Monday, August 4, 2008

What Wakes Me

This morning it was a loud man's voice, coming through the speaker mounted just outside my door. It was four a.m. The man's short sentences were punctuated and divided by traditional Thai music. It was some sort of dhamma I assume, but I don't know for sure. My Thai is still limited to simple conversations about location and food (mostly food). I didn't fall asleep last night until after 2. I don't know why, but I toss and turn on my small hard bed. I adjust the fans so they blow just right. I cover myself and then uncover myself with my towel-blanket. I try to do a breathing meditation, which usually eventually works to help me fall asleep.

So when the man came on the speaker at four o'clock this morning, I was not only surprised (this has never happened before) but I was certainly irritated. Not even my earplugs could drown out his kind lecture. So I thought I should try and destroy, or at least disable, the speaker. I approached it and thought I saw a volume button that said "pull," so I pulled it and suffered a jolting electric shock. Not enough to hurt a lot, but enough to make the hair on my arms stand on end when I remember what it felt like.

Finally, at around five, the man stopped speaking and I was able to go to sleep. Needless to say, I rebelled by turning off my alarm and sleeping through breakfast.

I miss the bell. They haven't been ringing the wake-up bell lately, and I'm afraid that this broadcast is the new alarm clock for the monks. It lasted from the time they're supposed to wake up until they go to the hall for chanting, whereas the bell, which was a genuine bell, not a recording of a bell, only rang for a minute or so. If this weren't the last week of classes it would present a much bigger problem than it does. I can survive a few nights of little sleep, but not more than that.

Did I tell you all that I finished Moby Dick? After trying for several years to read that beast, I decided that I would make myself do it in a week here in Thailand. I started it over from the beginning, and read the whole thing in just under eight days. I'm not sure I understand the hype, but I liked the ending. After I finished it, I read 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, just to stick with the 19th century nautical theme, and I really enjoyed it. I'd like to read more Jules Verne. Then I read Pastoralia by George Saunders, Innocent Erendira by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and I'm just a few pages from finishing Dubliners by James Joyce. Next it's Charles Dickens' Bleak House and a history of Thailand.

Aside from the books mentioned above, I've read Cloud Atlas (one and a half times), The Ground Beneath her Feet (excellent book), Mimesis and Alterity (also excellent), Carnival, Hysteria, and Writing, and Simulation and Simulcrum. I think there are some others that I read, but that's all I can remember now. Reading is so much fun.

I bought a ticket to Hanoi yesterday. I've wanted to go to Vietnam since I was thirteen years old and became obsessed with Miss Saigon. I know it's not the best introduction to Vietnam, but for a girl who loved musicals it was certainly a powerful one.

Georgina sent me a ton of music, which is GREAT. I'm going to load it onto my mini-disc recorder so that I can listen. It's nice how much I've missed music. I think music and I are mending our fickle relationship. We just needed a little break.


Patrick said...

Ha! you are a reading machine!I wish I could read that fast...I am trying to make it all the way through Pedagogy of the Oppressed, which i have never finished. I think i have only finished two other books this summer, one novel about the plague, and a non-fiction account of the Rwandan massacre. But i have started picking up my guitar, just noodling so far but today i signed up for free online lessons. yes, i want to rock. Hope you enjoy the remainder of your stay abroad.



Tamale said...

Alright, that's it...I'm reading The Ground Beneath Her Feet next. It been surfacing in my life a lot lately. Not sure if you can get your hands on it, but considering you're on your way to Vietnam, I'm reading Denis Johnson's Tree of Smoke right now. It won the National Book Award last year and it's amazing.

Andrew O said...

I've been working my way through the JensonUSA bicycle part catalog and it is ARDUOUS, I tell you.