Dreaming at the Himalayas

 

We left the circus of India to have a rest at foothills of the Himalayas. We had lost a lot of energy, and as of that we were once again contemplating the purpose or even the sense of this idiotic project of ours. Thankfully of the three days we had in Kathmandu, we spent two with the youngsters of Circus Kathmandu and they showed us that we need to keep going.

As we arrived at the airport of Kathmandu, we made our way straight to the place where our friends had a flea market table for the day. It just so happened that at the same place that evening was the circus workshop and performance held by Circus Kathmandu. Of course we set off to find out more about this circus group and to get straight in there mingling with the family.

Circus Kathmandu is full of amazingly talented youngsters, all of whom have been brought back from India after human trafficking or Indian circuses where they were not treated well. Circus Kathmandu has been working for 3 years already helping empower the youth who have fallen victim to people with bad will.

It is a horrible idea even to think about what it actually means and what these kids have gone through, but how they have found a new reality through circus gives a warm hope into my heart. Circus is the perfect tool for these kids, giving them a physical way of building back trust.

It has been said that trust is easily broken, but extremely difficult to get back. Doesn’t seem to be so. With the right attitude, right kind of people, and a heart full of good will, trust can be built up further than most only dream of.

Treenitauko

In the training hall they showed us what Nepalese circus is made of. In the warm up some did harder acrobatics than neither of us could do even on our best day. They were enthusiastic about learning, having teachers for their own disciplines only rarely, so they wanted to use every chance they could to suck in information.

Circus Kathmandu is the life for these youngsters. It brings them hope, it brings them a family, and it gives them something to live for. We are happy to have had the chance to spend time with them because they reminded us what life is all about.

Circus Kathmandu will be touring in Europe this summer and on thursday they fly to Oslo to accompany Circus Xanti for a month. From there they will continue to Glastonbury festival and if you have a chance go and see them, it’s a heartwarming experience.

Spending time with the circus family, Finnish friends, and eating rye bread with good cheese made us home sick. We spent most of the time eating, sleeping, and dreaming about getting home and seeing our own family. We miss everyone so much.

In the end, Sergios’ magnificent cooking and hours of sleep made even Juhos’ stomach cool down, and now we are ready for a new adventure.

 

It was a sweet dream before touching back down to India.

 

Riding the Bible Belt To India, 20.05.14, Moreh

Still with Buddha.

We left Kalaymyo on the eve of the 17th of May. Accommodation prices were outrageous so we stayed only one night. For locals one night in a hotel is around 8,000 Kyat (8 USD), while for foreigners the same room costs 40,000 Kyat (40 USD).

Foreigners always get a 10,000 Kyat extra, and if 2 foreigners take one room for two people, the price was always 40 000 K This was the same for every hotel in Kale, except the one we accidentally found on the outskirts of town that was only 35 000 Kyats. It didn’t belong to the cartel because it was a brothel, and luckily that night we were the only guests.

The next morning we finished off our unfinished dailies and spent some hours on the internet trying to sign into facebook. Then we jumped on pedals and gave few hours of sunlight to ride as far as we could with no stress as we were ready for another night in our hammocks.

We ate our dinner at the crossroads between Kalaw, Kaleymyo and Tamu and it was a feast to remember. It turned out to be by far the most expensive dinner we’ve had, totalling a whopping 7000 Kyat (7.3USD) even though the coffee was free. We did however get to eat the largest and best prawns we have ever seen in our life and the company was excellent.

We continued on towards Tamu in search of a nice quiet place next to some small stream. To our surprise this new Myanmar-India road, built in 2009, was like a desert with houses all along the road. There was no place to hang our hammocks, no stream to wash ourselves, and we started to come desperate.

Having only 10 minutes of sunlight left, we passed a monastery and decided to go ask for a place to stay. The head monk was nice enough to give us a floor for the night, but he called the local policeman to come check out our passports. The policeman informed us that normally foreigners are only allowed to sleep in the designated hotels in Kale. But since we had the head monks permission for the night, he gave us an exception.

MyanmarPojat

The next morning one of the monks asked us to play with the local kids during the day and in return we asked to stay another night. One of the children liked us so much that he wanted a picture with us and he had made us gifts. We played and sang with the ukulele and got ourselves a crowd of women and children. The monks had gone for their morning walk to gather food.

Suddenly the policeman came to tell us that the head monk had denied us a second night, and that we were to leave. The child who gave us the gifts seemed so disappointed that I decided to give him my necklace with the Amulet of Will, to show that his enthusiasm had not gone unnoticed. I gave the amulet in the hopes that he will remember for the rest of his life, that everything is possible as long as he has the Will to do it. Judging from the sparkle in his eyes, I think he understood.

Then we donated 3 Unity energy efficient cooking stoves to the head monk and he seemed a little baffled by our good will. It made us feel great to do something good even though we had been denied the second night.

UnityMunkit

 

The policeman, who was also baffled by our goodwill towards the monks and children, told us to go to a place called Kamphat Ranch Township. We would be allowed to stay there for the next night. We hopped on our bicycles and continued.

 

 

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Riding on the Bible Belt

We rode a good 35-40 miles during the heat of the day into an area that seemed like midwest of America. Churches started appearing everywhere and religious Christian music could be heard all around. We had stumbled into the Myanmar Bible Belt.

I don’t think these people have ever seen two hairy white men riding Chinese ladies bicycles Myanmar style before for everybody stopped to stare. Some smiled, some waved, but most stood still with their mouth wide open. Not literally but that’s what it felt like.

Every eye was on us, and elderly people came to us and wanted to shake our hands. This was a blast from the past, and the strangest thing I could never have imagined running into in Myanmar.

We continued on and the churches started multiplying. There were Protestants at least 3 different sorts, Presbyterians more than we could count, Baptists of numerous kind, Calvinists, Immanuel Baptists, and many we didn’t even know existed. A village of 2,000 people had at least 15 different churches, one every 30m. It’s as if every missionary had made followers to put up his own church.

We stopped for lunch at a village called Kamphat 2 and asked for directions to Kamphat Ranch Township. No one knew what it was. But as we finished our meal, one man came to talk to us. Apparently his youngest brother had wanted to meet us but spoke no English, so he had asked him to come invite us to stay at their home. We gladly took up their offer, it sounded much better than staying with the Myanmar authorities for a night.

They turned out to be a large family from the Chin tribe, and we could not have had  better last days in Myanmar. They took us into the family with open arms, and we opened our hearts to them. We spent the two days with them learning about their Chin food, Chin way of life, and Chin Christianity.

ChinPoika

The Chin people have over 200 tribes with different dialects and cultures, all being Chin and mostly Christians. This also explains the number of churches because the Chin people are used to having small, closed communities.

The Chin are happy, modest people, and speak english quite well. Many have been to Singapore or Malaysia, but have come back to their home village to get married. They don’t have much, but they don’t need much nor want much. All they want is Good Will and Gods blessing.

They are also very, very smart people. Their mind is on energy efficiency and self sufficiency. They use car batteries to light up the house and they use solar panels to charge it up. They only use energy saving lamps and LED lamps, and only during evening time. They build all of their own things and design their own energy efficient cooking stoves. We learned a lot from them.

We played football and volleyball, took part in the evening mass and the blessing of a newly opened school. It was interesting to see their worship not understanding a single word, except amen and the singing. Chin people are full of musicality.

The food and the way of life was very similar to that of the food and way of life in Finland only 50 years back, simple but loveable. Their Christianity on the other hand is unmatched anywhere else we have ever been.

It seemed the only thing that differed between us and them, is that they reflect everything on their book, and we don’t have a book. We spoke with different terms, but all of the intentions were exactly the same.

On the morning of the 20th we left our newfound family and headed for the border crossing at Tamu-Moreh. It was 37 miles of pedalling in the near 43°C heat. We made it to the border, only to meet a grumpy immigration officer who told us to turn around and go back to Kale.

We tried to explain that we had bought the permissions from Yangon for 180 USD and showed the receipt and all the Embassy papers to back it up but he refused to hear a word and commanded us to leave and go back to Kale.

We tried to to explain: “The receipt says, Tamu border pass, 2 pers.”

And he answered; “Tamu ends here, no pass. Go back to Kale”.

After 15 minutes of persuading him to call the number we were given by Seven Diamond travel agency, he finally started to listen. It turned out that our permissions were faxed only an hour earlier and he had not seen them yet. Once he had his paper from the Myanmar Authorities everything was suddenly ok.

Thank God we didn’t have to turn around and ride all the way back because we were already at the brink of heat exhaustion. After we finished with him, we noticed he was obviously not used to letting anyone with a foreign passport go thorough because we had to remind him to stamp us out.

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Moreh

We got over the border, and on the Indian side we were Invited to have lunch with Indian Army border officials. We had just had lunch on the Myanmar side to get rid of our last Kyats, but we just couldn’t turn down the offer.

Juho managed to eat it all, but Pyry was just too full to finish it all. The overeating and the heat was just too much. Pyry managed to keep it all in and ride to the police station to be stamped in by the Indian Immigration, and then it happened.

The heat, the sun and the food was just too much for Pyry, and his stomach decided to empty itself right in front of the Immmigration office window. He was on the brink of heat exhaustion. Pyry managed to keep everything from the police official and he stamped us in. We rode into town and found ourselves some cold water and a nice garage to rest before continuing.

While Pyry was sleeping, Juho tried to map out possibilities of getting to Imphal by bus. He also tried to sell our bicycles because they couldn’t fit in the minivans.

It turns out that the locals are not allowed to go to Imphal after 4 pm, and we were in no state to ride over the mountains. We took a room for the night and went around Moreh trying to sell our bikes.

“You want to buy a bicycle? Very cheap. Only for you my friend! Rare bicycles driven over the border by foreigners, you can sell for much more.” We tried everything but nobody wanted the damn things.

After dinner we came back to our room to write this blog. After half an hour 2 men came to knock on our door. They had heard we were selling our bikes and had searched a long time to find us. They knew they had a good deal because we had no time nor the will to make money off of them. We had made it quite clear that we just wanted to get rid of them quickly.

In the end we got half the money back and a good lesson of Indian bargaining. They were happy and we were happy.

Finally we are in India.

Chapter Three: Localmotives

Our journey from Bangkok to Yangon was a long and exciting one. We decided to take the most unexpected route and travel through the border town of Phu Nam Rom to Htee Khee. This is the newest of all border crossings between Thailand and Myanmar, and it couldn’t even be found from google maps.

Between the two towns lies 6 km of no-mans-land, where to my understanding, only natural law applies. There were a few houses along the route and these lands belong to no country. Travelling through this no-mans-land is not permitted by foot, so we hitched a ride on the back of a pick-up truck. From Htee Khee we continued our journey with a slightly larger truck all the way to Dawei.

The road, built by an Italo-Thai company, wove itself through the otherwise untouched mountain scenery along side a beautiful river. There were only a few bungalows and very small villages here and there. One village was built right on the river on some rocks, and I’m convinced that they have found the best spot to live in that area.

The journey lasted 6 hours before we found ourselves in the larger town of Dawei, which naturally resides at the delta of the Dawei river. This was our first real touch of Myanmar.

screen capture: Juho Sarno

After we got our stuff in the hotel room we went searching for food. We had walked only one block before being greeted by a local man. He wanted to get to know us and brought us to his friends restaurant and chatted with us while we had dinner. Already we felt welcomed.

We would have wanted to stay in Dawei longer to see the beautiful Andaman Sea, but we needed to get to Yangon by Monday to meet with the Ambassador of India. We knew the train takes at least 24 hours, and it was already Saturday.

We woke up the next morning at 4 am to go to the train station and while waiting for the train to leave, we accidentally started talking with the crew. The driver spoke English and looked like a proper train driver, and the mechanic was a character that could have come straight from a Miyazaki film. Pyry bonded strongly with the mechanic most likely because of their shared fascination for firm action and a beard.

Mechanic

Mechanic

When we left Dawei there were only a few empty seats in this antique train, that was built by the British over 80 years ago. The scenery was breathtaking because in this part of the world there are very, very few motor vehicles, and therefore the unpolluted nature makes the sun rise look absolutely stunning.

screen capture: Juho Sarno

We tried to sleep but the view was just too good to miss. We rode over mountains, down the valleys and through the wilderness. At one point the crew stopped the train under a mango tree to gather themselves some fruit. There was no worry about another train coming towards, because this is the only train that rides between Dawei and Ye, once a day.

At the next stop the mechanic came to give us two of the most wild mangos we’ve ever come across. We took the chance and invited ourselves into the cockpit. It was the right thing to do, for this was the best place for the view.

After a few hours of chatting and bonding we decided to go for a siesta back to our seats. By now the carriage had no empty seats, except for ours, and the floor was full of people. We sat down for the siesta, but immediately started mingling with the people.

In Finnish, to mingle is called minglata, and to say hello in Burmese, is ming la ba. Coincidentally these cultures that are so different, have such similar words for the same thing.

Suddenly the train started rattling like crazy and it felt like we had dropped off the tracks. The train stopped and when we went to see what had happened, the wheels right under us had actually dropped off the tracks.

The first thing that came to our mind was that we are in the middle of absolutely nowhere, with a train off the tracks, and we have a meeting with the Ambassador of India the next day.

Luckily the crew, with a bit of ingenuity and a simple understanding of physics, got the carriage back on tracks within 20 minutes. Stunningly good teamwork from a group of ‘rautaisia ammattilaisia’, as we say in Finnish.

After the incident we were invited back to the cockpit for a wild papaya and the journey continued through smoke and fire, literally. At this time of year forest fires could be seen here and there, but most of them were only simmering and far away.

One on the other hand was a blazing fire hiding behind a cloud of smoke. It was right next to the tracks on the opposite side of a tiny wooden bridge that had probably been built by the British.

Once the station master noticed the fire, he closed the door to the cockpit and continuously blew the horn to warn everyone on the train while shouting to the driver to pump up the throttle. We went through with a blazing speed of maybe 30 km/h.

In the midst of all the excitement we became thirsty. We tried to get our water bottle from our seat, but by this time the train was so full that there was no chance. Thankfully in this part of the world every stop has people selling fresh food and drinks, so we were ok. And the crew shared everything they had with us anyway, so no problems what so ever.

At Ye, we changed trains and said what the locals usually say when ending a conversation. Here there is no need for goodbyes, it’s just a simple ‘Thwa Bi’,  I’m going. We put our own little exclamation point at the end and left the conversation with a huge smile and a big thank you.

The next train was a little newer, probably only 70 years old, and we had reached the plains so the average speed was maybe 40-50km/h. This time it took us a hefty 3 minutes before we were bonding with the other passengers. Pyry was learning Myanmar with a man from the Shan state, and Juho was mingling with 2 navy personnel and a monk.

We ended up joining the train police with our Shan friend, meeting the crew once again, and viewing the even more spectacular sunset while dangling our peg-legs over the front of the locomotive. The cool breeze made this once again, the most comfortable spot on the train.

As darkness engulfed everything we returned to ‘our’ seats. They were not the ones we had been sitting on before because here people sit everywhere, changing places continuously to talk to different people. This literally feels like one big family.

Juho fell asleep on the seats and Pyry went on the floor like some of the locals. Juho woke up with a sore neck so I guess Pyry took the longer straw.

We entered Yangon after 46 hours of travel. Three hours by bus, six hours by pickup and thirty hours of unforgettable training. All we needed now was to find a shower before going to meet with the Ambassador of India.

So far Myanmar has been good to us. The people are friendly, women are beautiful, men are handsome, betel yummy and beer is excellent with no chemicals. The only thing lagging is the internet. So don’t be surprised if you don’t hear from us as often as before.

screen capture:  Juho Sarno

The Karen People

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Yesterday we went for an adventure. We got fed up just lying around in Mae Moei resting, and we had finished all the unfinished work that we needed to do. So we hopped on our little monster truck and decided to do some off-roading.

Everyone says the roads in Myanmar are really bad, and the new super snazzy highway that connects Yangon to Mandalay, is a four laned, overpriced airstrip that has nothing. It goes through nowhere, has no traffic, and apparently is completely useless. We’re better off breaking down on the old road, because at least there, we might run into someone that can help.

So as a warmup we took on the mud and the holes, and our baby bird flew like an angel. She tackled everything that was thrown in her way, except Pyry’s muscles. Sometimes he can be a bit rough while screwing around.

After the breaking in, our angel had started whining a little, so we decided to tighten her up before getting wet again after Songkran. We gave a good yank on every nut and bolt we could find, and the last one, one of the four bolts that keep the front wheel connected, snapped under Pyry’s humungous strength…

Luckily we had decided to do this in front of a shop that just happened to have nice people, with the right tools. In a jiffy they took out the old bolt and gave us a new one, slightly shorter, but seemed a bit harder, so I really hope size doesn’t matter. I think that as long as it’s hard and doesn’t break, it should work fine.

After tightening our nuts, we headed off into the mystery roads that even google maps have never heard of. In the end we found what didn’t know we were looking for, a beautiful valley between two luscious mounds. Every mans dream.

We asked if we could stay the night, and like usually, we were very welcomed. Suddenly there were dozens of kids running around, some throwing our knives around and others playing karate kid with our juggling clubs. Everyone was having a blast.

Once finished, we were so hungry that we bought some of the local eggs and made a Khai Jiao, Thai style omelette on our heavenly kitchen. I think the eggs came from the chicken that was continuously watching me cook, or then from one of the other hundreds that were freely running around. These village people let all life join in the fun, and by doing that, they stay healthy, with nutritious, natural, fresh, free food at all times.

Then we went to wash up in the mountain stream and were greeted by the only man who spoke english. He asked what we were doing, and instead of camping, he asked us to his home. This is when we found out that we had stumbled into a village that has been inhabited by the Karen Tribe for over a millennium.

He showed us to his home, and we chatted for hours. We asked about the Karen people, and they asked us about Finnish people. We laughed a lot and shared very similar views of many things, including the fact that they pride themselves on helping each other, without accepting money.

In the end Juho and Santin found their deepest connection, a true love they share together, Football. It goes to show, that we’re all basically the same.

Then we had dinner. I don’t know what it was, but it was kind of like a crab and fish stew with rice. They were amazed that in Finland we have to pay for our crabs, while they just pick them up from the river. Even the water tasted like proper water, because it came straight from the mountain stream with only a little filtering, though in Finland, the ground water doesn’t even need to be filtered.

Then we found out that the Karen food, compared to Thai food, uses no fish sauce, no sugar, and unlike in Finland, the small crabs are meant to be eaten with the shell on. That way they are much more nutritious, and taste really nice. It was like eating chips.

After our tummies looked like they were about to burst, we jumped on the pick up and went to look for the Songkran after party. This time we got so lost that even the locals didn’t know where we were.

We ended up coming back to the village, where they had pitched up a tivoli at the temple grounds, and enjoyed the old school film projector, and Pyry shot some stuffed rabbits for his godson.

Then it was time to sleep.

We woke up at the third call of the roosters, i.e. 5 am, the natural wake up time. It’s amazing how one rooster starts, then the next one joins in, then the next, then a dog, and soon the whole valley is echoing with life. It is simply the most natural wake up call, and it feels good.

We packed up, checked the oil, checked the water, and rolled off towards the sunrise. It was a wonderful experience.

Ta blu dòh mä, my brothers! You shall always be in our hearts.

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It’s Hot in Here

35° celsius.

Just eating, makes me sweat as if i’ve been training for 3 hours. It’s the hottest time of the day, but the nights are not that much easier. For the last few nights we’ve been sleeping the spartan way. Glazed tiles are cooler than a mattress and it doubles up as an all night massage with a side order of ant-acupuncture (Even that can be turned to the positive :D).

In Thailand there are only three seasons. The hot season, the very hot season and the rainy season. By now it’s the middle of the very hot season. Come Songkran, the Thai new year, we reach the pinnacle of the scorching sun and dryness. It is the hottest time of year and how do the Thais celebrate? With an all out water war. They get ready for monsoon time.

Actually we prefer the very hot season instead to the rainy season for the moment. After all we have to drive our Tuk Tuk through Thailand, Myanmar and India and during heavy rain the roads get so muddy and flooded that a canoe would be more suitable for the journey.

The very hot season brings it’s own rhythm. During the day it’s just too hot to do anything. Even sleeping and laying down in the shadows with the fan on full is too much. In the north we are used to work to survive. Here the key to survive this season is to do nothing in vain. When it’s time to work, it’s time to work and when it’s time to rest, it’s time to rest. All with a good conscience.

Photo: Juho Sarno

Photo: Juho Sarno

This certainly doesn’t mean laziness. I’ve seen so many people working in such different ways to make their living that it makes my imagination seem useless. I’ve seen people selling brushes from a cart, fishermen making their own nets and wade them in to one of the dirtiest rivers I’ve ever seen. I’ve even seen people collecting garbage from the byways and patch clothes with old pedal singers on the alleyways. Without money, these people must use their creativity.

In Thailand this is all possible because one part of Buddhism is that everyone is responsible for their own life and happiness. The government can’t and doesn’t want to control everything and some sort of grass root anarchy-capitalism is living strongly.

In contrary to western capitalism it’s not about the money, it’s about the buddhist way of life. Families work together and help each other survive from day to day. They don’t need to be richer tomorrow because they are content today.

Close by there’s a lady who owns a copy machine. She asks 2 baht per copy and probably makes 100 baht a day. Thats about 2,2 €. But it’s ok because with that money she eats 3 times a day and she’s always smiling.

For the last 2 weeks we tried to live off the same amount. We were given a place to sleep for free and in exchange we painted one room. We have been given food because we have become part of the family and we help around as much as we can. Our daily budget for the necessities has been less than that of the copy woman, and we are still smiling and still going strong.

Different climates create different cultures and thats certainly something where we can learn from. I will definitely take the idea of lazying with good conscience with me 😀

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

Empowering yourself – Food and Circus

These days the term ‘Empower Yourself’ has risen into the consciousness of the masses. The ever growing need to get meaning into ones life has become a huge business especially in the western world. But why is this not so in the east?

Why does the east not need empowerment and the west does? Isn’t the west more civilised? Do they not have everything better? Are they not trying to tell the rest of the world that their way is the way everyone should live to have a better life? Are they not kings of the world? Let’s look at this empowerment from a few perspectives.

If you look at the amount of food and the quality of food people eat in Finland compared to here in Thailand you see that it’s double the food and less than half the quality. In the western world food is processed over and over again losing nutrients all the time. The natural milk is processed into margarines, cheeses, yogurts, creams etc. etc. etc. The one milk that used to have all the needed nutrients is now a lot of by-products with the nutrients spread out and mostly lost in the process. Then it’s advertised that low fat and processed food is good for you. The company gets more money, and the people get more waste products. People need to eat more biomass to feel content and even that is an illusion made by added chemicals.

In Thailand the street food portions are small, but always enough. Every time you eat you feel like you get what you need. There’s no processing, no advertising and no need for all the civilised mumbo-jumbo. Eating nutritious food makes you feel content from a small amount. Your body only needs what it needs and thats it. No extra is needed. This can be seen in every other part of life as well.

In the east the people who eat street food smile and help each other without the need to get anything extra. Some don’t even have houses and they’re happy. There doesn’t seem to be the mentality where ‘I need to be better than my neighbour’. This doesn’t seem to be the case in the west.

Which is more important, to be happy, or to be wealthy?

In the west everything must grow all the time. Houses need to get bigger, cars need to be faster, economy needs to grow, technology must go forward and plates need to filled with excessive shit. People don’t seem to get what they want even though they have more and more and more and still more. Nothing seems to be enough. Inflation keeps growing and people feel they have less and less and less. Less is more in the east, more is less in the west.

So let’s go back to this empowerment thing. To be empowered is to be content, so you can live life with freedom from the need to make yourself content. Hmmm. I need to write that again.

‘Freedom from the need to make yourself content’. Interesting.

Lets look at freedom. In the west when you can support yourself financially you have money and you are well off. Money gives you freedom to do what you want. Freedom to buy food, freedom to buy wellbeing, freedom to buy this and buy that and buy all the things that you think you need to live life happy. So in the western logic money is freedom. But whats the price of this money-freedom?

To get money (Freedom) you need to get it from someplace, usually someone. So following logic, you need to take someone else’s Freedom to get some Freedom for yourself, because Freedom doesn’t grow on trees you know. When you earn yourself some Freedom, the taxman wants some for himself so that he can share your Freedom with others who aren’t so well off as you. And as we all know, all of our Freedom is slowly climbing up the ladder to the 1% that controls everyones Freedom.

In the eastern philosophy content comes from all the things that money cannot buy. Content comes from health, peace of mind and most of all from Family. In the east Family is such a big thing that its not just your relatives, but the community around you, even the strangers that come across your way. They have no homes for the elderly where grandparents die of loneliness. There they take care of each other from beginning to end and the new beginning.

Now let’s look at empowerment from the medical point of view. In the west when you are not healthy you get a pill. This again gives you the illusion of being well. In the east when a medical man diagnoses a patient, they correct their diet. They know that there’s a reason why the term ‘you are what you eat’ has been around for thousands of years. Your body needs nutrients to be able to do what it does. And let’s just be clear that nutrients ARE NOT the same as calories!!

In the west they have found surgery and again, the pill. The body is not given the chance to fix itself because that would be bad for business. In the east medical people have found acupuncture, qi gong, tai chi, martial arts, yoga and all of these physical things help nutrients buzz around your body so that the body can do what it does best, fix itself.

Don’t get this wrong. Western medical science is fantastic when the shit hits the fan, but the money men have realised it into a business. And making money out of healing means you have to convince people that they can’t heal themselves. This is plain bullshit.

Empowerment. Taking control of your own life. Do what you can to be all that you can be. Support yourself.

Everyone, and I mean everyone has a built in support system called the skeletal structure. It is designed to support the weight of your body and actually the weight of your world as well (Your world, and the way you see it, is actually your mind). The better your skeletal structure supports you, the less muscle work is needed. The less muscle work, the less energy you use, and the less stress gets put on you mind and body. This is a huge part of empowerment.

Jorgos Supporting Family Photo: Lotta Pitkänen

Jorgos Supporting Family
Photo: Lotta Pitkänen

Mind effects body and vice-versa. Tension in the body makes tension in your thoughts, and tension in your thoughts makes tension in your body. So the term of the day is ‘let go’. Let go of your tensions. Let go of your presumptions, let go of your fears, let go of your hopes and dreams, let go of everything. What you have left after letting go is true freedom.

Freedom from yourself, from your thoughts from your tensions. This freedom allows you to have everything. It allows you to do anything you want and to be everything you ever wanted to be and more. When you let go, nothing, and I mean nothing, changes, except your view of the world and the way you feel about things. Don’t limit yourself because you’re used to it. Learn to trust yourself. Learn to trust other and learn to trust life. Circus.

Circus is family. Circus is eating right. Circus is qi gong, tai chi, yoga and everything else all put together. Circus is getting to know who you are, mind and body. Circus is a way of life. Its a way to get to know what your mind and body needs. Its a way to live without boundaries.

Circus teaches you to be more than you ever thought you could be. It teaches you trust in your support system i.e. trust in yourself, your family and life. You learn to be content without needing anything extra, because you already have all that you need. Nature gives us everything we need to live life in content. We don’t need to make ourselves content. We are content if we want to be content.

Here’s Freddy summing it up:

Circus, street food and the will to live, is empowerment. Let yourself be empowered, don’t try and make yourself empowered. Let us all be winners.

Frogs, Caterpillars and Smiles – BKK street kitchen vol. 1

Finally we are here!

Warm, smiling Thailand. A few days getting used to jet lag and getting adjusted to local life. We arrived on Friday the 13th with no problems what so ever. On the contrary we had the best of luck. I guess with a positive attitude, you attract positive things.

In Helsinki we were late for the check in. Less than 1 hour till the flight left and the women at the counter were afraid that our luggage will not make in onto the plane. No worries we said. Our luggage will make it on the plane or then it won’t, but don’t stress we said.

In the end our plane was broken and they needed to fix it so our flight was delayed for an hour. No fault of anybody. I guess others thought its Friday the 13th and we thought Thank God It’s Friday, the 13th.

Upon arriving at Suvarnabhumi International to our surprise we were greeted with two tickets to the Immigration pace lane, and a quick lane for children. Immigration was over in 7 minutes. Pyry’s bag was the first to come onto the conveyer belt and the others followed soon after. Never has immigration and baggage claim gone so quickly. And the warm hug that Thailand gives when you walk out the airport is amazing.

Now it’s been two days in Bangkok and we’ve been checking out many of the street food places and comparing them to the non-street food restaurants. We’ve had many nice dishes and some not so nice dishes. One really good dish was fried frog (the recipe will soon be on www.tuktuktravellers.com. We will tell you when we get it started)

Photo: Pyry Kääriä

Flied Flogs
Photo: Pyry Kääriä

Swapping between street food stall and restaurant quickly shows you the differences. Street food is by far better food for less money. Cheap restaurants are mostly for tourists who are afraid to eat street food or for people who want ‘Thai food’ made for western taste. Their food doesn’t taste fresh since they have a fridge and they keep food for the next day. They need to pay rent so the ingredient are chosen with money in mind. Expensive restaurants are better quality fresher food but they need to have some special fusion recipes and an expensive interior so they can justify the price. In short, more expensive means less taste for money and nicer materials around while you eat.

Street food on the other hand is always fresh because it has to be. There is no fridge, just ice to keep food cool. Every morning they get fresh ingredients from the market because yesterdays have been eaten (otherwise they would go bad). They pay no rent so they need not shimmy up the price. The food is made for local people with local taste, so the price is right and the food tastes the way it should! They buy the food with people in mind, not money in mind.

And about atmosphere, street food stalls are for the local community where everybody knows each other and takes care of each other. Everyone is seen and accepted as a person and nobody is seen as potential for money. This feels great in the modern world where people have become numbers. And when you add this to the thai love for children, you get the perfect experience with the family.

Yesterday Juho and his wife got to eat in peace because a homeless man played with their child leaving them free to eat. The man even shared his fruits with the kid and fried caterpillars with the adults and didn’t want anything in return. Sharing the moment with someone and being allowed to play with a child was enough of a joyful experience for him. He had a mohawk and was missing the front teeth but he was a super nice charismatic man with a super nice charismatic smile.

And for those who are thinking about an upset stomach. Millions of people eat street food everyday, and I have never heard of anyone actually getting sick from it. People that make food for their community care about the food. They have the same people eating everyday and bad food is not an option.

So if you want to taste true Thai food, don’t go to a restaurant. Pop by a street food stall and enjoy food made with love for people. It’s always served with a smile. This is what we aspire to bring with us back to Finland 😀