Our life is an apprenticeship to the truth, that around every circle another can be drawn; that there is no end in nature, but every end is a beginning.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Alan Jones

If I am lucky enough to make it back to Nakhon and set up some kind of a life for myself someday in the future, it will undoubtedly be at least partly due to the highly original, Everest-hearted, Liverpoolean Alan Jones. Here Alan has been cajoled into the role of St. Nick - surely the skinniest candidate in recent memory. I am sure the charms of his two elves played some part in his willingness. They are two of Alan's English students ( I see the airline ticket sales spiking as I continue) This photo conveys a lot of the weirdness of village life. Can you think of an appropriate caption? I met Alan on my first trip to my night market. Out of the sea of  jet black hair and dark chocolate eyes shot his white top and robin's egg blues. Within  minutes he had invited me to travel with him free anywhere in Thailand (to deliver the traditional Thai instruments he makes), invited me to Thanksgiving and Christmas at his house, invited me to visit an orphanage his friend ran, and introduced me to his lovely and phenomenal wife, Wish, who, he proudly informed me (sounds so much nicer than 'bragged' doesn't it?), once had a dance commissioned by the Queen herself. Here is Wish making some of the dance costumes she uses in dancing and teaching dance.

Dance in Thailand is not simply something done for fun like at a night club (which they also do), nor is it a separate 'art form' one buys tickets to go see. Rather it is an integral part of life and all ceremonies. It tells stories and identifies place and expresses emotional and factual history.

Originally from Liverpool, Alan is a self-made man who had his own IT company in England. He came to Thailand to see his friend and former partner John, who had married a wonderful Thai woman and started the orphanage in Pa Plak ("I lost, so I had to stay on to run the business a few years after we sold it," Alan explains with his dry English humor. My favorite joke of his, after quite a lengthy stroll, finishes: Why didn't I bring X? He's an idol f*cker!). At the orphanage Alan met Wish, who was voluntarily teaching dance to the kids. Thanks to the language and cultural barriers, and a lot of acting like a gentleman, Alan managed to trick her into marrying him!
Kidding aside, Alan and Wish are truly both Jai Dii,  or good-hearted, though that does not nearly match the compliment in Thai. In Isan if you are Jai Dii,  you are excellent and everything is copacetic. If you aren't? Well, go peddle your shit elsewhere. Alan built a terrific small house and gardens in Wish's village, where they have the wood shop too. Alan's brain is always turning- his latest concept is a Center for Traditional Isan Culture and goods. Here is the pond in front of his house. The wood house on the left is an all wood old style Thai house. My photos don't do it justice. It is exquisite.
Here are a few close-ups:

These are one style of drums they make, some with heads on and others awaiting them.
 Here is one of the machines Alan has added as he has built the business up. The very first drums were nearly all done with hand tools.
 Here is a stretched out hide that will be made into drum heads.

 Since it is Thailand, the remnants from the drum heads are smoked and eaten!
A wonderfully strange bonus of shuffling off across the globe and finding oneself in the absolute minority is the occasional crossed path with a shared-heart wanderer. I feel that with Alan. I think we would have been good friends wherever we met, but it is the miracle of the thing- landing in a forgotten (thank god) backwater of the world, not on anyone's itinerary or radar since we stopped secretly running air force bombing missions out of the airport, and wow- there is someone who thinks pretty much exactly along the same lines! Or maybe it isn't all that coincidental. What is the saying? Great minds think alike. I know what Alan would add...And so do really pitiful ones like ours!
The King and Us

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