jungle covered, volcanic mountains.
A couple of massive white Buddhas rise out of the forest and
cornfields cover the flat countryside as you approach. The day
ends of course with me with an ice cold Singha beer in my hand.
At the Aids Temple, many of the women patients used to be prostitutes,
while some of the men patients were former criminals. I continually
got a feeling especially with the women, that many had never
had the experience of someone doing something for them without
wanting something in return. So, I would deliberately go out
of my way to show I cared about what I was doing.
For instance, a major part of my work was giving massages. The
purpose of the massages was to help give a little bit of pleasure
and relief to their other wise worn out, frail bodies in their
last days of life. Everybody I have ever met loves a good old
head massage and that was my speciality. Everyone would say
"Bangsai, Bangsai" meaning "good, good". They loved receiving
them and I loved giving them.
Also, I used to love going and getting them drinks like Pepsi
and ice before they could even ask me. This was especially important
for my patients on what I called 'my intensive care list'. They
were the ones who often slept with the whites of their eyes
showing because their bodies were to weak to close their eyelids.
They often couldn't lift their heads to ask for anything as
they were coming close to their deaths. Of all the different
situations, I felt that's when showing them you care, really
makes the biggest impression. Even though they were to weak
to show how they felt, I was lucky enough to be able to easily
feel their reactions. As I said most were completely unused
to someone caring for them and going the extra mile without
wanting something in return. In other words showing them real
Then there were the men who I felt had criminal backgrounds.
They were also blown away by this kind of behaviour. I can guarantee
most of them had no idea what it was like to have someone care
about them unconditionally. Their reactions, once they got their
head around the experience that is, now live in my heart forever.
Many of the patients, had been completely abandoned by their
families, friends and communities, so to them I became their
new family member. To give you some idea of this experience
of love, on my last day at the temple I said to one of the patients,
a young man who could speak a little English, "Today sad, last
day, I fly India." He says. "You leave? OK Paul, I understand,
but understand, we all love you." I said, "I know, I can feel
it; I love all of you as well!"
The hardest part about nursing poor, dying Thai people at the
Aids temple is leaving. Well, looking back I wonder where I
got the inner strength from to leave the place. I was so happy
there, it caused a massive internal battle inside me, until
I grit my teeth and said to myself, "you can come back here
again, but right now you have other important stuff to do."
So am I some kind of exceptional individual to feel this way
in such an environment? Oh no, of course not. I am just a human
being behaving as a human being. In fact, one German volunteer
that I met has been coming to the Aids temple for years. He
has a fulltime job in Germany, but each year for his holidays
he asks his family for permission to go to the Aids temple and
comes and volunteers. He loves being there.
Ok all you champions, until next time. Take care.
here to view images from Wat Phra Baht Nam Phu, Thailand
Other articles in the series:
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 2002
Thailand, Part 4, Helping Monks Care for Aids Suffers, 14 August 2002