……..And it made me wonder…… What do we mean when we say that? What images flash in our mind when we out that phrase?……I think this is a phrase we use a bit too often, but when asked: what do you do for fun? It is a whole different story…Isn’t fun anything that brings us joy and happiness?
Web definitions of FUN:
- Fun is the enjoyment of pleasure. Fun may be encountered in many human activities during work, social functions, recreation and play, and even seemingly mundane activities of daily living. Fun may often have little to no logical basis, and opinions on whether or not an activity is fun may differ. The distinction between enjoyment and fun is difficult to articulate but real, fun being a more spontaneous, playful, or active event. A source of enjoyment, amusement, or pleasure.
- Light-hearted mirth, pleasure or amusement.
What about the other side of the story…the parts that are ‘not so nice’? Like when we go on a trip: the waiting in line, the mishaps with the airlines or the transportation, the hard beds……..or when we go to the beach: the sand all over, the heat……..I bet not everything was always lovely, all happy and bright yet when we come back we say: we had so much fun!!
Can we have fun amidst mishaps? Can we have fun while enduring hardships? If fun is doing something joyful, or that brings us joy, are joy and fun synonyms?.
I have been in Thailand volunteering for 6 months….Is ‘having fun’ what I am doing? Let’s see….I am going to give you a glimpse about this volunteering experience:
What do I do here?
I teach English, better said, I help others understand a different language, a language that will empower them to communicate with others when Asia opens its borders like Europe did years ago. These ‘others’ are Buddhist monks/novices. I enjoy teaching them, but I do not understand what they say and it is very hard to verify if they have understood the concept. My students are enjoyable and very nice….yet I cannot ‘high five’ them nor hug them.
Why Buddhist monks and not others?
Well, the Buddha’s teachings resonate with me more than any others I have studied. I feel that if I can help at least one Buddhist monk to communicate in English, eventually he will be able to convey these teachings to non-Thai speakers and point the way towards the end of suffering…towards enlightenment….. Buddhists do not encourage people to become Buddhists, nor be necessarily religious, (maybe some do, but I have yet to meet one) instead they encourage people to practice loving-kindness and awareness….to find the end of suffering…..and to experience this by themselves, not by ‘believing’. However, I have experienced and seen how any good advice like the Buddha’s teachings and his experience can be turned into a religious belief…and Buddhism is indeed a religion.
Why in Thailand and not in Mexico?
I needed to move away for sometime, to re-learn to be independent, to trust that regardless of my tight-limiting boots and gloves I could be OK. To do this I thought I needed to leave my comfort zone. I do not know really why Thailand, something inside me felt always drawn towards this country. Thailand is lovely, but it is also hard to not be close to family and friends, and many days I crave Mexican food.
Why in a Monastery ?
I wanted to be in peaceful place, a place that would also allow me to make peace with these tight gloves and boots…..this 24-7 pain, or sensation. A busy town reminds me constantly of how limited I am now; how I cannot just decide to go down for a stroll down the streets, or go for a hike by a nice waterfall….to name a couple. Keeping my surroundings simple and close gives me certainty of my improvement, of how I can still do lots of things in spite of the limitations I now bear. The monastery has given me this. Students come to class to the building where I live. The school is in walking distance. Life is simple. And yet, pain is pain, here or there.
What is it like to be living at the monastery and/or being in Thailand?
Aside from all the great stories and adventures that I have shared on Facebook and on this blog, aside from me loving it here……..there is the ‘other side of the story’. I leave in a building within the monastery, it is a ‘multi-activity’ place. People who look for a few nights of shelter stay here on a donation basis. Families of new novices stay here when bringing their kids to the monastery. Meetings of all sorts take place here…..etc….My room is inside this building, it is spacious yet simple,….one bed, one tubular structure for a closet, a small desk, and a small weak tubular end table. The bathroom is of communal use -somedays I have to stand in line to take a shower- There is a stove-less kitchen which didn’t use to have a microwave, now it does, and finally after 3 months of cold food, I can heat it up.
There are lots of spiders and rare insects, which I do not find precisely loving. Spiders build their webs faster than I have ever imagined!
If I leave my food or drink unattended for a few minutes the ants get to it before me! In the beginning I would not eat anything previously visited by them, currently I just shake them off….;) I must have an ant colony inside me by now!!
At the market…colorful, new vegetables, everyone smiling….and yet it is very hard to recognize what kind of food they are selling….all looks very different and no signs in English to help me, people do not speak English and when they see me…they smile and say “aroy, aroy” which means ‘delicious’.
Many activities go on at the monastery, most of them I am not aware of, nor do I understand, yet I participate and join in to experience and take pictures. Every activity is held, of course, in Thai….so I just sit there, observing, smiling and attentive to a signal from one of my friends to tell me what happens next.
Thai language is rather difficult because it has 5 different tones to each syllable…and if I am not careful I can end up saying some not so nice things. Some sounds are so new that I can hardly pronounce them. But I have learned quite a bit.
I live alone, if there are no classes I really have no ‘thing’ to do and…well…like my great aunt always said: ’No hay nada mas tranquilo que un bolsillo vacio’…..there is nothing more tranquil than an empty pocket….
I have a roof and there is always food somewhere, so basic things are covered. I have seen how simplicity can bring great joy.
Which country will you go next?
A lot of people have asked me this particular question. I guess most volunteers are usually volunteering while they travel…..You see, I have not been able to work like a normal(?) person since October ’06. In order to accomplish this new recovery step I received help from many friends and family, who are always in my prayers…(for lack of a better word). My budget is extremely limited so unlike other volunteers who have participated in this program, I am not here ‘traveling’, I am here…just volunteering, which it is in itself a wonderful activity. Everyone usually asks me: ‘what country will you visit next?’…..This is not my case, I am here doing a simple thing: helping out, working without any monetary retribution. However, I have been very lucky for I have been able to visit and see many different places with the friends I have made here. I love what I am doing and it feels great. Traveling..?…we are all already traveling…on this earth.
Two sides of a story…….Two ends of the stick…..if a stick always has two ends, then…. which of the ends is the stick?..the right the left?…the top the bottom?….I think life is the same way……some are good days, some are not…some great feelings, some not so much…some laughter, some tears….some joy, some sadness….some days Thailand is great, some days is hard…some super busy days, some free days……..life happens in both ends….we cannot have one without the other.
Volunteering is great but it is also challenging…leaving my comfort zone is enriching but it is also tough……..I am working hard helping as much as possible but I am also allowing myself to rest and do recreational activities…………therefore, if experiencing both ends of the stick fully while dancing to the music played by life is what it was meant with the phrase: “keep having fun”…then I guess that is exactly what I have been doing and hopefully will continue to do so. I hope you do too!