Tag Archive: english


We are all in a contest of who can shout the loudest. In Thailand there is a bird that lives its life in the cage of its enthusiastic master. It is called the Nok Krung Hua Juk – the Cage Bird Head Mohawk (a loose, literal translation as close as I can figure).

As I walk down a small, busy soi with my friends and colleagues Sam speaks to me in sincere elucidations. I step aside as a pickup drives past, dodging the Thai kids playing football on the street, the motorcycle scooters cruise past and I take a moment to covet the cool wind that one enjoys on a motorcycle ride in the Bangkok heat. Sam’s speech pauses and his eyes dart leftward as he makes the translations to English in his mind – he tells me about this eccentric and bemused local bird. His father  from the South of Thailand used to own one he tells me. It has since been given to Sam’s friend owing to the erratic, high attention, maintenance required of those who indulge themselves in the fringe hobby which gives such high value to the bird. “10 000 baht”, Sam goes on to say when I ask him of the birds value. “In my home town you see the owners on their motocycle with their bird-cage in one hand” Sam tells me. These birds take part in the sport of Bird Shouting – where they are pitched against each other in featherweight exhibitions of their vocal prowess.

A lucrative and more or less illegal gambling ring of old men and bird hobbyists surround the cages as they ‘shout’ at the top of their lungs – both the old men and the birds – aiming to see who can shout longer and harder through their wooden cages.

“What do you call it? Ha ha – like walking your dog – walking their birds? But it’s on a motorcycle so – riding their birds?” Sam muses as he explains some of the nuances of the business. “They need to improve the bird’s voice” he says. “They have to get used to all – all the … all -”
“all the noise and busyness going on around them” I complete his sentence, his 2nd language momentarily failing him.
“Yes, so that they can improve their voice”

The gambling rings in Thailand are a sight to behold. The best example I’ve personally witnessed being those old laughing and jeering, cheering men of Lumpinee Boxing Stadium who watch and gradually get louder and more cacophonous as the Muay Thai fights edge closer to their final-round conclusion. Many who visit the iconic fighting stadium for the first time note that it’s almost more entertaining to watch the boisterous, leather-skinned gamblers than to watch the two bare-chested men in the middle trade teeps and jabs and knees and elbows, jostling for position with the noise of their own heart pounding in their lungs harder than the stamping feet of the crowd, or the drone of the gyrating ceiling fans.

Well the birds, the Nok Krung Hua Juk-s need to get used to this commotion otherwise they’ll lapse into a quiet and shameful silence as their foe shouts them down and their pleading owner counts his last handful of cash disparagingly.

Then it struck me like a Muay Thai knee, as I listened to my colleague Andrew and a yellow-toothed old Thai banter about property prices behind me and the birds chatter at each other across the soi – I realised that we are all somewhat like this Nok Krung Hua Juk. We all need to find our voice in the commotion that would unsettle us and quiet our resolve. I have been like this bird repetitively in my life. Now more than ever – because now I must return to my home country and start the next phase of my journey unto an occupation doing something I deem meaningful.

This time in South East Asia and the hard and noisy years before have been my time on that motorcycle with my Master – the time draws ever nearer when I must enter the ring and use this voice my experiences have given me. I’m sure we are all the same in this – we need times of commotion and noise to give us a voice. We also need a trustworthy master to take the handle bars and guide us through the noise and then when we are loud enough, to put us toe-to-toe against the sort of challenges that make lives worth living, and metaphors worth making.

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* writers note: this is simply a section of writing a produced half written to myself a week ago. I could have adapted it for the blogosphere audience but decided to leave it as it is because any delays might become permanent as I tend to procrastinate such administrative edit-like practices. It also introduces a few ideas that I don’t conclude. I’ll get to them another time.*

This morning I am fasting until supper time, I sit now in the cafeteria area at st. Andrews village where we are staying and holding school for the Vietnamese kids. They are not what I expected at all – I thought that they would be poor kids taken out of poverty like the one’s I spent the first half of the year working with, they showed up last Sunday with Galaxy tablets and iPhones, gouchi bags and DC shoes and so my perspective changed – welcome to first world missions. Most of these kids are from high class families in Vietnam, one of the kids that I am personally responsible for as an example has a father who owns a hotel on the beach front of Ha Long – the biggest tourist destination in Vietnam. He showed my a picture on a post card:

image

There is a range though, Andrew (I’ll call the youngest kid Andrew as a code name) doesn’t seem to be as well off as the rest of them. He uses a cheap little Nokia cell phone, his parents may have sent him off with it as opposed to a more expensive phone, but I doubt it. He is a total technogeek. All of these kids are, but about 30% of them are in deep, not daring a trip to the bathroom without their tech in hand. Andrew is a fascinating little 11 year old though. I’ll get back to him but first I must mention Douglass (another code name). Doug is also an 11 year old but this is a troubled kid. A friend of mine also ministering as a missionary here is convinced he’ll be a ganglord with a baseball bat leaning over a disloyal worker in a basement one day later in life if he carries on on this path we’ve intersected him on. He seems to lack a conscience and is totally self involved – meaning that he will do all that he can get away with. He erupts into a vicious grin once in a while after he has just teased some other kid or somehow managed to inflict pain upon someone else. A few times I have arrived and found him grinning next to some kid with a sad expression. Doug laughs as he explains to me in broken English that “hahaha, no nothing happen ha ha *insert Vietnamese shouting and pointing in a mocking fashion towards the sad kid* ha ha, nothing happen”. We’ll continue to try and show this kid love and discipline.

*Writers note: these are all great kids though and let it be known that I grew very fond of them all and am eager to watch their progress through life. Many of them have really great potential and I was privileged to be a part of their journey in reaching it.*

Journal 2012-06-12
I spent time in the Buddhist tooth relic temple today in Chinatown. This was the first Buddhist temple I’ve ever been to. I was politely asked to remove my hat as I approached the inner doors by a guide lady. She couldn’t speak English but the hand gestures were clear enough and she smiled with her eyes when I removed my hat and stuffed it into my back pocket.

I took many photos, it was difficult to do so though because of the strange lighting. Most of the temple is dark with bad lighting of the overwhelming- red and gold in the architecture and statues of the 100 Buddhas around each of the 20 or so larger Buddhas. Then there is a very large Buddha guarded on either side by golden guard statues with angry expressions and angry weapons in their hands. This big Buddha is completely gold in colour with a hand raised as if to bless those in the room and a smirk to rival any other. There are lights shining brightly onto this Buddha from all directions reflecting off of the statues gold with the effect that any attempt at amateur photography yields only an overexposed blur. I’m sure they do this on purpose.

I had a long conversation with a serving lady in the temple who has been a Buddhist for about 15 years. She tried a few Japanese religions before becoming a Buddhist. She said that she had been searching for happiness and truth (in her own words) and truth (which was implied – being the foundational aspect of Buddhism – the search for and ascent unto pure truth). She said that she had found all of this in Buddhism and that she had a sharper and quicker mind since becoming a Buddhist. I smirked inside as she begrudgingly and slowly attempted to put this idea of her quicker mind into words.

Half way through our conversation she stopped and stepped aside to help a young man in a trendy blue v-neck and a backpack to a little red card which he then wrote the names of his family on (5 Mandarin symbols). He took the card and placed it amidst flowers at the base of a little glass lantern and she instructed him in placing it upon a table where it joined 25 other lanterns – “he is acquiring a blessing for his family” said my guide lady friend as she returned to me, having observed that I waited for her and for this little ceremony to be completed. As I enquired more of her and her religion she invited me to study more on the topics I asked about. I told her that I had been searching for the same things as her – “peace, happiness and truth but that I had found it in Jesus Christ” and that I believed there was some truth in Buddhism but it wasn’t all true, as opposed to Jesus’ teachings. The conversation continued and she invited me to the library upstairs where they keep literature and the teachings of the Buddhas. There is also a monk scholar there who she recommended I speak to. I hope to take her up on this suggestion. I would like to hear what a fully fledged Buddhist has to say on matters of truth and spirituality.

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