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When My Testicles Touched The Ground

December 2, 2011

An American.  Always cause for alarm.  He is a writer, he has lived in Japan for over 46 years.  I first learnt of him from the New York Review of Books.  During his interview he was asked the obvious question, ‘Why have you lived outside your culture for so long?”  He gave an answer that resonated  with me as an ex-pat Aussie who had spent many years in Thailand.  It was the beginning of my new life in a culture that I knew little of other than secondary text books that spoke of Rubber and its production in a land that seemed  exotic and remote.  Siam was how the country of Thailand used to be called. I knew little.  Strangely, in retrospect, I had spent a year as a Novice in a religious Order, the Redemptorists, founded by an Italian, Alphonsus Ligouri, in a Novitiate in a remote town in the Rivernina called Galong.  This religious order was founded in Australia by a small group of Irish Priests and Brothers who  were Missionaries. During that time there were two fellow novices who were from Thailand. My memories of these young men was that they exuded a scent of of cleanliness, a smell that I had not experienced before.  I was a 19 year old from the Melbourne suburbs.  I knew nothing of Asia.  The American Author, when asked as to why he had come to Japan and stayed for 46 years, replied : When I came here my testicles touched the ground, but the more important reason for his staying so long was, in his words, was, here, I like myself.  This was what I identified with mostly.  I had visited Thailand twice in one year.  The culture was immediately attractive to me.  The intrinsic connection between buddhism and the Thai culture was like a magnet.  I was to spend the next ten years of my life living in the Kingdom of Thailand.  Here I was comfortable with myself.  I was a gay man in a sea of rice.  Within three weeks I was to become a guest lecturer in a Buddhist University in the North of Thailand in the second largest city of  Thailand, Chiangmai.  I taught monks, young men who, due to their poverty , were able to receive a University education and graduate with a degree in Education or Buddhism.  It was a privilege to teach the rural poor, who came from Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Burma.  These young men were eager to learn,their respect for a teacher was something that I never experienced in the suburban education ghettoes of Australia.  I taught along side Buddhist monks who not only welcomed me  but  encouraged me in my efforts to instruct but to nurture young minds.  I will never forget the morning after class when I was walking out of the University and addressed a young monk by saying: ‘Were you in my class today?  He replied, ‘Thank you for the one Man Show”  What joy overwhelmed me.  Often I stood in front of 50 students, monks, clad in saffron robes.  I asked “Are those monks members of my class?”  ‘No’ I was told.  They have come into your class, not as your students but because they found you fascinating” I was overwhelmed by their curiosity and yearning for knowledge.  I spent four years teaching these young men.  I learnt so much about Thai culture and Buddhism.  I was interviewed on Thai Radio as a Westerner.  I spoke of my being a Westerner in a Buddhist Culture.  I was addressed as ‘Ajarn’, it is the same title as ‘Professor”…I still use it today not as some  leverage of superiority but far more easier than ‘Lloyd’ which for the t\Thais is too difficult to pronounce.

During my ten years in the Kingdom nobody knew me as ‘Lloyd’ but only as ‘Ajarn”…My thai partner, Samran, has never addressed me by my name but only as Ajarn, it is  term of respect, whether I deserve it or not is not the issue.  In Thai culture respect for elders is a ‘sine qua non’.  One is never invisible  due to ones age.  In the West elders are not always acknowledged.  Our indigenous people have understood  this for thousands of years.

So often I yearn for joys I experienced  living in an Asian culture.  It was Paul Keating who said: ‘Not only should we engage in Asia at the level of trade but also we should engage emotionally.  As a gay male approaching my 67th year  I feel that I have done my part.

As the discourse politically speaks of asianisation in our region, I am grateful for those 10 years that I was able to learn and understand, as an Australian, what Azia offers us…

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. David Menadue permalink
    December 2, 2011 8:04 pm

    Very good Lloyd… why did his testicles touch the ground? He was depressed? Clearly Thailnd and the people agreed with you at the deepest level. Great to make those discoveries in life. Hope you find a similar happiness here with time
    D xx

    • dyoll09 permalink*
      December 3, 2011 5:41 am

      Many thanks David, I can only guess the writer was making some reference to how comfortable he felt in Japan, nothing to do with depression I suspect, perhaps the opposite in terms of sexual comfort…xx

  2. mimi pinson permalink
    December 2, 2011 11:47 pm

    sawaadee Ajarn- sabai dee mai
    ao cap ban , tha mai mai cap ban
    mai diew mak mak, chai mai kha xx 😉

  3. dyoll09 permalink*
    December 3, 2011 5:42 am

    Saawasdee na krub Tirak
    Phom sabaii sabaii
    Kop khun maak na krub
    Chok dee to you and Georges
    Ajarn

  4. April 7, 2012 7:58 pm

    I love it! Your blog is awesome.

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