I've been having a fine time
here. Every night I have been out, lurking around my mum's property
catching mostly grey kangaroos with the torch light. It's so
easy because there's heaps of them around our local area. For
some reason if you light them up, they just freeze dead still
and give you this stupefied look as if to say "How long are
you gonna shine that thing on me for? I have to stay out here
eating grass all night. How long are you prepared to stay out
here for, fella?"
There's also wallabies, koalas, possums, dingoes, cockatoos,
parrots, rainbow lorikeets, magpies, butcher birds, kookaburras,
billbies, bandicoots, snakes, ducks, lamas, horses, cows, chickens
and my cat.
But without further delay, let's stick the arm out, flag down
a passing tuk tuk, negotiate a reasonable price, leap into the
back and become as personally involved, as possible, in the
noise, hustle, bustle and excitement, that is magnificent Thailand!
Now, in my last email I was busy having fun at the university
up to my old tricks encouraging the monks to lose their imitation
American accents, (acquired by listening to American radio)
in favour of a superior Australian one. The results were starting
to pay off! Very, very, funny!
In other news, one of the dogs died from a snakebite, which
caused a positive sign of hope for all the world's people. Don't
worry I'll explain! The headman of the house, who I later learnt
was a Muslim, together with one of the novice Buddhist monks
and myself, dug a grave for it. Then we wrapped it carefully
in newspapers and buried it. When we had finished the Muslim
man explained something to the novice monk who then went and
found two sticks, bound them together to make a cross and planted
it at the head of the grave. Both of them obviously, thought
I was a Christian. Well, I was totally blown away by this beautiful
act of respect. I have taken it as an encouraging sign that
it is indeed possible that the world's people can come to not
only accept each other's rights to their own beliefs, but also
show respect for those beliefs to. I hope and pray my small
contribution to the world with One World One People for Peace
Organisation can successfully help with this, even if its only
in a very small way.
I also received another great gift. I was taken to a very special
place called Wat Phra Baht Nam Phu, in Lopburi Province, to
meet another of Thailand's most famous monks; Dr Alongkot Dikkapanyo.
We arrived too late in the day to catch the legend himself,
but more importantly, we were shown his wonderful work. Years
ago, this absolute mega champion upset heaps of people by converting
the local temple into a hospice for people with full-blown AIDs.
(I'll shortly explain why) Today it has 400 beds and is one
of the only places Thais with AIDs can come to be cared for
and die with some dignity.
Unfortunately a lot of Thais know very little about the transmission
of HIV / AIDs, so if someone contracts it, they are usually
shunned and abandoned by their families, friends and communities.
A lot of the people think that you can "catch AIDs" just from
being in the same room as an AIDs sufferer.
When I was being shown around the temple, I was shown a table
with tens of thousands of neatly tied white bundles. They each
contained the cremated bones and ashes of an AIDs patient. The
Temple normally sends these remains by post to the patients'
families, but these bundles had been sent back. The families
had refused to accept them because they still thought they could
"catch AIDs" from them.
Add to all this the following facts: Thailand is now fourth
in the world for the most AIDs patients per head of the population.
Every day, another 600 Thais contract the HIV virus and presently,
nine Thais die from AIDS every hour. Also, it has long been
the Thai Culture for men to visit sex workers. (Maybe as much
as 70% of the male Thai population) Considering all this, it's
really not too hard to see a human catastrophe of massive proportions
in the making.
Plenty of women and children suffer from the disease as well.
The majority of the temple's female patients are wives who contracted
HIV from their husbands who visited prostitutes. Sometimes this
can lead to HIV-positive children, who don't usually survive
past their fifth birthday. One could only imagine what living
and dieing in such pain must be like for a small child.
Lastly, the Thai Government's main solution to all this is to
leave families to care for AIDS sufferers. Unfortunately, this
hasn't worked since most families are afraid of "catching AIDS"
simply by being around the patient.
So after being taken on an eye opening tour of this magnificent
place, I decided its time for 'Nurse Paul' to make a come back.
Unfortunately though, I've had to sign up to volunteer for September,
because I was flying out of the country the next day. It has
to be done though. Not only because they are overwhelmed and
need as much help as they can get, but also because I have loads
I need to learn about. This is the kind of place that really,
really, really, needs to be written about and featured on the
One World One People website. More on this to come! Well that's
Thailand June - July 2002 for you.
Till next time, take care all you champions.
here to view images from Wat Phra Baht Nam Phu, Thailand
Other articles in the series:
Helping the Poor and Socially
Disadvantaged in 'Magnificent Thailand', Part 1, 30 June 2002
Glorious Thailand, Part 2, The Splenderous Work of a Little
Monk, 15 July 2002
Thailand, Part 3, Helping Monks with English Practice, 28 July
Thailand, Part 5, Family: The Real Meaning of Being Human, 21