A Year In
It is my 1 year anniversary of living in Thailand. I am extremely lucky and grateful that I live here everyday. My life is good, and for the most part, I am happy.
I arrived here without a job, or place to live, knew very few words in Thai, and only knew one person in the whole country. A year has passed and I have a wonderful job, a lovely place to live, I know a bit more Thai, and have made several friends too. I still really love it here and Chiang Mai feels like home.
Today after work, Thai class, and running errands, it was close to 7 and dark out on my way home. I was driving through my neighborhood there was a motorbike coming toward me as well as a skittish looking cat. The cat got spooked and it jumped toward the grass and then toward my car. There was no bump or anything, but I didn’t see what happened to the cat. I turned around and my headlights shown on a small feline body on the road. Oh no!
I didn’t quite know what to do, but I knew I had to do something. I checked for a response from the cat and there was none. I tried to remain calm. Five dogs across the way were barking at me from behind a gate. They kept barking so a person came out. I said, “Kor toad kha. Mew dtai.” The woman came out and I showed her to see if it was hers, she said she fed it. We established the cat was dead and I started crying. In my more than 20 years of driving, I’ve never hit any living thing (besides insects on the windscreen) ever.
The lady was amazingly kind and was more worried about me. She told me to not feel bad and, “Many cat get hit this road. Is part of life. The cat go on to a better life now.” Her husband came out with a box, and we put the cat inside and she took it away. She reassured me that accidents happen. I tried to stop crying, but felt really awful. I love animals and the last thing I want to do is harm them.
I drove home slowly, then called my teaching partner Kru Goy because I wanted to do something for the kind woman. She explained that Thai people would think it’s weird to give something to the person who fed the cat, as she already knew I was sorry. Thai people view death differently than Westerners – death is a part of life and you wish somebody to be born into a better next life. She suggested I meditate and pray for the cat to have a better next life. Stay calm. In the morning I could make an offering at temple and she agreed to meet me at a wat near our school.
The following morning we met at a beautiful wat. Goy talked to the monks. I made an offering of money in an envelope and Kru Goy wrote something in Thai on it. There were two glasses, one full of water and the other empty. Kru Goy said I should pour the water from one glass to the other as the young monk was saying his blessing. After he was done, I was to pour the water glass out on a tree. Kru Goy told me that the monk’s blessing said I didn’t mean to harm the animal and we wished it well.
I couldn’t believe it, but afterwards I genuinely felt better. It was as if a huge weight had been lifted. I felt forgiven.
Death is always a reminder that life is short. We best live in the present.