A Real Buddhist Wedding

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My friends Keni and Jamie decided to get married with very short notice. One day they said to me “Oh by the way; we’re going to get married next week!” As if it was the most normal thing to say. They didn’t have a set day but Keni had trusted his family to make all the arrangements, including when would be the correct day to get married in terms of being a lucky day and/or having positive energy.

We were sitting upstairs having a couple of drinks and discussing the finer things in life and out of nowhere they invited me to their wedding. My face lit up because i felt so honoured to have been invited to such an intimate and personal thing. I declined a couple of times because i’m English and that’s what English people have to do, but once they insisted i jumped right on that invitation.

So before i knew it Saturday had arrived, Saturday obviously being the day that the elders had chosen for the two of them to get married. We left at 8 (That’s a lie; the plan was to leave at 8 but because we were in Thailand we had a chinwag for an hour and left at 9) to ride for just over an hour to neighbouring Lamphun for the ceremony.

I was riding with Pii, a Thai guy who i assume was Keni’s cousin. Halfway along the journey i was dreaming about naked ladies or whatever it is that people my age are supposed to dream about and BOOM! We got a flat tyre. Luckily for us there was a motorbike shop nearby so we got the wheel fixed relatively quickly. Then we got caught in a rain storm so we ended up getting there 1 hour later than anticipated.

I had some gorgeous Thai food with Keni’s family and some of the guests who had also been invited. Soon after a Thai guy in his late forties who was absolutely steaming walked over to our table and tried to speak English to us; he did this by saying one English word in a sentence of slowly pronounced Thai words. I smiled politely until he kept trying to holding my hand. I wondered whether he had any relation to the monk i met about five months ago….

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Then it was time for the wedding to start. Keni (with the moustache and dressed like a legend) came out and a large group of us followed him down the dirt track we had to drive down to get to the location. Then we randomly broke out in a Bollywood style dance routine and followed him towards where the ceremony was going to be held.

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Steve, my landlord, then started to explain to me that in a traditional Buddhist wedding some of the women ‘guard’ the bride by standing in the way of her, then the groom has to ‘buy’ his way through so to speak. When Keni got to the ‘gate’, the women shouted “500 baht!” (a tenner). Keni then replied “No, it’s 100 baht isn’t it?” To which they quickly answered “No, you’re a farang (foreigner), so it’s 500!” We all giggled the night away and Keni muscled his way through to part 2 of his cunning plan….

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Once Keni had negotiated his way through security, it was time for him to get married. I shimmied over to the left side of the ceremony, grabbed a seat and plonked my cute little behind down. Then i noticed that all the Thai people were bombarding Keni and Jamie with photos, so i thought i would jump on the bandwagon and take a few photos as well. I got some nice ones, especially the close ups of the happy couple.

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Next on the agenda was this man taking the microphone and spitting out jokes that Michael McIntyre would have been proud of. Sadly for us he was saying them in Thai, so we smiled and hoped they weren’t destroying us in Thai in the process.

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After that it was time to tie them together so Keni wouldn’t get cold feet and run away. We could see it in his eyes so the Thai guy shouted “Bring the string!” And each one of us grabbed a piece of string and tied it around their wrists so if Keni did run away, he would be dragging Jamie with him, rendering the entire ‘doing a runner’ completely pointless. I was asked to tie one as well. I panicked like a teenager about to have sex for the first time but i prevailed without any major hiccups, high-fiveing myself in the process…

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Once we established that Keni wasn’t going anywhere; the final part of the ceremony was the ‘leading to the bedroom’. The Thai bloke who fancied becoming a stand up comedian tied a kind of double sided lasso around their heads. They said it was because in Buddhist culture the head is the most sacred part of the body and you are joining them together. I personally think it was because Keni is unnaturally strong and could have broken all those knots around his wrist by himself so the noose was a bit of extra security for Jamie.

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As i said before they were led to the bedroom and Keni’s family began to cheer him on. I don’t speak great Thai but i would hazard a guess it translated as something along the lines of, “GO ON SON!!!” I joined in not really sure what to expect, standing close to the door ready to scarper if clothes started to fly off…..

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And that was it! I ended up trying some rice whisky (it was STRONG!!!!!) and got a bit tipsy. I even did a bit of karaoke believe it or not. Jamie guilt tripped me into it saying that it was her wedding day and that ever since she was a little girl she dreamed of an obscure skinny English lad called Lewis singing karaoke at her wedding. I looked around and couldn’t see any other English Lewis’s so i realised it was up to me to save the day.

In all seriousness i feel very fortunate to have been a part of this and would like to thank the happy couple one more time for sharing their special day with me. This day is something i’ll remember for the rest of my life.

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A New Chapter

I was having yet another pointless argument about ultimately nothing at work. Then at the end of my shift i said to myself “I’m done…” and i was; My friends always said to me that you would know when it is time to go, and at that particular moment i knew i didn’t have it in me anymore. I didn’t have that spark, that drive, that desire to do my job to the best of my capabilities.

Of course, this is not a decision i have taken lightly, i have been teaching for a little over four years now. Unfortunately most teachers are aware of the politics that go on behind the scenes, especially in language schools. The fact you have to fight to get paid, the power trip that all your bosses seem to be on because they have a rich person in their family, the list is endless… This never stopped my desire to help people less fortunate than me. I felt that despite all these obstacles that people were going to throw at me along the way, that wasn’t going to stop me from giving people that one opportunity that so many people don’t get. I knew that if they learnt from me they were in safe hands, rather than some alcoholic who technically got a degree from some mickey mouse school so they land a teaching job to pay for their habit, and at the same time potentially ruining the one chance that some of these kids have.

After jumping through these hoops for a year and a half i was ready to cut my losses and go home. I didn’t want to; i loved, and still love this country, but i was fed up of all the roadblocks put in front of me because i wanted to do the right thing by the students, rather than do what was ‘best for business’… or have the audacity to suggest that the boss was not ‘always right’. Then out of nowhere i got offered a new job working for a school that cared. Sure they had their faults, but you could see they genuinely cared, instead of trying to squeeze as much money out of a student as possible, whether it benefited the student or not was a secondary issue to the other schools, however this school didn’t mind if i gave them honest advice, because they knew that it might benefit them in the long run to take different perspectives on board.

This school respected their teachers, and treated them like people. You never had to fight about money anymore and the organisation was although not a first world standard, still miles better than anywhere else i had been.

Unfortunately by now it was too late. Any time there was a discrepancy i was riled up because i had seen it many times before. Progression was something i struggled to see and it frustrated me. Many teachers were willing to sit back and not care because all they had to do was keep their mouth shut, smile and say ‘yes’ to everything and they would get paid. Not me, i couldn’t live like that.

I started teaching a course called IELTS. It’s basically a test that non native English speakers have to take if they want to study at an English speaking university to prove they can understand what’s being said. I thrived doing this course, mainly because i knew that i was indirectly helping these kids (i say kids, they were normally the same age as me…) better themselves, whether it was to better their future, or so they could come back home with new knowledge to better their own country. It was a great feeling to know that i was a part of that.

But for over the last year or so i haven’t enjoyed it. I would even go as far as to say i detested putting that shirt and tie on, then cycle 25 minutes to work just to teach people that didn’t care. Don’t get me wrong there are normally less than 10% of students who do care, and they are the ones as a teacher you latch on to. There were even times where i would say to my students that i could tell didn’t have an unlimited source of money and truly wanted to succeed that i would teach them for free at a coffee shop to help push them over the line. most of the girls would understandably be hesitant at first, wondering what my angle was. But once they realized i wasn’t trying to get into their pants they would be receptive to the idea and appreciative that someone cared enough about their future to do something like that.

In the end though i would notice these students that didn’t care more and more. And the anger and frustration i would build from that would rub off onto the small percentage of students that did care.

Then on Friday after having a pointless argument with a receptionist that wouldn’t listen and in turn would cause frequent mis-communications  i knew that it was a me thing; i couldn’t fight anymore. I had nothing left in me. It was affecting my confidence, my personality and my health. I knew that when i exhaled the words “I’m done” to my boss. I meant them.

The next day i felt a massive weight had been lifted off of my shoulders. I didn’t have to go into work anymore. I was, in fact, done. Who knows, in the future i may want to go back and teach. The passion i have will never truly die. But for now i can’t see myself going back anytime soon. It’s a new chapter in my life, and i’m looking forward to seeing what happens as a result of this.

So what happens now do you ask? Well, i have my work permit until September, so i have to come up with something before then. I may start my world travelling trip early. I may even decide to get a couple of tourist visas and stay here a bit longer, but be a tourist as opposed to someone working their arse off all day every day. Until then i have at least three months to chill out and plan my next move. It’s been emotional Thailand, and i’ll never forget you. But everyone knows when it’s their time to go, and this time it’s mine….

Bowling

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Sasha had a birthday, so like all people in their mid 20’s we thought bowling would be the best place to go, rather than get drunk and moan about how our lives haven’t gone quite to plan yet… So i threw my hat in the ring and said i was ready to bowl! I made sure i had a list of excuses ready, such as having a dodgy wrist, not playing in years and the simple fact that i was shite at the game.

Thirteen(ish) people showed up, so we split the lanes and went into four separate groups. I was in the group of men. But not just any men; manly men. So i took a sip of my mineral water and got myself ready for ‘Beast Mode’.

Harrison named himself ‘Sweet Justice’. Shouting “SWEET JUSTICE!” every time he got a strike or a spare. A guy called…Actually i can’t remember his name, i want to say Dom, I remember he was from Hackney though, so because of that his new name is ‘Harry from Hackney’. Anyway Harry from Hackney called himself Confucius, and Jonny got called ‘Jonmy’ because the Thai guy registered his name wrong. Then they handed the piece of paper to me and Harrison, AKA Sweet Justice, said to me, “Be creative, Lewis!” Thus, ‘Creative Lewis’ was born…..

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Here is the picture of our final scores in the second game. I lost the first one so i felt no need to display that. No, in all seriousness i was surprised that i got so many points, so i wanted proof that it happened. I even managed to tie!

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As you can see from the pictures the bowling alley had blue tinted lights that looked pretty cool. I had an luminous pink bowling ball, because i’m in touch with my feminine side. Also that picture of the Thai girl’s bum whilst bowling was purely coincidental, but if any male asks i’ll stick out my chest and pretend i meant it…

So overall it was a fun night. And more importantly, Sasha had fun. After all, it WAS her birthday. At around 12 o clock we all retired to our respective boudoirs and contemplated what was going to be in store for us the following day. 180 baht (just under four pounds) for a night out with my friends, you can’t argue with that. Plus i managed to bag a selfie with a random hot Thai girl! Well, the picture isn’t very clear, but take my word for it…..

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Suzy’s Had (more) Puppies!

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I’m feeling a bit of deja vu…

Me too! Suzy was getting fatter and we assumed she was either pregnant or letting herself go. One day she retired to her boudoir and the next day there were another 7 puppies laying next to her, so it turns out she wasn’t ‘just fat’.

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Seven?

Yep! Well, now there’s 6. One didn’t make it. She died after a couple of days. She was a lot smaller than the rest so it wasn’t a total surprise. So now we are left with six; five boys and a girl.

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And what are they called?

I wanted to name them after UFC fighters. I was going to call the second girl Kim (after Kimbo Slice) but now we are left with Brock (Lesnar), Randy (Couture), Ortiz (Tito), Silva (Anderson), Gary (Goodridge) and Ronda (Rousey) for the girl. Gary Goodridge is probably the least familiar name here, he is most famous for his crucifix knockout, which can be seen here  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_jNiNqZlDz0

BEAST!

Yeah, he’s insane!

So…. Books and stuff, you still going?

I sure am! I’m 55 thousand words in and have a hell of a long way to go in terms of storyline and words in general. The main character has just finished touring Europe and is due to arrive home to the news that she is about to get a lot more work, since everyone wants to work with her.

Great, what does she do?

porn, no biggie…

PORN!?!

Yup, she’s a pornstar. That’s what the whole book is about. She’s about to get famous to the extent that people know what her name is, directors and actors alike want to work with her and the male population wants to watch her.

You know there has to be a reason for people to like her. You know you can’t just say “And now she’s famous” right?

Don’t worry, i’m on it! I’m not going to tell you how I’ve gotten around that though, you’ll have to read it when it’s available. Anyway, I’m starting to explore things like contraception, STD’s and pregnancy issues that may occur in this sort of profession. I want to explore a lot more subjects than that, but i’ll talk more about that once they’re completed.

And how’s life treating you in general?

Well. Liverpool Lee has gone to The Philippines. He got a job offer over there as a hotel manager and took it, so we went out one last time before he left. I also went to a Japanese place called Hako Town (highly recommended, although it was a bit pricey) with two new friends of mine called Pat and Paul. Paul was on holiday here and has just gone back home and Pat lives here doing his best to be legendary. After that me and the ‘P’s’ went to a bar to talk about the finer things in life. The conversation varied between being very intellectual and one of us randomly shouting ‘TITTIES!’

Go on, give us a teaching story before you go!

Well at the moment i’m teaching a girl who is destined to be great, so it is a dream to bounce ideas off of her and talk about advanced complex things in English, so you would probably think that i have no teaching stories. Don’t worry though i am also teaching a terrible class too. So i got this yesterday from them…

Me: <noticing a cut on one of the girl’s lips> Are you OK?

Girl from terrible class: <Smiles>

Me: Your lip. Are you OK?

Girl from terrible class: <Points to her lip and smiles again>

Me: What happened?

Girl from terrible class: ….HERPES!!!! (she shouted this energetically, grinning wildly…)

Me: Lovely…

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