Timelessness

There are very few places these days where a void can form into space-time. When someone asks the question, ‘what day is tomorrow?’, and you have absolutely no idea. Possibly when marooned on a deserted island with no boat, in the middle of the desert with a broken tuk tuk, or staying here in a small part of Bangkok called ‘the best soi in Bangkok’.

We have waited for the registration for so long that my beard has taken over my face and delusions are erasing the past and future from the mind. Everything seems to be happening on a day to day basis and it’s difficult to even ask something about the future. Going away party? Later today? Tomorrow? Next week? Nothing is ever planned ahead of time and it’s as if there are no words..

And there isn’t. The Thai language has no past or future tense. They only have the present, it’s the buddhist way. And usually we completely agree, but today we feel quite down and we don’t know what to think.

We’ve been told that the registration papers are all in order and on Friday (Tomorrow), the Tuk Tuk will get tested and we should finally get the registration plate. By wednesday next week we should be on our way. This is a sentence we’ve heard a few too many times.

We so really truly magically hope that THIS time it will be…

Kuva: Juho Sarno

Kuva: Juho Sarno

 

Sound of Failure

I was given an ukulele by my fiancee one year ago. I was quite inspired in the beginning, but soon after I was working towards this Tuk Tuk Travellers thing and didn’t have time to practice. Here in Thailand I’ve started playing again. We played at christmas and new years when we had some time off, and now because of our delay, I’ve had lot’s of time to practice.

Two weeks ago we were playing with Pyry and I thought to myself, why does my playing sound absolutely horrible? Then Pyry gave me a hint. He said that I should strum in rhythm. Yes, it’s obvious, but I hadn’t thought about it earlier. So then I started practicing.

There has not been anything this year, or last, that has been more difficult to do than to move my right hand up and down in rhythm. I thought getting the chords is the hard part but no.

To help me internalize the rhythm, Pyry said I should start to sing while I strum, and play the chords. Three things at once, and singing…

Those who were there still remember the last time I sang in public. It was in the circus school. In one lesson we had to perform something other than circus, so I decided to sing. I squealed out with my golden voice and after the first verse everybody was laughing so hard that it caught me also. I sang the rest of the song trying to hold my laughter, which in turn made everything even more hilarious. When I finished, it took five minutes for our teacher to stop laughing and end the class. Oh sweet memories.

But the most valuable lesson I learned in circus school was that learning is failing. Failure is the only way to learn something new. We fail as many times as needed until we know what to do.

Photo: Pyry Kääriä

Photo: Pyry Kääriä

In circus, one is training skills that most others don’t even think exist. Take juggling, acrobatics or tight wire walking. Nobody can do them first time, so you need to get used to the idea of failing before succeeding. We don’t learn from succeeding, we learn from failing. Failure is essential in learning.

“We shouldn’t be afraid of failing, we should be afraid of not failing”

Before my time in circus school I was embarrassed to train in public. I wanted to show the best I had without failing. Otherwise I would be humiliated. How stupid was I? If I had trained then without shame, I would be a much better acrobat at the moment.

“What a shame, shame indeed”

I’m not ashamed anymore and to prove it, I’ll present you the Sound of Failure. It’s me playing and singing All My Loving, by the Beatles. When you listen to it, think that after we get back to Finland, I will perform the same song again at our homecoming party in full. Then we’ll see if I have learned something during this journey.

All My Loving

Survivors guide to Bureaucracy

Before, I didn’t know much about bureaucracy, but after having a baby in Belgium and registering a tuk tuk in Thailand, I’ve learnt a few things. Bureaucracy is something that comes between us humans and it’s a way of control that nobody controls. Bureaucracy is a computer built of humans working behind their desks. All humans, who must ignore emotions to keep the Spinning Jenny rolling.

We’ve learnt here that the essence of humanity is empathy and the only way to make the ManMadeMachine human again is to be empathetic towards it. When encountering bureaucrats, act human. Smile, communicate and look at them as an equal human being instead of an obstacle. Help them anyway possible, because they are as much victims of the machine as we are. Showing empathy towards others makes them feel empathy towards you. Reflection is the basic tool for learning. We must learn how to make bureaucracy work. After all, at it’s core it is still human.

For the same reason, give them the papers they need, and try to make their work easier. Try to make human contact. It fastens your own bid and a happy bureaucrat is a good bureaucrat for all of us.

In the Jungle of bureaucracy, aim as high as possible. Try to introduce your problem to the silverback or other bosses. There’s two reasons for this:

1.  They will probably ask you to contact the right person and they know who it is, and the right person does what their boss says. Thats the point of bureaucracy. So instead of begging for recognition from the small bureaucrat, introduce yourself to the big boss.

2.  Silverbacks have power, they are not as tied to the system as the workers. They have some real responsibility and with responsibility comes perspective. In a way silverbacks realise that the machine is just an illusion. So if they have a nice day they might just do your bidding.

As an example, in Belgium after having the baby I had to get a signature from the city judge for the birth certificate. I went to the Palais des justice and because of my lousy french went to the wrong floor, straight in to the office of the judge of supreme court. His secretary told me that I’m on the wrong floor and should queue for 3 weeks to get the signature. Luckily the judge heard the discussion, popped by and after being open and honest with him he signed the paper.

We have all met the cold hearted bureaucrat ants who insist on having one stamp from somebody else before putting his stamp so you could get the third stamp etc. Getting a stamp to get another stamp is just ridiculous. We all know that there’s no point, but not for the Ant. For them it’s life and death. Their responsibility is to follow the rules and that’s all they have power to do.

If people have power, for some reason they want to use it. Of course not everybody, but many. But for the ant the power of the stamp is all they have. They have convinced themselves that the stamp is meaningful, and to them, the stamp symbolises power. If they would skip the procedure, they would lose meaning in their work and with it the only power they have. THEREFORE IT CANNOT BE DONE!

But it can.

Show them that there is more to life than a stamp. There’s a whole world full of meaning waiting to be cherished. Open yourself to them and they will open their eyes and see outside of their bubble. With a good chance you might also see outside of your own bubble, and I tell you that’s an eye opener.

As long as we live in an organised society we will have bureaucracy. Bureaucracy is supposed to be For us, but now we are for the bureaucracy. We can’t fight it, we cant escape it, but we can learn to be human within it. Then it will be for us.

ManMadeMachine

We’ve been stuck here in Bangkok for three weeks due to political unrest. In the older posts we mentioned that we have used our time effectively, but as you can’t fight against bureaucracy, what does this effectively mean?

Our main obstacle has been to get our tuk tuk registered, and of course, it’s not that simple. The bureaucracy that is supposed to make our lives easier and safer does the complete opposite.

First of all foreigners can’t register tuk tuks without special permission. There is even a limited number of licences per year for the locals. We managed to get the special permission for the registration and the head of the Transportation Authority has said he can register our Tuk Tuk for us. So why the delay? Because of the clash between people and machine.

Bureaucracy started off as a simple way of people organising different things. Kind of like a simple computer. After years and years the bureaucratic system has evolved, and it has become a machine that has taken control itself. The Matrix in real life. This can be seen clearly since we have all the people we need to sign all the papers we need, but because of the one database in one office that is closed, nothing can be done. A glitch in the system.

Last week, to our luck, the office opened up because the protests have quieted down after the elections. Hooray, the glitch was fixed! Two hours later the Transportation Authority was surrounded by disabled people protesting against the bad disabled mobility on the public transportation system and it was shut down once again. If someone is effective, it’s the protesters. Got to give them credit for that.

We continued to search for different routes. Yesterday we had an appointment at the Tourism Authority of Thailand, European Division, and now we have the head of the TAT supporting us also. This means we have the head of the Bangkok Transportation Authority, the head of the Tourism Authority and the head of the Finnish Embassy supporting us and giving us some leverage to go all the way to the Transportation Authority of Chiang Mai to register our Tuk Tuk. Effective? Perhaps.

We have been so effective that we even managed to arrange ourselves the permission to pass through Myanmar twice already. Unfortunately we have not been able to leave and all the work has been in vain, though it does soothe the mind to know it is possible.

This all feels like Humanity vs. ManMadeMachine. We have met everyone we can, in person, to try and bring out as much humanity as possible. It seems to be working because all of the people we have met have been absolutely wonderful and have helped us in every possible way. This project has inspired all of them and they all want this to happen, but with six people looking at the windows blue screen of death, what can you do?

To keep ourselves busy, tomorrows blog will be about our ventures within the bureaucratic system, and how we try to bring out the humanity within.

Muay Thai Madness

-Hijaaa!!-             *SMACK*                                -Elbow-                *BANG*       -Knee-                *THUMP*            -Jab-                *TUF*           -One-Two-       *DSHH DSHH*           *PAFF*          -Strong-             *DSH whoops*        -Slowlie-

Top notch training @ local ring with a thai champion. Nice thirty five degree heat, small Muay Thai pants and sweat dripping off every crevice making the muscles glisten in the sunlight. Focus and determination in the eyes. The fist, just as ready as the leg, ready to fly as hard as it can into the unknown.

Photo: Leo James

Photo: Leo James

We had seen the small outdoor Muay Thai ring at the end of our soi many times when we passed it going to listen to the music at the pier next to the Rama VIII protest festival site. It always had kids 7-12 training hard and it looked like fun. So we asked for a training session.

First hour and a half we balled around like a couple of idiots trying to act cool and tough kickin ‘n’ punchin our knuckles dry. We looked like idiots and we have proof. Then the kids went into the ring to do this hug and kick sorta warm up so we thought we’d do the same since no one told us otherwise.

After stepping into the ring the adrenaline hit. It was do or die and neither of us was going to take it. The youngsters were taking it easy and every once in a while showing strength, but with us it was like a scene from the expendables with muscle against muscle action trying to pin the other one down. In the 36 degree heat it took about 30 seconds until we were out of breath and had to take a break. ‘Let’s take it easy ok. This is warm up’

Photo: Leo James

Photo: Leo James

40 seconds we lasted second round. It was a good try taking it easy but its not always so easy. We continued our feat of strength battle until we were so out of breath we had to stop.

After the warmup it was back to the punch bags. We still didn’t know what we were doing so we kept kickin ‘n’ punchin until finally, two hours into the training someone says, ‘go close. Kick, go close. Look’, and pointed to the 12 year old boy who could have kicked me in half. Then we tried kicking a little closer. Better? Hard to say.

It wasn’t until the end 20 minutes when we went into the ring with a former Muay Thai champion that we were told what to do. He didn’t speak much english but we learned a lot from him. He fixed our kicks an punches and finally it felt like there was some real power. Then it was time to go home an lick the wounds.

It’s not easy being a kid that grows up in the Muay Thai ring. Hundreds of pushups, kicks, punches, knees, elbows and throws to the ground, every single day, twice a day. It’s physically demanding and bruising is normal. But behind the bruising, the Muay Thai community is humble, respectful and caring.

They live together, feast together and help each other through life from the beginning to the end. They don’t need much to enjoy life, just a rusty old roof that covers the training area and each other.

For food they have a little refreshment shop so they have money for the market and some of them fish for food from the Chao Phraya. They are all happy and healthy having nothing else, and they don’t seem to be in hurry to change things.

They are not there because someone wants them to be there or that they have no other choice. They are there because they choose to be there. They learn so much about life and how to survive through this type of lifestyle, that they would be stupid not to want to be there. They are always free to fulfil whatever dream they want, and they have the will to do it. It all about what they choose to do, a life without boundaries.

Behind all the bruises, you can feel the love they share. In the ring they give all they got, but win or lose, they will always have a loving family around them. This is the life they grow into with Grandma, Grandpa, uncles, aunts, mothers, fathers, children, babies, cats, dogs, chickens, puppies, kittens and bunnies.

Photo: Leo James

Photo: Leo James

Lucky Horse Year!

Happy New Year! Again!

They say that whenever the year changes, you get a new beginning. Here in Thailand it means that everyone gets many beginnings. First comes the western new year and then the Chinese new year which started last friday and lasts for days. In april comes the Buddhist new year, Songkran for the Thais, which literally translates to moving forwards. The secret of Luck

The first new year started beautifully, and lets see if the second new year will brings us our horse that will take us home for the third new year. This week has been the first week of the year of the horse.

photo: Pyry Kääriä

photo: Pyry Kääriä

Not only the year of the horse, but the year of the wooden horse. As you can imagine Chinese put a great value on symbolism, and the horse has quite a many symbolical features. Now we’ll go fundamentalist and pick only the features supporting our cause. Astrology is not really my cup of tea, but I put a great weight on thinking and talking positively, thats psychology.

THE HORSE…

… is transportation, which is quite suitable for us.

… brings luck, and luck is very important. The secret of Luck

… is a noble animal, which i guess can be linked to our tuk tuk because,                                       the tuk tuk is, of course, the only vehicle fit for a King.

… is a sign of romanticism. We have always, since the dawn of our beloved life, been true romantics where poetry and beauty has enveloped our hearts and crushed them time after time. True romance does not come without loss and longing. Casablanca is Casablanca                                            for a reason.

… is able and intelligent, just like us.

… is connected to fire, and as this is the year of a wooden horse, it is going to burn with the flame of all flames. Soon there will be a great emptiness waiting to fulfil its potential, and from the ashes, the phoenix will rise, only to cry its tears of regeneration.

… is alway ready to work to make things happen, unless it needs a rest, just like us.

Some astrologers even mention that this is the year of unexpected adventure, how ’bout that 🙂

And thats the most important thing. If you want to achieve something, keep yourself focused. Treat every setback as an opportunity and don’t waste your energy whinging about it.

We are already 2 weeks late from our schedule and at first it seemed a bit problematic. Then we decided to keep our focus and do what we can. We have used this opportunity to practice filming, to fly paper airplanes from one bureaucratic office to the next, we have learned to drive and fix our tuk tuk, and most importantly we have had time to rest.

It has been surprisingly difficult to rest because of the urge to work. The habit of working every day towards this project for the last 11 months has continuously been bubbling under the skin. At the beginning of the week we felt apathetic. We didn’t feel like talking or doing anything, but after letting go and letting ourselves rest, everything started to get brighter again. Just in time for the Year of the horse.

The secret of Luck, click on it and watch it. Believe me, this will bring you luck and at best even tears to your eyes.

May the Horse be with you!

juhoratsastaa

Photo: Pyry Kääriä

Tuk Tuk Training

Still in Bangkok. Transportation office should open by the end of this week and we should be on our way towards the end of next week. As we have almost 17 000km ahead, our Tuk Tuk supplier thought that we should have some practise on driving and mechanics. Today was the third class.

Photo: Juho Sarno

Photo: Juho Sarno

First class was last week and it was disturbed by a thousand two hundred pilgrimaging monks, so we just drove 6 meters forwards, and 6 backwards, on a sidewalk, with no space to steer. Second class was a bit more exiting, we went straight in to the traffic of Bangkok. Pyry has driven his drivers licence here, so it went alright and he already managed to drive some with just two wheels on the ground 🙂 That was quite exiting.

Photo: Juho Sarno

Photo: Juho Sarno

I, on the other hand, felt like a rabbit turning in to roadkill. The Tuk Tuk is a vehicle of it’s kind and I have never driven anything that resembles it. The Gas pedal is in the handle, like motorbikes, but the pedals are like in a car. The shifting stick is between the legs and you have to waggle it with your left hand. As a driver you also sit on top of the engine, so even if you are driving a tuk tuk that doesn’t have an RPM gauge (as we are) you literally feel it in your guts when it’s time to shift. It also has three wheels, not a big surprise to anyone, but it really makes a difference on the steering.

I was quite afraid when I went on the road, but after the first ten seconds, Adrenaline took over, and gave me a really nice groove for the road. I found my space in the traffic, and all the other tuk tuk drivers were pointing fingers and laughing and cheering us on. There just aren’t too many falangs driving a tuk tuk here. I’ve done quite a many adrenaline shots in my life, but driving a tuk tuk in Bangkok gave me the best rush for years. Have to admit, I enjoyed every second of it.

Today was the third lesson, little bit more in the traffic, and learning to change tires. Tomorrow we’ll be changing brakes.