Thursday, December 17, 2009

Bharma Dums

Miles said that our lifestyle here reminds him of contemporary versions of Jack Kerouac's characters in The Dharma Bums. I have to agree with him. We wake up each morning with yoga, chi gong, and meditation, then have breakfast of oatmeal and oolong tea. During the day we take dips in the river, visit local temples, or sit around and read anything from science fiction to eastern philosophy. In the evening we play the card game hearts where the winner wins a free beer from the three losers. We eat out mostly, but we've managed to cook a few meals using market ingredients and our electric kettle to boil potatoes.
The night life here is interesting. If you visit the main walking street anytime up to 10 p.m. it's filled with hundreds of strolling Thais and Westerners, but go out at 10:30 and everyone has somehow vanished. Most go home, but the few that stay out go to two places: first, a dive bar called Bee Bop that has live music until closing time at 1 a.m., at which point everyone migrates to a open air bar called Bamboo that's complete with fire pits to gather 'round. Bamboo Bar is somehow exempt from closing time laws and lets people mingle 'till the roosters are crowing (which isn't actually a valid indication of time, because I've heard roosters cock-a-doodle-doing at every hour of the day and night.)

Consistent with our Bharma Dum lifestyle, John and I both got tattoos of Buddhist symbols. Mine is the knot of eternity on my wrist; his is the syllable "hum" on his chest. I won't presume to know John's full explanation for his tattoo, but I do know mine: The knot of eternity means several things in different cultures, but it commonly represents the cycle of birth death and change, and also the karmic connectedness of the world. I had the idea for this tattoo tucked safely away in my mind back when I got my first tattoo "timshel" on my right wrist. Getting the knot on my left completes the concept of the reminder that I wanted to keep in plain sight all the time. "Timshel" means that my path is open--my choices and perceptions are up to me--but the knot reminds me that my path is also intertwined with countless others and that change is inevitable. After getting two tattoos now, I can see how people become addicted to them and just want more, but as far as I'm concerned right now, I'm done... but hey, Timshel.


John's (He's not angry, he's just chewing a cracker)

In other news, the fellowship of me and Miles has been broken. For two and a half months we haven't spent a night in separate rooms or spent more than a few hours apart, but today, we parted ways. He hitched a ride to a farm a few kilometers out of town to work and live for the next week. Mine and John's plan is to take the bus up to a monastery we heard foreigners can stay at for days at a time. Today's parting wasn't too emotional, because we have plans to meet back up in Pai in five days.

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