(This entry appeared in The Westfield Leader on January 25, 2007)
When the bombs went off in Bangkok on New Year’s Eve my friend was getting her nails done in the Siam Mall, which is in the center of Bangkok. She said she got the call from Peace Corps that bombs were being detonated around the city and that she had to go back to her hotel immediately. She said she left thirty minutes later, after they finished her other hand. “It was my first manicure in a year!” she yelled after I raised my eyebrow.
The other day I was taken to talk with the Governor of the province I live in. He was busy that morning and I ended up waiting for about an hour. I teach the Governor English a couple times a week so I have become casual acquaintances with most of his staff. I was sitting with one of his assistants we were both quietly drinking our coffee when out of nowhere he told me another teacher had been murdered in the south. The southern most provinces have been riddled with violence for years. Violence I was completely unaware of until I moved three hours north of it.
In addition to putting small bombs in random noodle shops, the terrorists have begun murdering teachers. Over nine hundred schools have been shut down because of concerns. That’s leaving hundreds of thousands of children with nothing to do. “Why teachers?” I asked the assistant. “I don’t know, maybe to scare people,” he said.
“People don’t understand each other,” the assistant continued. “That’s what the King has said. He said we need to do two things to bring peace to the south. He said we need to understand one another, really make an effort to learn about each other and to understand and then,” he brought both his hands and cupped them in front of his heart, “we must love.” I looked at him. Up until this point our conversations were pretty much limited to the weather. He went on, “We must let go of our selves and our egos and just love.” A buzzer went off in the room, which signals that the Governor is ready. The assistant got up and shooed me in and that was that.People say the bombs in Bangkok were unrelated to the terrorism in the south and that it probably had to do with political tension involving the coup. Thailand’s government is still being lead by military leaders. There have been no elections and there are no plans for them any time soon.Over Christmas a friend of mine went on a meditation retreat, which are pretty common in Thailand. He meditated in silence for eleven days. I was eager to hear about his experience. I saw him for the first time at a beach near his house yesterday. It was an area devastated by the tsunami. You can see where the wave came from the gaps in the trees.“So are you enlightened now?” I teased. We sat on the beach and watched the water. “You know I had this experience that was pretty crazy,” he began. “I was on my mat on the floor and I was trying to do a lying meditation before I fell asleep. I was really getting into it when all of sudden I started convulsing and my body rose off the floor.”
I was astonished. I was thrilled. “Then what happened?” I asked eagerly.
“Well, I thought I had reached something really great. I thought I had experienced what I was supposed to experience in all that silence, you know, something outside of myself,” he paused. “The next morning they told me there had been an earthquake.”
I laughed out loud and then we went back to watching the waves.