Annica – Impermanent, Ephemeral, Changing

Anicca – Impermanent, Ephemeral, Changing

If any of you have ever been on a Vipassana meditation retreat, this is a word that you have heard S.N. Goenka crooning as early as 4:30 am: “Anicca, anicca, anicca…….” (sounds like a-nate-cha).

For those of you not familiar, anicca is an ancient Pali word that means everything is ever-changing, impermanent, ephemeral, etc. Although in our logical brains we may realize this to be true, something within our body/mind/heart connection does not want to accept this fact. We crave things to be unchanging, but they always change, and so we ‘suffer’.

Anicca is true. This becomes more obvious when we lose someone unexpectedly.

I had an amazing 3-week trip in Burma where internet access was slow and sporadic, hence making it a facebook free holiday. Upon my return to Chiang Mai, I learned that my friend Azriel Cohen had passed away. There is no doubt I will miss him. He has been mentioned on this blog before and is the person responsible for the hilarious Thai Nicknames videos. (Click on the link to watch the video.)

I last ran into him on Sunday Walking Street in Chiang Mai, days before I went to Burma and a week before he died. We had a funny, friendly, and interesting conversation. He was ill and had a gravelly voice, but was in good spirits. Maybe he was sicker than he thought. Our enjoyable evening walk and discussion about dogs, ceramics, Thai language, and upcoming travels gave me some type of closure.

Maybe it’s from living over a year in this Buddhist country, maybe it’s the result of meditation, maybe it’s just a realization, but somehow I feel like I am coming to understand the principle of annica. Life and death. Ebb and flow. Impermanence. It doesn’t mean I don’t care, but rather is the acceptance that death indeed is part of life…as much as we might not like it.

Shalom to you Azriel. As for the rest of us, anicca, anicca, anicca.

Thai Nicknames 2: Kiss

Thai Nicknames 2: Kiss

Just outside Chiang Mai there is a waterfall that is a place few foreigners visit, but plenty of Thai people go there for picnics.

Thai people picnicking

I met this cute couple with their baby and practiced speaking a bit of Thai with the general baby type questions: How old is s/he? What’s his/her name? Why (pointing to the gloves)?As you do.

One of the husband’s friends was this guy named Kiss.

After asking him what his name was, eventually he blew a kiss and I understood his name was Kiss. Being polite he said, “Kiss khap.”

Gotta love the Asian style poses

Just another outstanding Thai nickname to add to the list: A man in his 20s named Kiss.

Thai Nicknames

Thai Nicknames

What makes Thailand such a special place is the people. Thai people are some of the warmest, gentlest people on the planet. Trying to speak a little Thai goes a long way. Since my Thai is limited, and I’m still figuring things out here, my relationships with Thai people are just the basic daily interactions I have had with people.

Nicknames are used all the time here, as Thai names are quite long and almost impossible to pronounce. Almost all the nicknames have a meaning, or a reason behind them. Some of the reasons are easy – a person is small, his or her name is the nickname for small – Lek. Others are a very shortened version of their name.  Most are mono-syllabic, though they still have tones. (Thai language has 5 tones so one word could be pronounced 5 different ways, and mean at least 5 different things) The nicknames look easy, but depending on the tone, I could be saying anything from dog, to come, to horse. My favorite nicknames are the hilarious ones.

Although I know the nicknames are easier than their names in Thai, because they are so short, sometimes I get them confused. Here’s a short list to show you why that might happen: Noi, Boy, Goy, Joy, Neng, Deng, Ging, Gheen, Na, Naree, Aree, Lee, and the unfortunate instance in English, Pee (though usually spelled Phi). There are also lots of letters: Aey, E, Kay, Tee,  and the aforementioned Phi. Kay is a larger man,  Jim is a petite woman. I even have my own Thai nickname – Bua.

I’ve written about Goy, Den, Chain, Jim, Yaya, Chi, and Prem who have all been so kind.

Yaya has a daughter who I thought was named named Gita, but it’s not as in Bhagavad, it’s actually Guitar (Gee-tah). Can you guess what she does? I know a little girl named Penguin who has a brother named Plankton, a guesthouse owner named Ping Pong, and then one night my friend Azriel and I met this little boy:

Azriel took this and the following video and needs to get full credit for both of their genius. Afterwards, he told me about some other amusing Thai nicknames of people he’d met: a baby girl born on December 25th named Santa, the siblings A, B, C, and D, a little kid named On Tour, and this one, which is my favorite:

Apparently she is hula hooping while texting in Azriel’s lobby on a daily basis. Love it!

There is no shortage of whimsical Thai nicknames. Other friends of mine have told me about Coffee Mate, and Folksong, and the list keeps growing. Today I was working with a student on writing and I asked why idea was capitalized in the middle of a sentence. He said he used to go to another school with a kid named Idea. When I asked about other funny nicknames he told me about North, Golf, and Mint.

If you know any Thai nicknames, feel free to share the love. I find these nicknames to be endearing, and one more reason to I smile here so often.

บัว is a lot easier than เอลิซาเบธ

บัว is a lot easier than เอลิซาเบธ

Most Thai people all have a short nickname because their real names are often long. For some Thai people who have been exposed to western culture my name is easy, and for others it’s very difficult. In Thai language there are a lot of sounds that aren’t in English, but one English sound that doesn’t exist in Thai is th. In Thai th sounds like t (hence Thailand doesn’t sound like Thigh-land). My name here is written เอลิซาเบธ which is pronounced aeh-li-saa-baet. No th sound, only t. Nevertheless, people everywhere like to shorten my name.

Thai nicknames mean something that is usually a characteristic of the person, and some are really hilarious. I have been asked what my Thai nickname was. I have had people call me E, because it’s easier, and others call me be my title of teacher – ajarn or kru.

A woman who was showing me houses gave me the Thai name Faa, which means sky. I liked that a bit, but thought it wasn’t quite right. While drinking a Sambuca at Coconut Bar on Ko Bulon with Chi (he told me Chi means brother of Che Guevara 🙂 and Rain (not Fon -Thai for rain – but Rain), they asked me my nickname. I said I’d been called Faa, but wasn’t sold on that name. I asked them what they thought might suit me better. We went through a variety of disagreements until we reached a consensus. A few names were immediately nixed. They suggested Manao, and I do like the way it sounds, but it means lemon or lime. I thought with Manao, people would squish up their face like they’d just bitten into something sour when they’d say my name, um, no. Finally, we all agreed on Bua. Bua or บัว means lotus flower. I am quite happy with this. I would like to be a blossoming lotus.

Whoa, there is a huge crowd of Thai tourists that just arrived for a New Year’s party on the beach. I’m glad I have my bungalow, but it will certainly be loud. Oh well, it’s New Year’s Eve and it’s not like a have anything to do tomorrow.

New Year’s resolutions: Be more creative and take classes – some ideas: art, pottery, painting, weaving, writing, improv even. Learn Thai. Continue doing yoga and go to more classes. Meditate. Create the atmosphere so my soul mate comes. It’s time. 2012 is the year, or Sabaii dii pii mai 2555 (Buddhist time). In Thai 2 is pronounced song, and 5 is pronounced ha. Now it’s year song ha ha ha – I guess it’s going to be a good year for music and laughing.

With my new nickname บัว (Bua), I welcome 2555, its resolutions and pleasant surprises from the Land of Smiles.