Thursday, July 23, 2009


A couple of articles in the NYT recently have highlighted all the hard work and practice that goes in to being a blissfully happy monk. One of them even invokes the (totally bogus - see earlier post) 10,000 hours argument. Nonetheless, I think they are on to something.

It can sometimes be difficult living an ocean away from your family and friends, especially when there's someone you love on the other side. Despite this, I have been rather successful at remaining happy here. I often attribute my happiness to my bad memory and general ignorance, but it is something that I work at, too. If you're one of the two lucky people I stay in touch with (chances are good here -- I think you're also the only two who actually read this blog) you'll know that, when I succeed in actively deciding to be happy, it's often the first thing I want to talk about.

One of my greatest successes came a week or so before I left for Europe, when I was traveling in the Central Region visiting high schools. We were in the middle of some awesome jungle, driving along poor dirt roads, when a fairly sizable city popped up out of nowhere. At first I loved the city, and thought the hotel we stopped at was great. But it didn't have running water, so we moved on.

As we approached the city's center I started getting sketched out by the huge, huge, huge old growth trees strapped to the back of flatbeds. The trucks had three sections of the trunk each,and with only three logs, they looked completely overloaded, about to tip over onto us as we passed. My coworker claimed that they all belonged to a single massive tree.

The next hotel we pulled in to was right across the street from these tree-trucks, and my bad vibe only intensified as we entered in. I didn't even need to look at the room to know I wouldn't want to stay there. Putting my foot down, I demanded we go to the third (and final) hotel in town, but alas, it had no vacancy.

We were stuck with tree-killers' hotel, so I decided to make the best of it and do a little workout -- only to realize once I had already broken a heavy sweat that a) the fan didn't work and b) there was no running water here, either. Add to that the fact that the door showed signs of being forced open recently, and the bed showed signs of being bled on, and I had that strange combination of outrage and self satisfaction that you can only get when it turns out that your hunch was right, but it was right about something very bad.

After fuming a bit, I settled down and thought, hey, I'm in the middle of some badass jungle right now and there's nowhere else to go... do I really want to only remember the sketchy hotel room? Not really. Instead, I thunk me some happy thoughts, and went over to my coworkers' room. We started a great conversation on why Abubakar loves Allah that I will never forget. (He had two inspiring reasons "I love to pray" and "the Koran says that you should see the sun rise every morning. I love watching the sun rise" and one not so great reason "If you pray hard, Allah will grant your wishes"). You can all me the Jungle Lama.

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