This is page 3 of the story, “Living in Thailand” – the first page is HERE.
Thais have LITTLE Ego…
Thais almost never use the word I. Whether they are speaking English or Thai – the word “I”, “me” is nearly absent from their vocabulary. In the year and a half that I’ve known my Thai girlfriend, I have ONLY heard her say “I” when I asked her directly if she wanted something. That is it. She never says, “I” without a direct question asking her. She never voices her opinions or wants or needs to me if they are frivolous or not important. In America, I can’t even count the number of times I used the “I” pronoun in one day. When I came here too – I started to notice it because none of the Thais were doing it.
I really noticed it when I had a visitor from Florida come to see me. She is a lawyer and has a master’s degree in psychology. Everything was “I, I, I, I, I”.
It was so unnerving. She was one of my very good friends in the states, but I guess I have changed a lot during the two years I lived in Thailand before she came. I’m not even close to being the same person I was then. Thailand is good for a personality change.
I think the lack of use of the pronoun, “I” is related to the Buddhist view of non-attachment to ideas; things; issues; points of view; emotions; or anything. If one say’s “I” it is reinforcing the idea that one is separate from the rest of the world. That one is an entity that is separate. Same thing if one says, “mine”. It reinforces the ego or the self as a separate thing.
When I arrived in Bangkok I didn’t feel that out of place. There were thousands of foreigners there and most spoke English. The Thai workers at the hotels and restaurants spoke English enough that we understood each other. I was able to make my way around without too much trouble.
I then went to Phuket to see one of the guys I had met online when I was considering Thailand as a destination.
This guy, we’ll call him Tom, had lived there for over two years and he offered me a room to stay in for a while at just 200 baht per day ($5 USD).
We got along well. He’s from the Midwest USA and was enjoying the isolated life he was living in Phuket coming out rarely in the daytime and staying up all night. He showed me the bars, the girls, the wild times and even the ladyboys. I stayed there for over a month before I decided that the bars would become my life if I didn’t leave. I loved Phuket – it’s gorgeous – similar to Hawaii and yet so much cheaper. It didn’t have the magic feeling of Hawaii though – the untaintedness that I felt every time I was there.
I decided to go to a Buddhist temple in the Northeast of Thailand and talk about the experiences that happened during meditation with the monks that were there. There are lots of foreign monks there.
I took the train there and the whole time on the train I was saying – wow, this is remote. This is remote. There’s nothing out here. The town, Warin Chamrap, is six-hundred kilometers from Bangkok. There really is little around there. The wat is simple, it’s a forest wat. There are many monks there – maybe fifty?
The monk assigned to meet the visitors talked to me first. I told him a little bit about my experiences while meditating and he was fascinated. He told me that he only knows of two other monks at that wat who were experiencing Jhana to any degree. He told me that I should stay and he set me up in a room upstairs of the kitchen area.
I then met with the abbot, an Australian man that had a composure such that I’d never witnessed in another person. His manner was of the same character that I experienced myself back in 1999 when I was meditating and frequently experiencing jhana.
He was exceptionally nice and a great listener. He asked some questions to clarify the experience and be sure it wasn’t something other than Jhana. He explained that it was advanced jhana that I experienced and that I was welcome to stay at Wat Pah Nanachat as long as I wished to continue the journey.
I declined, having not been in the mood anymore to continue meditation after my frightening experiences, even though in that moment they had been completely normalized. He said I was not losing my mind, and that I was on the right path. I’ve written more about the experiences in a journal that I kept about it online here: Jhana8.com
I know it must sound fantastic (exaggerated) to hear that I had experienced high level jhana while meditating and perhaps even become a ‘stream-enterer’ as the Buddhists call it and yet there I was in Thailand taking in the naughty life.
In 1999 I had the experiences. Six years later I found out what the experience were. I did not know, truthfully. I had hoped what they were, but with nobody to confirm to me – “it was jhana” I couldn’t declare it jhana on my own. When I ran from the experiences and from Vipassana meditation I ran FAR and separated myself from it completely. I did not meditate at all for years for fear that it would come back and take over my mind, my soul, and get rid of the ego again.
I spent years building back the ego to a point where I can now say that I’m similar to the guy that existed before I meditated and reached Jhana. The same? Oh no, far from the same. Even today I still have Jhana occasionally. It happened yesterday in fact, as I walked around a local Buddhist temple… I felt it come and touch me and put me into the state of lucid awareness and mindfulness… and the feeling in my fingers, hands and arms started to go away… it happens this way, and if it continues I will not feel my body at all anymore. I will be moving forward and yet there is no perception of the ego within. It is just a pure experience without the experiencer. Very strange and impossible for me to describe. Pointless to try to describe in words really.
So, where I am now and where I was then – are very different states. Back then I was pure like an angel. Really, I’m not joking. There were no impure thoughts, and no pure thoughts. There was nothing to judge – pure or impure. There was no ego or super-ego to judge good or bad, tasty or not, pretty or ugly. Everything was just as it was and there was no judging by ‘me’. In fact, there was no ‘me’ if that makes the slightest sense.
Ok, anyway, moving on.
Ubon Ratchathani, I Found Home
I took a tuk-tuk to the next big town – Ubon Ratchathani. I wanted to stay and walk around a bit, get a feel for it. I was trying to find a place to live that I would like. Ubon was it. I loved it. The people were just incredibly nice and genuine. They helped me do anything I needed to do. They would close their workplace just to take me to find an apartment to look at.
They gave me free Buddhist amulets at a jewelry store – about third of them when I offered to pay for them. They were antique and apparently not really for sale – but when I asked for them – they were just given to me. FREE! They would not accept money for them!
I had many meals bought for me there by Thai people that may not have really been able to afford it. I really came to like the place. I decided to forget about Phuket and just relax for a while. I decided to try to teach English in Ubon and I stayed for over a year and a half.
I wanted to live in an ‘anti-USA’ way for a while. I was seriously, dangerously close to having mental breakdowns from the stress there and I needed to divorce myself from that way of life.
In Ubon I stayed in one-room studio apartments and dorm rooms with no air conditioning, no hot water… a toilet that was outside, thirty steps away from the room.
I bought nothing I didn’t absolutely need. I had brought little with me to Thailand – two pairs of jeans. Two pairs of shorts. Five shirts. Socks and undies. I brought my Teva sport sandals and some running shoes. I brought about thirty music CD’s and a couple MP3 CD’s with a couple hundred songs on each. Other than that, I don’t think I brought anything. Oh, I did bring copies of my bachelor’s and master’s degrees to show to school to get jobs.
I bought a cell phone for about 4,000 baht ($125 USD) which I used for over a year. The cell phones calling plans – the networks – are so much easier to use and choose from.
You just buy a small electronic card – a SIM card that attaches inside the phone. You can switch them at will. The SIM can store phone book entries, text messages, etc. You can buy one for five dollars and have a phone number that comes with it. You then buy phone cards with secret validation codes that you enter into your phone and dial up the company to approve them. You are then loaded with cell phone baht to make calls until it runs out.
You could have six phone numbers if you want! One for each of your “lives”.
When I first arrived – and for a year – I paid five baht per minute for calls. I just wasn’t aware anyone else was getting better deals and I didn’t know how to navigate the computer that spoke in Thai to me when I called the phone company. My Thai friends used my phone to call customer service at AIS and get me a deal. Now I pay less than one baht per minute, just like they do.
Besides just talking on mobile phones, everyone text messages to each other here by phone. It’s called SMS.
Anyway, besides these things I had, I bought only some clothes that I needed to wear at school. Thais are picky about wearing the right clothes and looking the part of a teacher. But there is not much thought given to whether or not things match or go together well. I liked that. The foreigners I worked with routinely wore something so out of whack with fashion that often times we laughed at each other. It was nice to not have to give any thought about, “hmm, do my pants match my shoes, my belt, my shirt and the hair on my arms?”
I rented a motorbike from a friend that was renting it from a company because she was a student at college. I got it for just eight-hundred baht per month – about twenty-four dollars per month. I paid her 1100 baht ($33) so I could show her my appreciation, and we had a deal. The motorbike was new and ran perfectly. Gas, though it’s as expensive here in Thailand as in the USA – is still cheap when filling up the motorbike. Not at all like filling up the Lexus RX300 in Florida every couple days. Now I heard that gas is around three to four dollars per gallon in the USA! WOW. (After I did the math, I realized that is also what it was here!)
Pedophile? Or, Just a Sick Guy?
I found a job teaching English at an elementary government school that had a fifty-nine-year-old obnoxious American guy teaching there. I was 95% sure he was being sexually abusive to the kids.
I wrote a report to the department of education. I had it translated into Thai and then decided not to give it to them. Had I given it to them I would have caused such a loss of face for some high ranking people in the community that I might have had a knife or bullet coming my way in the near future. I decided to stifle my anger and stop talking about it much. After all, I didn’t actually see sexual abuse. What I saw was enough to have him removed from any position interacting with kids, that much is sure. If I’d have seen more, I’d have killed him myself.
The decision to shut up was a wise one I think. I was about to push this letter as high as it would go and cause as many problems for those involved as I possibly could… and what the hell did I know about Thai culture?
I would have caused way too much trouble and loss of face for the Doctor that started the English program at the school as well as the guy in charge of the school since neither did anything about the physical abuse incidents or the alleged sexual abuse incidents.
I’ve changed Gary’s last name to only reflect the first initial and I changed the name of the school to just “Anuban School”, which means – kindergarten level school.
14 June 2005
This is the second letter I’ve written regarding Gary S’s behavior in the classroom at Prathom 1 at X School.
At 10:10 a.m. this morning I entered the Prathom 1 office and saw Gary S. sitting on the floor with a female student, six-years-old. Sunee, another teacher, was also there with them. Gary was explaining what would happen the next time the student did what she wanted to do.
I went to the copy machine and looked at the girl and Gary. Gary was hugging her with his whole right arm and had his hand on the girl’s right thigh (upper leg). Gary was rubbing her thigh and patting it gently as he talked into her ear.
I told him, “Take your hand off her leg Gary.” He ignored me. Sunee looked at where his hand was on her upper thigh. I said again, “Gary, take your hand off her leg.” Gary answered, “Stay out of this.” He then moved his hand lower on the girl’s leg to her calf. I said, “I see that you moved your hand away from her thigh, down to her calf, so you know did something wrong, right?” Then I said, “So, you know that I saw you, right Gary?” Gary said nothing.
Gary S’s behavior was VERY inappropriate (wrong) considering:
- It is never considered acceptable in America for a 59-year-old male teacher to be holding a student of six years of age in his arm or arms on the floor.
- It is NEVER considered acceptable in America for a 59-year-old male teacher to be rubbing or patting a 6-year-old girl’s thigh for any reason.
- Sunee was close by. If there was some comforting that needed done Sunee could have done it.
- Gary S. has a VERY questionable background interacting with young children at this school. Meaning, Gary S. has done many, many inappropriate behaviors with children at this school (many “accidents” in which children were hurt).
I have seen Gary S. exhibit other questionable behaviors which I will list below.
- On a day in January of this year, I was standing outside the Prathom 1 classroom and I saw Gary through the open door. Yeen, a six-year old student, had been crying about something and was standing between Gary’s open legs. Gary had his hands resting on Yeen’s shoulders. Gary then grabbed Yeen’s face with both hands and pulled Yeen’s face to him. Gary kissed him hard on the face or lips and at the same time looked over Yeen’s shoulder to see if anyone had seen him do this. I was right there in front of him.
- During a two-week period before the last school term ended I observed Gary in the classroom. There were three different days that I saw Gary lift up Rakfa, a seven-year old student, and turn her upside down so that her skirt did not cover her underwear. Her underwear was showing to the class and was only about one foot away from Gary’s face.
- During this same time period, there were a few times that Gary mentioned that some of the girls in Prathom 1 always had their skirt up and their underwear showing. He would point out girls that had their underwear showing to me. Gary seemed to find it very interesting because he would keep telling me when it happened.
- There were many, many times I saw Gary hugging students by pulling them against him with both arms, as they stood between his open legs as he sat in his office chair.
- On Monday, June 13th, 2005 I entered the Prathom 1 office to ask Gary if he had any balls the kids in Prathom 2 could play with outside. Gary told me that he always had two balls with him and then said, “Oh, you mean balls for sports.” This is a common joke in America between male friends that feel very comfortable with each other. However, it is NEVER used in the workplace or when asked about balls available for CHILDREN to play with. I do not feel comfortable with Gary. I believe that he is pre-occupied with sex as a topic and will talk about sex at any opportunity he gets in the office. Please ask Ajahn Sunee about some of the inappropriate sexual things he has spoken to her about.
Gary S. has hurt no less than seven children physically in just 1 year of teaching. Children have been pushed down, held down and made to cry, sprayed in the eyes with heavy-duty window cleaner, and bruises made on their arms as a result of Gary S.
WHAT NEEDS TO HAPPEN BEFORE YOU ACT?
The problem with Gary is not only what we SEE HAPPENING. The problem is that there are likely many things that we DO NOT SEE HAPPENING. What else is he doing? Are the children in his class safe? Do the parents care if he rubs the thigh of their daughters or sons? Do the parents want him to lift their daughter up so the child’s underwear shows? Do the parents want a male teacher to hug the students between open legs and against his groin?
In America, these behaviors are never tolerated. Physical and sexual abuse of children is taken very seriously and there is no second chance given. I believe that Gary is exhibiting many behaviors that are NOT to be done with small children. But, I am from another country with different ideas about what is right and what isn’t right – so I will ask you to look at the situation and decide what is best for your children.
This is the second letter I have written regarding Gary’s negative behavior here at Anuban School. PLEASE DO SOMETHING!
Vern Lovic, MA Psychology
Teacher, Mini-English Program
Instead of pursuing the case against the jackass, after I handed in this letter and waited for two weeks for something to be done (and nothing was) I decided to leave the school on short notice. If someone asked my opinion of the school and the foreigner teaching there I would tell the story, but I didn’t shout it from the high buildings like I had been planning.
In hindsight I probably should have left the city immediately after giving the letter to the department of because I’m sure I had already stirred things up so much that there was some major loss of face. Knowing a little more now after eighteen months more in the country I would have left the city and moved quickly.
Thailand is a relatively safe place and yet even a normal person can find himself in some kind of trouble that isn’t quite understood… something that just might get him killed. Thailand is a place that you must understand some basic things before causing a fuss about ANYTHING. Understanding loss of face is essential.
The Thai concept of “face” in Thailand’s people is fascinating to me. I’ve studied psychology. For two years I have observed and tried to understand. The difference between people here and in the USA is so profound that at times I think I’m not just in a different country, but an altogether different galaxy.
Let me first state that I LOVE THAI PEOPLE. Really, I do. I have, for the most part, embraced all the changes that I’ve been subject to over the last couple of years. I like their laid back attitude toward work. I like their non-confrontational nature. I like the respect they show for elders and for each other by giving a wai (hands together as if in prayer in front of their face). I like the student’s outward respect for their teachers.
I like the Thai concept of brotherhood for lack of a better name… the idea that it is the group that is working or studying or doing something – it’s not just the individual. If a kid is punished in class and I make him write lines… the other kids will try to write some lines FOR him. If someone is doing badly on a test, classmates will try to help him or her DURING the test… yes, we call that cheating – but, to the Thais’ it is their culture to help and to succeed as a group.
To stop cheating we’d have to change the whole culture… impossible. I like that there doesn’t seem to be any superstars here… no guys so filled with ego or craving attention so badly that they act out like they do in the USA.
I like the freedom they give their kids to do as they wish… the lack of seriousness during school… the emphasis on fun and on smiles. Smiles are in place of confrontation. Smiles are in place of hurt. Smiles are in place of confusion… in place of yelling… in place of losing one’s cool.
Anyway, getting back to the topic. The Thai concept of face, or more specifically “losing face” and “saving face” is a primary motivator of their behavior. I would guess that it is the primary motivational force behind the way they act.
As Westerners, we can compare face to the word honor. In the west, we know that we are not really honorable, and we accept it. There are few of us that would insist that we are always honorable. The Thai concept of face is similar to honor… and yet there is so much more to it. If a Thai “loses face” it means that he or she has suffered some loss of honor. Some embarrassment. To Thais, this can be absolutely devastating depending on the manner in which it was dealt with by another or experienced as a result of his / her own actions prior.
In Thai society, there is this emphasis on maintaining the facade of perfection. This facade of perfection means that as a person, as an individual you do nothing to disturb that facade. It is unspoken, but everyone knows. You don’t disturb the facade of perfection. You don’t break the facade or people lose face. You don’t criticize others. You don’t yell or lose your temper.
When the facade comes down then hell can break loose. This is why when Thais fight or go crazy physically it is an all out effort and they truly flip out psychologically for a time. I’ve seen some horrible fights here. Fights are almost always when someone or everyone has been drinking alcohol. Because otherwise nobody really dares to break the facade of perfection. When drunk though there is a lot that can’t be overlooked anymore. Alcohol brings out the things that have been repressed. A drunk Thai might say something that gets at someone a little bit. A little ball-breaker… and then there’s a response… maybe a little harsher. Things can explode at any time. It’s like a bomb waiting to go off.
The offended person, if not drunk, or even if they are drunk, may have enough sense about him still to ignore the slight and go on maintaining the facade. But, maybe not. I’ve seen a husband choking his wife – both hands around her neck and her bent over backward on a table on the public sidewalk of a busy road where I lived in Surat Thani. I’ve seen a fight between young men at SongKran in Ubon Ratchathani that turned deadly when bottles were broken and a man’s neck and stomach were cut open (he died right there in front of us). I’ve seen bar fights where six Thai guys beat up a tourist by knocking him down and kicking him in the head until they got tired.
Maybe every fight is due to face. I’m not sure that could be true, but in some ways it may be so.
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