Do you know you’re not dead? – 31st December 2019

Amy was in a bad mood yesterday due to PMT. She confided with me today that she is feeling lonely due to her old friends here in Chiang Rai not quite having the same mindset as her so finds them quite difficult to talk to and to understand. Whilst I am fine here in relative isolation, she is finding it quite difficult. She has to rely on me to go and do things together and sometimes I resent not having enough time to myself as I am working all the time.

We both understand each other’s situation well enough but it is also something that Amy needs to address for herself.

Gratitude Journal

I am so happy and grateful for the year that I have had. I have grown and adapted to adversity. Hopefully, I can understand my reactions to adversity in the future and deal with it in a less emotional manner.

New day rising – 29th December 2019

This morning I am filled with a quiet happiness. Determined to get up early on a Sunday and to do something, whether it be a walk, a meditation, writing or studying, I rolled out of bed, fed the cats and opted to walk to my favourite local coffee shop, Utopia.

As I prepared food for the cats a light rain appeared. Unusual for this time of year but accurately predicted by our weather apps for once. Undeterred, I set out. The temperature still cool but the minimal exertion keeping me warmed I chose to listen to a reading of a Chekhov short story. The relative quiet around made for clear listening to the beautiful words of the story as I walked through small fields of wet grass and aspiring mud. Was I still in Thailand or transported to that Armenian village?

Before I knew it I had arrived at the shop but it was too early and as I waited on the porch I listened to a primer on Nietzsche and then an imagined conversation between Fred and Jane Austen where, despite their differences they arrived at a philosophical agreement and appreciation for each others works. Inspired by this I contemplated how everyone is different but we must be able to find some common ground.

The Nietzsche primer mentioned his text’s difficult reading but also highlighted his humour. Something which I had not been previously aware of. Friends have told me they preferred to read works about Nietzsche rather than his own. I will try this approach sometime. Sometime when I can add those books to my ever growing library.

The shop opened and I lazily drank through 3 coffees which produced a wonderful buzzing awareness of all the subtleties around me. Soon an acquaintance of Amy’s arrived, a Thai lady who runs her own English school. As this was our first meeting we talked about our shared experiences with teaching here in Chiang Rai.

Coffee and conversation

I lead the conversation for a while before realising it was time to let her speak and so I asked questions about her school and so the conversation flowed. I set myself a small challenge to try to talk to a stranger every day and thought to myself that I can cross this off today’s challenge list and it’s not even 10am.

Later though, as I was walking home, the rain a little heavier than before, I realised that I had failed in another of my personal challenges. Inspired by a Tim Ferriss article I read this week I have challenged myself to not complain about anything for 21 days. To remind myself about this challenge I have started wearing a bracelet, the purpose being that every time you complain you have to swap the bracelet to the other wrist. I have made this doubly difficult for myself by choosing a bracelet that is awkward to attach to oneself with one hand.

As the bracelet effect kicked in I thought back to the conversation in the coffee shop and asked myself if I had been complaining. Despite my mind’s protestations and justifications I sadly realised I had, indeed, been complaining. Perhaps only mildly but there is a fine line between stating the facts as they are and infusing a negative into the narrative.

In fact, the hardest part of this challenge is actually recognising that you are complaining. So long as it pushes to the forefront of my mind more and more it will help me become more aware of my own words and to try to understand how someone might feel whilst listening to me.

The walk home was still wonderous as I contemplated all this and listened to the description of beautiful Masha and the joy and sadness the narrator felt. This description was thought-provoking as I also was feeling so happy with life, despite the fact I was getting cold and wet in the rain. The walk crowned by the view of the feathery grass that spikes alongside our driveway, suddenly weighed down by the heavy drops of water, pointing towards the path home.

Gratitude Journal

I am so happy and grateful to be inquisitive. To want to constantly learn and understand myself. This morning I listened to a primer on Nietzsche which was interesting as an introduction because I don’t know enough about his philosophy. I then listened to an imagined conversation between Nietzsche and Jane Austen where there two apparent so different writers end up agreeing on many things. I walked to Utopia this morning too. A nice gentle walk and gave me chance to listen to these articles.

On Friday I kept my challenge of playing with the kids so that I would get some exercise. However, after a while, they asked me to calm down. I was a bit rough and too competitive. I felt slightly aggrieved at that moment but did calm down some. When I thought about it afterwards I realised they were right. It probably wasn’t as much fun for them as it should have been. I need to learn about the consequences of my actions – even the small ones.

The Chiang Rai Alternative Hour #18 – 28th December 2019

Music from Sebadoh, Hilarity Ensues, Primitive Calculators, Bastro, UK Subs, Mofungo, Paper Mice, Univers Zero, Self Evident, The Bevis Frond, Snakefinger, Tar Babies, Alright the Captain, Matt Black and the Doodlebugs, Khaddash, David Bowie, The Clash, Small Faces, Bad Religion, Big Block 454 and Unstoppable Sweeties Show.

Gratitude Journal

I am so happy and grateful for our beautiful house. I love living here with Amy. When asked if we have any more dreams for our life we don’t have any especially. Things we would like to do but not necessarily dreams to achieve. George said we are living our dream and that’s a nice way to look at it.

And see how his face glows – 26th December 2019

Yesterday I was completely lifted by having three good fun lessons which the students and I all enjoyed. Then I went to visit CRPAO again.

The feeling there is still not good (for me, anyway) but my old classes were very happy to see me and I was surprised at Simone’s students who smothered me in hugs and were very affectionate. I made a point to see Funfai – she’s so cute! She said she misses me and it was very lovely. I felt very much appreciated after that.

I was still tired when I got home but felt more invigorated. Today is my easy day so everything has come back together nicely. I’m glad I didn’t let that glum feeling get me down at the beginning of the week

Gratitude Journal

I am so happy and grateful to have met the students at CRPAO and was very surprised at the reaction of Simone’s kids, they jumped on me and pulled me to the ground they were so happy to see me.

Who needs action when you’ve got words? – 25th December 2019

After a busy and tiring Sunday, I’ve been struggling this week. I’ve just started to get my energy back but not quite there mentally. If I look at the last couple of days properly I can probably realise that everything has been going along as normal. Perhaps I’ve reached a kind of plateau at the moment and the next steps will require perseverance as the improvements in my life will be smaller. Who needs action when you’ve got words?

Gratitude Journal

I am so happy and grateful to have friends all around the world. Thankful for technology that makes it easy for us to communicate.

Brown paper packages tied up with strings – 24th December 2019

Things I like about Hayden:

– kind-hearted
– caring
– talented at drums and music
– artistic
– generous towards his friends
– focused on his favourite hobby
– keeps himself hydrated
– values justice
– charitable

Gratitude Journal

I am so happy and grateful to the ‘bad’ kids in my classes. The ones who test me, the ones who make it difficult, the ones who push my patience to the limit. They are helping me grow.

We got that attitude! – 23rd December 2019

Gratitude Journal

I am so happy and grateful to Mim, Fong, and Cake. They make me my coffee every day when I’m at school.

5th May 2021 – The coffee shop (Wynn) didn’t even have great coffee. Teachers were not allowed to leave school during work hours but this shop is just the other side of the road outside school. It would take 5 minutes to walk there, buy a coffee and walk back which I would do two or three times a day. At the end of the contract they cited this as the main reason that I wouldn’t be rehired. Needless to say, they had a high turnover of foreign teachers. There’s a real tug-of-war between Thai administrations and foreign teachers. To me, the Thai request for foreign teachers to assimilate to the Thai way seems to indicate that theirs is the best way, but even I, as a non-professional teacher, could see that it wasn’t the best way, and having come from another country (to use as a comparison) and wanting to do the best job possible for the students – it seems inevitable that not many foreign teachers are happy under this system – unless they just take the easy way out. Why don’t I take the easy way out? It’s just not in me. I take the path of most resistance. It seems like the system of education here is purposely designed to keep people stupid. Achievements from Thai institutions are meaningless overseas because they know the situation here. Anyway, talking to the three girls in the coffee shop – even just inane chatter – became my 5 minutes of daily bliss whilst working at this particular government school.

When I was young I never wanted toys – 22nd December 2019

Role Model
Henry Rollins

Anti-role model
Kru Paew
Bookshop guy

Ideal qualities
smiling, interested, positive
caring, kind, open-minded
hard-working, focused
thoughtful, open-minded
community-focused, organised
calm, brave, artistic
calm, relaxed, appreciative

Qualities to avoid
gossip, judgemental, unkind
gossip, negative, complainer
judgemental, narrow-minded

Gratitude Journal

I am so happy and grateful for having the chance to sleep in this morning. Now, for the busy day ahead.