New Life - New Experience...

Trip Start Feb 28, 2012
Trip End Nov 22, 2012

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What I did
white temple

Flag of Thailand  , Chiang Rai,
Thursday, July 19, 2012

Well, i just had to type today up while it's fresh in the memory.... what I am about to tell you will certainly surprise you... And some people, namely my good mate Richie, are gonna be gigglin away at this one... I spent one night in Chiang Rai and finalised my stay at the foundation and headed up next day....

I need to add here that I typed up loads of what happened only for the blog app on my iPhone to crash?! Second time it's happened so hope I can remember it all as its a few days later now - so not quite so fresh in the memory now...

So after arriving in Chiang Rai and staying a day I took a tuk tuk (try say that 5 times fast!) up to New Life Foundation, a 30 min ride away. On arrival I met Julien, a Belgium guy (Belgiuque? Belgiuse?How do you say someone from Belgium?) and who runs the place, a very slight guy bordering on looking like Stressed Eric but a pleasant and friendly guy, he explained a little about the place and how he himself had previously suffered bad depression but came to Thailand and sorted his problems out including becoming a monk for 6 years. He was an obvious product of what they promote and do here as he was very intuitive, patient had obviously found himself again. What he did tell me, which I didn't realise, was that the volunteering part wasn't directly with the residents but was in looking after, running and improving the facility but as it turned out this wasn't too bad because you work with and socialise with the residents all the time which is more like an indirect, more informal way of interacting with the residents and I imagine a less pressured way for the residents to get involved with everything.

I went for some lunch and there met Lyndsay - a Woman from the US and typical of the kind of person you would maybe expect to see here - divorced mother of two and Feng Shui consultant back home and here to 'find herself'... She dresses in baggy, natural fibre Thai clothing but in true US style wears a pair or real Gucci sunglasses; she's. She is friendly and helpful but a little overly so... You know the type. From what I gather, though I've never read it, her story sounds similar to the Love, Eat, Pray book and apparently this place is also reminiscent of the place she goes to in the book...

She tells me work wise you do 4.5 hours a day and can choose between building, gardening and marketing So I decide the building area is my cup of tea and she says she works that team and is on her way now so I can the afternoon shift so I think why not, jump straight in and meet a few people too. They turn out to be a good bunch, Phil who is also from the US and looks snd talks like Ryan Stiles, remember the C4 programme. Who's Line Is It Anyway and the tall lanky American guy? Well he's just like him but older and he runs the building team. There's a very interesting guy called Zulu, well real name Zoltan from Hungary, he's pretty tall and obviously asked not to be small when young and at the fare in Hungary as a kid. He talks a bit like Borat but doesn't actually speak much, usually with a delayed response and with quite a stare because apparently he had a problem with his optic nerve and can't see well - this is strange though because if you see him read, write or be on his lap top he literally holds them all about an inch from his eye ball to see but he plays table tennis and has the best serve I have ever seen and can serve a swerve shot from about 6ft away from the table inch perfect - I really don't get it but gonna ask him at some point. He's strong as an ox too and actually very funny but overall he is like a cross between Ivan drago from rocky IV, frankenstein and ken Barlow, no, not ken Barlow I mean Ken Dodd!! Though Ken Barlow talking like Ivan Drago and with a bolt through his neck would be very strange ... "Deidre... I must break you!!"..

--ok its 8am, time to go to work!! TBC--.

On arrival I didn't get a tour (which every subsequent volunteer seems to have) so I have pretty much been learning how things work as I go but a typical day goes like this:

5:15 - run (my own addition)
6 - yoga
7 - mindful breakfast
7:45 - group meeting
8:30 - work
11:00 - stop work
11:30 - body scan
12 - lunch
1:30 - work
3:30 - finish work
4:00 - meditation
5:00 - yoga
5:30 - steam bath (tue & thurs)
7:00 - dinner
7:45 - group meeting
8:00 - video or pod cast
10:00 - go to rooms

ok to explains few bits... Mindfulness is something they are big on here and basically it simply means being mindful or aware of what's happening more so for a mindful breakfast you eat in silence and before you eat take in where you are, what you feel like, why your eating and notice the hunger feelings, and as you eat, aware of your movements, the feel and texture of the food which you eat slowly and appreciate and at the end you think about whether you feel fortunate to have that food and what it's done for you and also learn to just eat what you need to nourish yourself. At first it's strange and difficult to do, especially if you miss yoga and go straight to eat from waking, but sometimes it sinks in and you become aware of your body more and your thoughts and it improves your focus, concentration and awareness of the current moment - that's the idea. Julien, who runs it here,is the most composed guy I have ever met, I swear there could be a fire blazing through the place and he could have left a winning lottery ticket in there and he would still show the same temperament!!

Body scan is basically meditation, you lie on a mat and listen to a CD with the same recording which asks you to imagine a relaxing light above your head which moves slowly down your body relaxing each part of your body as it passes. This doesn't work too well for me but after some mornings doing heavy work on the building site I do it more out of necessity!!

The video or pod cast is usually about Buddhism in some way but I haven't caught one yet but I was talking to 2 others in the steam bath one night about karma and reincarnation; not that this happens all the time but it just came up!! Trust me, it's very normal here and 99% of the time it's like a hostel or youth club type environment!! But anyway we all has different views and them that nights pod cast was in the same subject so gonna find it on YouTube and if it's any good ill post the link for you got anyone interested (maybe no one?!)... Also my good mate Ronald gives meditation and mindfulness classes here and they recorded one and are gonna put it for download on the website; it's guided so easy to follow and again I'll let you know when it's up for anyone who wants to try..

Ok, so much to tell and I am finding it hard to finally catch up with events and get this uploaded!! Ok, briefly those funny events, well one embarrassing one really... Every night you have a question, set the previous night, which you have to answer in front of the whole group, questions like; what did you learn today? What do you hide about yourself? Etc which you can answer or pass on... Plus on the morning after my arrival I was expected to introduce myself to the whole group. Now I am sure most of you will know this ain't my strong point in Life but what many might not know is How much so, for example, when I decided to leave school and go to Hudds New College open day with two friends (Richie - did you go or was it me and Bob Mac and Ste Chambers??), in the first sample class and the teacher said everyone had to introduce themselves we all just looked at each other, got up and half ran out the class room!! Then after when I was kinda made to actually go to New College I took psychology and in my first class had to stand and give 3 interesting facts about myself to which I replied 'I'm honest, good at football.....' and I couldn't even think of a third one!!! So I quit the class and took economics instead!!?! Anyway, after all that it didn't go so bad, I gave very brief answers and a very short intro and got past it but not Scott free as that night there was a class called something like 'personal space awareness' which I knew nothing about but as I was planning only to stay a week I had already decided to give everything a go....

I'd met a guy called Jonas from Deutchland, a gangly very white red headed fellow and myself and Jonas were the only guys with about 10 girls... The class turned out to be a bit theatrical and amateur dramatic in that we had to each wander round the room maybe walking in any style or pace we wanted literally expressing ourselves however we wanted; ok group activity, I can get through this, no ones really watching anyway.... Then it was following everyone else and keeping a snake like formation and gap between each person consistent.... Easy, then a few bits more like this but then came 'the moment' ...

"Ok everyone, I want you all to sit in a row at this end of the room and one by one get up and at the other end of the room start as a small shape and make your way to the centre in front of everyone and finish up as the biggest shape you can"

All to music, on your own and I front of everyone..!! It was the worst moment even to date, talk about dread, I looked at Jonas and he was as mortified as me but luckily he was just before me but we were still 3rd and 4 th in the running... The first three girls did this ballet type, opera inspired mixture or swirls, philosophical looks up to the sky and forward rolls and stuff and my heart sunk even more while frantically trying to think what I could possibly do.... My moment of inspiration came right as Jonas finished... He did a really quick half hearted attempt and all in one I realised the following;

• I now had license to do something equally short...
• His lack of enthusiasm didn't go down well with anyone so it showed me I had to atleast make it look like i took it seriously....
• The fact I didn't have an idea but then had an idea was he basis of my....idea...!

So I started off crouched down seemingly deep in thought and then over about 30 seconds I got up and walked back and forth like in deep thought and occasionally holding a finger up like I had an idea but then putting it down, shaking my head and continuing the charade, slowly standing taller as I got to be finale where I come up with the idea in the centre of the room and raise both hands like I just scored the winning goal in a world cup and face the audience as i do it.... I get a good response, the teacher looks happy and as hoped, Jonas's poor effort made mine look good and i get through the task without quiting first... Never again though and no doubt for Jonas too as he left a few days later!! Auf weidersein and danke shun.... Thank you for... All the joy you bring, picture show, second balcony, was the place we meet... Ok, you get it - or most of you should anyway... Bueller? .. Bueller??

Ok what else,well there's a dog with 3 legs called jack who lost it after a car accident but in most meetings he either wanders in to annoy people, barks at Thai people when they pass or tries humping other dogs right outside as we are trying to answer the question of the day which apparently looks tricky when you missing one back leg ... No joke, he's quite a character...

There's loads more happened but that's the jist of things here. It's been hard work so far working on building. A big meditation retreat started today which I joined and will update on later, but When it started they were on deadline to finish a new mud brick built meditation hall with wash rooms,paths, garden and gathering area (smokers corner) which I worked on until yesterday and worked overtime on too every day as most did to get it finished. Very tough and i did mainly mud and cement mixing and carrying with Zulu Barlow, who though at first was about quite turned out to be a really strange but funny guy and a good Laugh to work with.

Part of the reason i worked so hard was to help up my fitness again but also because the boss Phil had told me that after the retreat he was building a house from scratch. Now there is a lad here from the US called Andrew and he is pretty sound actually, unusual for a yank but he has done an architecture degree and was phils no. 2 and involved in all aspects and I knew he was leaving when the retreat started so knew that slot was Open and thought that a mixture of hardwork, willingness, overtime and a little greasing of the wheels could get me that position for the house build and I could learn the whole process (pretty cool ey Paul?!)

So to date I have been here 2 weeks and this weekend is a 4 day retreat I have joined where we have a special Tibetan monk to show us meditation, give talks and answer questions... It cost an extra 30 quid so I just thought I'd give it a go. I also told Phil I'd do the house build meaning I am here for almost 7 more weeks!!! I then plan to leave by using all I have learnt, going in to meditation and floating out of here..!!

Seriously though it's altered my plans as it would only leave about a month and half to do Malaysia and Indonesia; no where near enough so I have decided to go to Myanmar (Burma) instead and then back home and to try add Malaysia and Indonesia to the end of the motorbike trip next year after Thailand.

So yeah I'll be back around 20th Nov and back out first week 2013. Really looking forward to seeing everyone and having Xmas at home. Hope your all still enjoying the blog and again, thanks for all your comments, I do love reading them all.

Love to all... Xxxx
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Delly on

Hahahahhahahah, cannot explain how much I laughed and cried and laughed and cried (all out of laughter) at this blog.... pure genius!!! I think because I can hear you saying it all in my head, can so imagine it all happening, you are so funny lee!

"Deidre I will break you" hilarious!
Eyeballing tabble tennis legend who looks like the guy from who's line... hilarious!
Everything in this blog - ruddy hilarious!!!!!!

And I laughed so much about you doing the go small to large task... I know how much that will have pained you to do, and thats why its so funny! I am never going to let you get away with forgetting this memory, I will always point in the air then shake my head (As you did) when I see you... I just sooo wish it could have been captured on video hahahahah!

Thank you for massively brightening up my Friday afternoon - AMAZING!

I miss you so much lee lee, come home soooon xxx

Delly on

PS I also would have loved to have smashed that monk mans big gong... that would have disturned the calm in the village ahaha! By the way, can you try and bring me back some meditation cymbals/bells for my yoga classes, something which makes a nice noise to come in and out of the class please :) xxxxxxxxxxxx

Carrie on

Lol --- Delly said it all exactly. You could make a comedy series out of your blogs Lee. What goings on, and all accompanied by gecko's, toads, etc. We'll be caling you Dr Dolittle when you get back.

Sounds like you're having a ball ...... enjoy every moment.
Love n hugs
Mum xxxx

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