Slow day, herbal sauna

Lunch was at the vegetarian Chinese place I saw last night. Only Thai menu, but with pictures,and I understood enough from those plus the owners speech to grasp that he recommended laab, and that it would be good with rice. An iced herbal tea arrived and then the laab, tie and a refreshing soup flavoured with lemon grass. Laab is basically a warm salad with a predominance of mint leaves, this one also with sweet basil,and spiced crispy cubes of possibly tofu,maybe gluten, accompanied with raw vegetables: green beans and Chinese cabbage leaves. It came with tasty chewy red rice. It was very good…aroy aroy.

I spend some more time in the peace of the garden at he guesthouse reading, dozing, then chatting with peter as he returns from work.

Later in the afternoon I head for wat mani for the herbal sauna. It’s not apparent where it is, yet obvious when the monk points it out. It’s a shack roofed with corrugated iron in the corner of the temple compound. There is a low wall surrounding it with space to stretch etc, I guess. Some rudimentary wooden exercise benches with roughly hewn metal weights on bars…and an inclined sit up bench. Gym equipment! On the left is a counter and behind it a large man in his forties wearing a sarong swaying from one foot to the pt hand swinging and stretching his arms. I think he works here. Maybe a masseur. In the centre is a table with a donations box. 20 baht! And a water cooler. Around the edges of the space are stone benches, the floor is concrete and covered with sand and grit. The sauna itself is at the back of this space. It is a green coloured little house with 2 doorways coved by tatty curtains. The right hand one is red and I learn it I’ve men’s entrance. The lefty and for women, and this has a kind of antechamber, probably for changing. There is no changing room. You come prepared. Past the little sauna house on the right is a metal drum with a scoop and cold water. The furnace is behind the house. It’s burning freshly chopped wood, which is prepared by 2 dark skinned guys. One in Welles. I actually see him rinsing our the in nerds of these. Music is broadcast through the tinny speaker of a mobile phone balanced on the donation box. On the whole the experience is a serious and solemn one. There are more men than women coming and going. All are around my age and with some fatty deposits.one guy nets wearing a vest, the others in shorts. A one point a monk joins us removing the top part of the garments they where. The sauna room is small. 2 benched facing one another, large enough for 8 people, though the max I experienced in any one go was 5 of us. That was full enough. The walls are tiled and the ceiling is just about high enough for me to stand. The flappy now sodden curtain is a poor door and on each entrance and exit it needs to be red draped, it’s weight and moistness allowing it to be stuck to the sides of the doorway. It’s hot, of course. I’m wringing wet with a minute. It feels great, and the herbs are powerful, the one I pick out most clearly is lemon grass. I come and go five times, each time feeling ennervated and refreshed. It’s also hot outside, but strangely cooling..it’s still 28 or so degrees. It means my sweat and damp shorts dry quickly and my body cools down from the 40 degrees of the sauna. As I’m preparing to leave,ore people arrive. Locals, I guess, a lot of chit chat. Sme small kids run through. One takes a drink of water, another plays withhe curtain and is not quite sure whether to go in or not.

When I do leave its rush hour. I see kids boarding sawntaewns. I must have seen both ends of their day.this morning I watched some squashed, both standing and sitting, and over spilling onto the step, like cattle in a truck. It looked really uncomfortable. I wander he market on my bike and buy some more mangosteen. I’m eating a kilo of fruit a day. Love it.

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Mae sot, teaching and prison

I’m going to hang around here for a few days more. It’s easy going,hassle free, cheap, stimulating, slow. But today I must stay put of the sun. I went for a breakfast. Time cycle around the town..it’s very small, and the breaking sun felt hot on my covered but singed shoulders.

I spent last night at the guesthouse over beer chat.ing with a fellow encumbrance, peter, 65, Australian, working as a teacher for 3 month on and off stretches at a school for Burmese. I learn a lot from him, and it’s quite inspiring to hear of kids (he teaches 17-19 year olds) who have real desire to learn and achieve and make something of their lives. It’s an interesting contrast with the students I work with, many of whom don’t recognise the fabulous opportunity their parents’ money has bought them, nor havethedriveor the realisation that an education can change their lives. Petter’s students are refugees, some using false names, some experiencing harrowing pasts. He told me of one boy, who he described as the happiest person he has met, a previous slave worker. This boy’s work was acting as a human shield for troops crossing potentially mined land.

His school scrapes by. The staff are volunteers, getting in recompense a lunch and a bicycle. They are undermanned, and resources are ones they cobble together through material donations back home, Catholic Church money and pillaging the Internet. I can see how rewarding the work is from peter’s immense pride in spite of he superhuman efforts he must put in. As he says,he is exhausted and will be going back to Australia for downtime to walk and swim. He lives in what he describes as a beautiful and natural environment.

Beyond here, I learn he is a very determined and focused person. He tells me of his walking of the camino. De Santiago de compostella. 34 days walking….physical, mental and spiritual battles, and days of crying. This is a walk that you do alone. Nobody else can walk your pace. His is a walk on which you learn about yourself. He tells me of his waking dreams and the. Battles through the near constant rain.once again, I sense him filling with pride as he tells me of this accomplishment.

I learn more about where I am through him too. The floods of several weeks ago forced him to relocate to this guesthouse.his former one being swamped with 40 cm of water, destroying clothes, the fridge floating away….

He tells me more about the precarious sitaution most of the refugees experience. The police spot check for pork permits, identity documents etc. those unfortunate to be caught out are stored in a place he ominously describes as “the cage” , near the abandoned project that is/was robe the new police station. My breakfast cycle takes in this place. And it is an apt name. Through an open gateway, so plainly visible to anyone passing, you can see a 2 storey wooden house. The ground floor is in fact the cage. Behind the bars I can see dozens of. Men and women, maybe even children. I didn’t have enough time to scrutinise, as, unsurprisingly, a coupled of immigration officials waved me, not aggressively, away. I don’t think they liked my camera. The conditions look pretty disgusting. How long they are kept there, I don’t know. As I pass by again I see a police prison truck back into the yard, the cage unlocked and a number of brightly dressed women shaparoned into he back. Evidently to be repatriated to Burma, where their fate Is probably not a promising one. Arrest, prison..or worse. I can only watch.

Breakfast is a bag of Burmese style pakora. 2 types. The most interesting contains pungent lime leaves. My bagful are freshly cooked on the road and cost 10 baht.