Becoming part of the community

Today’s Musings


Life here in Thailand is going really well for me. Little by little I am feeling more at home here, as I continue to find my way.

When coaching clients I often have people tell me that their life is just not what they want it to be, and that they feel trapped. I rarely have any simple answers or solutions for them, but what I do say is “Stay on your path and keep on listening and paying attention the best that you can.” As it used to be said in the 60’s “Keep on keeping on!”. Sometimes we need to sit in an uncomfortable place and work on simply being there, while doing our best to feel thankful. Remaining attentive to possible changes that we might need to make in order to generatively alter the course of our life.

What I do on a regular basis is spend some time most every morning giving thanks for what I DO have, and I usually do the same thing when laying down to go to sleep. Doing so gives me the perspective I need to live a positively oriented life.

I am always interested to read interviews of great athletes who never won the league title in a particular sport. Often what happens is the interviewer says something like “Even though you had a great career, do you walk away feeling disappointed because you never won the championship?” Usually the reply is something like this, “I played the game I love, I had many great teammates along the way, I excelled at what I did, and I made a ton of money. Geez, what would my life be like if I walked away feeling disappointed!”

So in simple terms, I think we will all do well to focus on the positive and let go of our disappointments.

Our lives could likely be “better” and our lives could also likely be a whole lot worse. The task at hand is to feel thankful for what we DO have rather than bemoaning what we do not have.

Simple, but not easy…

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Becoming part of the community

There is something very interesting that I have noticed when living in a new culture. Somehow there seems to be what I call “the grapevine effect” where numerous people spontaneously start interacting with me in a new way. What I find so interesting is that this change in relationship takes place in various different settings all within a short time frame. It is as if a message got transmitted across my network of acquaintances informing people to change the way they relate with me.  

Everyone here in Chiang Rai started out calling me “khun Charlie” which is very much the same as people calling me “Charlie-san” in Japan. Using “khun” is the way that Thai people signify that they are respecting you. But then something interesting started happening within the space of one week. Four different people in four separate settings started calling me “lung Charlie” with “lung” meaning “uncle”. When I asked a Thai friend what led to this difference when speaking to me she said, “Oh this is really nice. It means that people are feeling like you are becoming a part of their extended family. It means they are feeling closer to you.” One young musician I play music with now even calls me “papa Charlie”. It is wonderful to know I am becoming an accepted part of the community, and again, very fascinating to me that numerous people shifted their perspective within the fame of one week. 

Another thing that has happened is that I now all of a sudden have a number of language teachers out in the community. My ability to speak Thai is still pretty primitive but more and more people have decided to help me learn more. For instance, when I go to the stall where I buy most of my vegetables the lady has started picking up and naming each vegetable she has, and asking me to repeat what she says. Lately she does this each time I show up, and it is a really great way to help me learn.

My friend that I wrote about in my last story decided to give me a math lesson the other day, and what really makes me smile is that she dove right into teaching me without first asking me if I was ready for her lesson. I can count fairly well, but it still takes me a bit of thinking to get the numbers out of my mouth. So the other day when I bought three items from her she added them up on her digital calculator as she called out each number. Then she decided to take me through some addition and subtraction, which she again showed me on her calculator, Then she handed the calculator to me and started calling out numbers, while she checked to see that I punched them in correctly. We carried on like this for a few minutes and then she proclaimed that I was really doing well and learning a lot. 

Last weekend I was walking down the street and I came upon a big party out in someone’s yard. I stopped to have a peek and one of my neighbors who I had yet to ever speak to invited me in. Soon I was being introduced to the guest of honor- An 88 year old woman who was celebrating her birthday. Next, I was given some ice cream and a group of children gathered around me to look at “the farong”. So I took the opportunity to juggle three pieces of candy that had been sitting on the table, and then I did a magic trick which left even the adults baffled. After that, one of the grandmothers attending the party started tugging on my arm, so that I would get up and do some dancing along with her and her friends. I did pretty good following the “step” of the dance, but I had no sense of how to move my hands and arms like they were. They certainly got a lot of enjoyment out of watching me though!

So now when I move around in my neighborhood I am feeling more and more connected to the community, rather than feeling separate and alone. People are welcoming me into their lives and that gives me a wonderful feeling! 

In Community,

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