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The Little Things

The Little Things

So I’ve been reading some Thich Nhat Hanh recently for my religion class with Fr. Julio, and to tell the truth it is quite interesting. One of the things the book mentions is to live in the moment and enjoy the little things. Instead of worrying about the future or dwelling in the past, be mindful of the present. Mindful living helps to relieve stress. This isn’t saying do random things spontaneously, but it is saying to live in the moment, because that makes the moment more meaningful than being absent minded. So I the past week before my trip to Cambodia, I’ve tried to practice this along with meditative breathing exercises, and I feel a lot more calm than usual, probably because usually I’m always planning ahead/worrying about the future. With my mindful exercise I did two things: do laundry and dance in the rain.

I had been putting off doing laundry for some time. It was high time I did it, because I was running low on clean clothes, and to recycle clothes was not an option. I was thinking about taking my clothes to a nearby shop, but then I read a line from The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching which said something along the lines of, “Every chore done should not be done with monotony, because that chore is a miracle. Every moment is a miracle because you are simply alive. So breath deeply and rejoice for every dish you wash or floor you scrub.” With that, I put my book down and walked over to my overflowing hamper. “It is time” I thought to myself. I picked up the hamper and waked into the bathroom carefully (the first day I walked in casually and slipped because the bathroom is always wet because there is no separate shower, just a showerhead a few feet from the toilet and sink). I walked up to the large green bucket under the dripping faucet under the showerhead and began to run the water. As the water flowed I took the bag of detergent from atop the toilet and sprinkled some in. A few moments later I turned off the faucet and looked at the full bucket. The water reflecting my image amidst bubbles would not last long. It was time to get dirty.
I poured my clothes in from the hamper to the bucket and then ripped off my tshirt to join the mix. Now bare-chested I sat cross-legged on the floor and plunged my hands into the bucket and began to slosh around joyfully. About halfway through Nghiem came home from his class and approached me in the bathroom, “Do you want my help?” “Sure,” I said and gestured him to come over. He sat down and I sprung up, “I have an idea”, I walked over to my laptop and put on some American 80’s pop music. After that the laundry dance party commenced. Nghiem and I washed, wrung, rewashed, slapped, mashed, and hung a large amount of laundry while belting out vocals to high for us and bobbing with synth beats. It was so much fun. Bubbles flew and dirt was pounded and thrashed from clothes that had endured blistering days in Ho Chi Minh city and rural Viet Nam. Taking a simple chore and making it fun. Celebrating the mundane. I’m glad to have been reading that book, otherwise I wouldn’t have had this experience and would probably be sitting in stinky clothes.

My second instance of living in the moment was dancing in the rain. It went a little something like this:

It was only a few days before we would depart for Cambodia. It was a hot and lazy afternoon. Classes were over for the day and I had already visited Green Bamboo shelter. Most folks were sitting around. Nghiem and I were out on the upper lobby balcony reading: I was reading more about Buddhism and he was reading cultural anthropology (in English mind you). Between the two of us we were sharing a dragonfruit and some rice crackers. We were happily reading when Robbie came up the stairs, his shirt a little wet. “Is it raining?” I asked with a puzzled face. Sure there had been some breezes foretelling a storm, but that had happened so many days in a row followed by no rain I felt like the people in the boy who cried wolf story. It hadn’t rained yet in Vietnam and because it was still the dry season, I didn’t have much hope. However Robbie responded, “Yeah it was raining over near Koto (his volunteer organization), and its heading this way.” He walked past us and Nghiem as I looked excitedly at each other. It was going to rain. We both had smiles on our faces as we rushed back to our room to put away our things in preparation for the rain.
As I was putting away my books, my mind drifted away to India. Last summer during my stay in India was dominated by the dry season. I was living in Jaipur which is on the edge of India and Pakistan’s Great Thar Desert. Only in the last few weeks did the rain come, and when it came did it feel good. I remember the first rain in India. Boy was it special. It was an ordinary hot dry day and my Hindi classes had finished. I was sitting around Raja park at the local thread store run by two Hindu brothers Ramesh and Suresh, and helped by their attendant Faizal Khan, a seventeen year old Muslim from nearby Ajmer. I was practicing my Hindi and listening to a Punjabi MC song drifting over from a nearby barber shop. Suddenly, a fierce wind whipped up the sand and then the rain began to fall in huge sheets. Without even thinking, I ran out from the shop’s awning and began to dance in the rain in the middle of the street as camels and pedestrians ran for cover. My kurta became soaked and stuck to my body but I kept dancing. I kicked off my shoes and danced in the muddy sand. It was complete bliss. I hadn’t felt rain in months, so I extended my arms and just danced around. Just when I had had enough, Faizal threw me the key to unlock his bicycle. In a heartbeat I was on that sucker and peddled barefoot up an down the deserted streets as the rain kept beating down. I threw up my legs and yelled out whoops of joy as I sloshed threw puddles. I felt like a child. The store attendants smiled, holed up in their shops. It was such a great moment. Something I will not forget in my lifetime.

But back to the present! Live in the moment, right? So I snapped back from Jaipur and threw on some shorts. I ran back down the stairs as the rains began to roll in. The other American students cheered as thunder clapped and lighting hit the sky. Leon, a CIE student, asked, “First Viet Nam rain?” All the Loyola students replied with a resounding, “Yes!” “I can tell. It’s an experience huh?”
Everyone was gathering at the balcony to watch the rain. Within minutes the power went out and Ho Chi Minh City went dark. It was a cool feeling. But enough with watching, I had to go dance. Monica, a Cambodian-American, Emily, a Chinese-Americam, and myself ran out into the rain and began to dance around, hop up and down, and slosh in puddles. It was great. Like Jaipur, I lost myself in the moment and just smiled in the rain, something I take for granted back stateside, but something to be valued in pre-monsoon season Asia. Gabe, another Loyola student soon joined us and we continued to dance in the downpour. I had a big smile on my face. It was so nice to have all that water just pouring over everything, to hear the thunder rumble, and see the Vietnamese enjoy watching us silly Americans making fools out of ourselves. But hey it was worth it. Soon the other Americans grew tired and went to go dry off, but I kept going. I left the alley and went out onto the main street where traffic was at a standstill and the street vendors had disappeared. I ran up and down, with the cool water falling over my body, arms outstretched and head cocked towards the heavens. Vietnamese students across the street in the University smiled and waved. The little things in life can be the best. You don’t need fancy things if you can find joy in life’s simple things, like rain or doing laundry. Everything we have is a miracle from God, so love the little things. Life is a gift, one that won’t last forever. Don’t let precious time slip by, live in the moment. Be PRESENT! So next time it rains, consider dancing, and when you can, share a smile!

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