Blog Post #2
It’s 6 am and I’m waking up to the sound of my neighbor’s rooster. For the first time, it’s not jarring, but a familiar part of my mornings. With a few more days until school starts, I am trying to keep busy by exploring Ban Fon and the surrounding towns. It feels refreshing to actually have a plan for my day and I get ready to head off to meet my new friend.
Yesterday evening on my sunset bike ride, I explored a little further than usual and ended up in a more remote area of town. The air was finally cooling off as the sun lowered behind the trees and I found myself at a small dirt road. My first instinct was to turn around, as it was unclear where it led and I knew it would be dark soon. Then I remembered that I promised to leap out of my comfort zone this year. I peddled on and passed by a beautiful property with tropical fruit trees and lots of pottery lying around. I decided to turn back and wandered around the grounds for a bit, unsure if trespassing is an offense in Thailand. On my walk through the property, I met P’Pisan who runs what I learned to be Lampang’s main ceramic co-op and learning center. Through a mix of broken Thai and English, I managed to ask him if he would be my teacher and give me a lesson in Thai ceramics. I was delighted when he asked me to come back the next morning to learn.
So I woke with excitement for plans to see my new friend. In the past week, I had struggled to socialize with my limited Thai skills and I was eager to connect with somebody over a shared interest. I made sure to bring lots of fruits along to offer in gratitude for the time he devoted to me. I was happy to see he hadn’t forgotten when I arrived, and that the learning center was already bustling with people cleaning and decorating pots.
P’Pisan and I sat at a table overlooking the garden as he showed me how to make a coil pot. My three-week crash course in Thai didn’t prepare me with vocabulary about ceramics or art methods so we used a lot of translating apps to communicate. P’Pisan seemed to become more comfortable speaking English with me as we spent more time together and likewise, I felt ready to use my limited Thai for the first time since arriving in Ban Fon. He told me about the students and teachers who come from all over Northern Thailand to learn about art and ceramics at this learning center. I showed him photos of ceramic work that I had done my first semester of college and felt so happy to be creating something again.
After I finished my sloppy-looking coil pot, P’Pisan showed me how to use a slip cast mold to make a cup. It was so fun to operate the machinery and feel like I had control over the finished product. While we waited for the cups to dry enough to decorate, we shared the fruits I brought as I showed him photos of my friends and family back home. Afterward, we went on a walk to his office/bungalow where he had all of his paintings and ceramic works on display. He showed me little ceramic pots that his children made for him, too. Once the break was done, we started decorating the molded cups I had made. I was happy to be using typical potters’ tools and also some unique to the area; one was a stamp made from a dried out passionfruit.
Before leaving, we made plans for me to come back in a few weeks when it was time to glaze my pieces before the final kiln fire. P’Pisan used the translate app to tell me he was happy we are friends and invited me to visit whenever I wanted to make ceramics. As I biked back to Ban Fon, I reflected on how grateful I was to have made a connection with someone new. I’ve realized that in order to survive socially here, I need to strip away my notions of “normal” interactions for the United States. Back home, I would have never wandered onto a stranger’s property or made friends with a middle-aged man. I realized I had spent half my day with this man whose language I didn’t speak, and loved every minute of it. I so am grateful for P’Pisan’s generosity and look forward to learning more from him this year.