Sunday, May 3, 2009

Learning About "Jai Yen"

Once in a while I have the opportunity to put patience to the test. In Thailand I get the chance to practice the art of "jai yen yen"--keeping a "cool heart" more often than in, well just about anywhere else.

Today is a school holiday; a great day to get done those things I have to do. I have a number of tests to correct, some labs to go through, and planning for the rest of the semester. Normally, I would do that at home, but with two bored dogs and the cleaning lady around, concentration is not guaranteed. No problem, I think. Just go to the cafe, enjoy the air conditioning, have some coffee, plug in the ol' iPod, and cruise on through the day. In addition, I'll stop by the bank and apply for a new ATM card to replace the one eaten by a machine on Friday, which was a national holiday.

My first stop is to a nearby educational book store where I can get online and check email, as my computer has decided to not link up at home, possibly because our new puppy chewed partway through the power cord causing a number of strange things to happen on the screen. No problem, I'll buy another cord--someday--when I can find my way into the city and visit the Apple store. Meanwhile, I'll use the computer at school, and at the internet cafes. As I pedal up to the book store, I find to my great dismay that it is closed. Upon closer scrutiny, I notice that it appears to be permanent. Oh, well, I'll go to my next favorite spot, which I discover opens at 11:00; in three hours.

Mai pen rai. No problem! The air is cool as I pedal along the busy thoroughfare, going the wrong way next to the curb rather than cross six lanes of traffic, only to have to do it again in less than a mile. I swing into the bank parking lot and casually stroll upstairs to speak to a customer service agent. Of course I can get a new card, she says smiling (always smiling, and they always mean it). May I have your passport and bank book? Uh... I say. Loosely translated into English, it means; "Uh..." They are both safe at school, securely locked away in the finance office. Will a copy be OK? I ask hopefully. Still smiling, she replies, "No." OK, I'll bring them tomorrow. "Oh, sorry sir, closed tomorrow--holiday." Of course; we are taking the day off today to lengthen the weekend. "But the branch at the mall will be open." I make a mental note to get the passport and bank book then travel to the mall tomorrow after school, and move on to my next destination.

Naturally, the little cafe where I can sit and do my work is not open on Mondays. Mai pen rai. No problem. Glancing across the street, I see something I have never witnessed since moving here last July: An empty seat at the internet shop. I hurry across the street and grab the last seat. As I settle in, the sounds in the tiny cramped shop begin to build, assaaulting my ears with loud, excited childish chatter and the clakking and bursting of soundtracks from 20 video war games. I check the time: only two hours until the ADULT internet cafe opens closer to home. I sigh and reach for my iPod, which I find to my increasing concern I have forgotten.

This is the ultimate test of Jai yen. I wonder if this is how monks test their mettle?

No comments: