We parted when he had to pack up his wares for the day. I went by the river to have coffee and wait for the sun to go down some more so I could shoot at the golden hour. While walking down I ran into a Check tourist looking for the boat to take him back to his hotel area and walked him to the port and pointed out the boat to get on once it had arrived. Then killing time talking a hard sell boat trip man while waiting for the light to be just right for what really is a typical shot of Wat Arun.
25 June, 2008
I traveled up the Chao Phraya river, while reading The Four Nobel Truths, written by a monk that I found in the free books pile in my lobby appearing new that day. It was actually great to read Dhamma written by a new person, and see what examples he used to make his points. It doesn’t matter how many times I read Buddha’s teachings, that I don't find several applications in my life. It was concise but not dry, reminding me to continue on the path. The journey took about a hour, because they did not have an express boat that day. My intent was to find the kids I took photos of and give them copies. This was the second trip I have made with this intention. I knew where their school was, and I walked by it going to the nearby Wat park to continue to photograph. Then around 4:30 I started to walk from the park through the small town deciding I would not ask the kids playing at the school if they know my photos subjects. As I walked down a narrow soi, out popped on of the kids, smiling and yelling, “Hey, Farang!” It was Ton pictured here, and quickly three more of my subjects came running out of their homes. Within minutes I gave all the copies away as it started to rain and I ran back to the river crossing ferry to catch my boat going back south. As I paid my fare, soaked by the warm rain this rainbow appeared. It was full and from my vantage point running to the port it looked like it encompassed the port terminal with a crowd waiting out the rain.
23 June, 2008
With this day to day existence here, I am enjoying my time with my partner. Each time I come here, I assess whether this is a place where I can live. We both have long-range plans together, if not here than in another country we like. We have the time on our side while he’s busy finishing college. Sure, I know that problems follow you and new one suddenly appear. New surroundings just make them a little less until you settle down. I have a firm relationship, to fall back on, but we don’t need any more unseen problems disturbing it. Sometimes our different natures can be a head butting point, but we quickly come back to our love. That is natural with our extrovert and introvert personalities. We both like to joke, so we use that when the other partner is upset.
Lately my partner’s work has been jerking him around, again. They gave him a new position, but now they want to change back to the old one. I have seen what the long hours, and the factory mismanagement does to him. So I proposed to him to be firm and if things don’t work well, quit and I will support you until university ends at the end of the year.
Meanwhile, I am getting very familiar with our daily ritual. We do enjoy a lot of the same foods, some that most Americans would shy from. Our typical dinner is tuna, boiled vegetables, nham pik, and pla nin. I can eat better here for less money than at home.
20 June, 2008
Went this week on a Visa run to the border of Cambodia. With a van full of various foreigners, who were pretty quiet. Except when a few people told the driver we would like to return in one piece. He was driving crazy. Not just fast but driving right up within 3 ft of the vehicle ahead of us then whipping out to pass…welcome to the third world! Anyway, I made conversation with an older Vietnamese man, as the young guys from US were not talking. He is a Dr who escaped the Vietnam war by going to Paris to study in 1960 and staying and not returning. After time he and his wife bought a cheap hotel there. Then later moved to Australia, where he said that like a 1/3 don’t work and it is a rich country. He has since retired in Bangkok and has a condo here, yet his wife remains in Paris taking care of the hotel. Once we arrived at the border, we waited for the paperwork to be done. Walking to the Cambodian side and bought fruit candy for the beggar kids hanging an driving into the creek at the border. Figuring that would be better than giving them each a Baht. They surrounded me, some getting grabby. So when they did, I would stop giving them away until they calmed down. So I could make sure each kid got some. I know that they will beg and it hasn’t changed on bit in the two years since I was last there. They did come across the border, and thanked me for the treats, as no other person paid any attention to them.
The way back went fast, The Dr. and I talked about his friends here in Bangkok and Buddhism.
16 June, 2008
Let me show you easy it is to throw a net!
Our sponsor, the wisdom teachings of Buddha.
I walked to the park near Wat Chalerm Phrakiet callled Chalerm Kanchanapisek Park to read and explore. Then seeing a huge storm heading my way started to walk back but made it only to the Wat. Once it rains and you are stuck under shelter have nothing to do. It is funny how it makes you think about your life, what you like and dream for.... a little bit of introspection. Sure, I am thinking gay people like me can get married now in California, but without the federal laws being changed my partner and I will have to keep Thailand as our home instead of US.
I traveled by boat up the Chao Phraya river to find a temple up just north of Nonthaburi last Friday. In the walk to the temple I ran into some boys who more than happy to pose for the camera, and I just showed them the results that set them off laughing. When I was done I continued to walk to the temple along elevated walkways because it was on the edge of the river. Three different boys came up behind me and offered me their bike to ride to the Wat Charlerm Phrakiet with their lead. We tried all three to find one that would take me and my long legs. We ride to the Wat and the park, and past their school all with them pointing out everything proudly. When we got to the Wat park, I bought them fish food, and one boy was happy to show off the fact that he could just grab the catfish right out the water. They were almost as big as he was, so when they flipped he could not hold on to it.
I took some more photos as the sun set, and of the boys. All with the idea I would return with copies to give them, after they asked me when I was going to come back. I went back on Monday, while they were at school so while waiting I saw a vendor in the park who made cool drawings with two colors of pancake batter and had him make a couple to give to small kids waiting with their parents for their siblings to get out of school. This vendor would ‘draw’ with chocolate batter and then let it cook, and then fill in with plain batter. I am always taken by an artist who works in whatever medium, and this one piece of art tasted great. Just before the dark clouds dumped the sky on us, I went into the temple to hear the monks start their evenings prayers.
Then I got stuck under
shelter waiting for the
rain to quiet down
missing the boys to
give them their photos,
so I have to return again.
11 June, 2008
I was out shooting a Chinese cemetery that I saw from the skytrain. It was full of dogs, and desecrated tombs, I guess, by people looking for something to sell. Thai’s usually cremate their dead, and I want this to be done to me too, after medical science gets their hands on me. It would be interesting for neuro-science to see how the brain rewires after my bi-lateral strokes(see first entry). Back to the cemetery…. Lalala. It always makes me more aware of my death and the need to make the best out of life. The following day I went to Chinatown here in Bangkok to Wat Traimit that houses the golden Buddha in a very mundane temple. I have been there several times, and I wanted to see the progress on the new temple. It’s a 13th century Buddha that is solid gold that was covered in limestone plaster to keep it safe from Burmese invaders.
Later a monk saw a glint of yellow after it slipped from the crane when being moved to a new location. Fast forward to today, with my passing in my head I decided it would be good to give to the new temple fund in my partners name. It started to rain fiercely, so I hung out in at the temple office, and spoke to the head monk and a Thai doctor who came to donate much more.
I am hoping that the new temple might inspire one new person to read Dharma. I am sad I will miss the moving of it to the new temple this September. A great photo opportunity plus an important event on a temple dedicated to the King’s 80th birthday.
09 June, 2008
It is funny when you have an intention, and the day turns out differently than you imagined. It was a gloomy rainy day, and I went out to photograph. I usually let the day enfold and see where it takes me while my partner works. I took the express boat on the river and went to a new stop to explore, and ran into a father picking up his sons at school. He took us to the temple I have been before, and we took the opportunity to feed the fish. I bought the two little boys fish food, but the aggressive pigeons scared them. I don’t blame them because even kicking them did not keep hem away from the food. I was trying to photograph a temple at night later, but knew the light was terrible so I made the trip back home to get dinner for my partner. So we could have a nice evening together.
01 June, 2008
I have been trying as much as possible to get out of myself. You know the worry, the self-obsessed concern for ourselves? I spent Saturday doing things for others, going to lunch with my partner at one of his favorite places, buying him a better made shoulder bag for school knowing his last one fell apart in a year. While out and about we discussed his yearning for graduate school after he completes his bachelor’s degree at the end of this year. It was great to see him so enthusiastic, regardless of how hard these past two years have been with his crazy work schedule. Later in the day we in a joking mood and it carried for the afternoon during which I had some coffee while he had a shake. We returned to our place and knowing he was spent for the day, I left him to sleep and took off to shoot at night in Chinatown alone. I spent at least 5 hours shooting and walking, as it is hard to compose and focus when so much is interesting. If I can get 3 or 4 good photographs I feel accomplished. Towards the end of my shooting, I came upon a late night street sellers and food vendors, and found a great hand painted mug for my Buddhist teacher. Several times people would either shoe me away, or be curious and come watch me set-up and watch me shoot or offer to be in the shot. When I was feeling like my coffee from earlier was all spent, I grabbed a taxi back, to my awakened, smiling partner making sure I was ok.
That night I dreamt about an old friend who had come back to me after drinking poison in France to end his life to stay with me at my house, a true story. He has long since passed away, and it became more obvious why he came back to stay with me. In my dreams I looked at his life and loves, his parents never really loved him and nor his lovers . He was still bleeding out of mouth from the poison wounds when I saw him, and that I had to buy pillow covers special for his stay. His return was to the only love he once had, when we were together 10 years earlier even though he ended it abruptly back then. Now I realize you can’t love someone who doesn’t love themselves, and feel very fortunate to be with someone now who does with an eye on the future.