Eye-Opening Moments are real-life stories of adversity, encounters, and perspectives. In this episode, you will hear about a moment of adversity called The Unspoken Voice, a moment of an encounter called An Unexpected Connection, and a moment of a perspective called In Search of Peace and Happiness, Part II.
Comments or questions are welcomed on Twitter @emilykaytan OR on my website.
Hello and welcome to Episode #46 of Eye-Opening Moments where you’ll hear real-life stories of adversity, encounters, and perspectives. They are moments that can lift your spirits, give you some food for thought, or move you. For the introspective mind that likes to reflect, discover, and find solutions or meaning in a complex life, this is for you. I’m your host Emily Kay Tan. In this episode, you will hear about The Unspoken Voice, An Unexpected Connection, and In Search of Happiness, Part II.
A moment of adversity called: The Unspoken Voice
He wanted to say I like you, but he didn’t. Maybe he was afraid it would not be reciprocated. She tried to say it too, but she wasn’t sure how he felt. Not knowing led to doubts and the eventual dissolution of the relationship.
He wanted to ask her out on a date, but she avoided him when he appeared to approach her about it. She didn’t know how to reject him nicely, she didn’t want to hurt his feelings, and many words were left unsaid. Eventually, the friendship ceased with no communication.
She was angry at her friend for not taking the time to get together after being countries apart for years. She didn’t communicate the anger and ended up severing the friendship.
He was a friend, and then he hit on her; it made her uncomfortable, and she didn’t say anything about it. She distanced herself from the friendship and eventually disappeared from his life.
Her mom never explained why she didn’t keep in contact with her daughter since she was a child, so they never had much of a relationship.
She called her siblings, but they rarely called her. She got tired of always initiating conversations, stopped calling, and no one ever called her again.
Her boss promised her a promotion. She waited for over a year; the boss didn’t mention it again, and she didn’t ask about it. After a while, she didn’t want the job anymore and the trust between the two dissipated.
We all have a voice, but sometimes we choose not to use it to communicate our true feelings or what we think. You might be afraid to say something for fear of rejection or hurting someone. You might say you couldn’t find the right time to say something. You could be self-righteous and say why should you have to initiate the communication. You might be fearful of the possible reaction, answer, or result of speaking your voice. There are so many instances where we don’t say what we want for one reason or another. The unspoken voices become unheard communications.
Unspoken voices leave an uneasy or unexpressed feeling that could leave trace remains inside your mind and clog it up. Sometimes, even if the voices speak, the result may not clear things up and can even make things worse! However, one is left to wonder, create stories, and imagine the worst without the spoken voice. And feeling suppressed and troubled can linger and disturb the mind in reflection or memories.
If you don’t speak your mind, what are you left with? Without full self-expression, you could be left with all the stories you made up about a situation. They are only stories you created; they are not facts. Along with your stories are your emotions felt from your self-designed accounts.
If you do speak your mind, what could happen? There could be relief in knowing it was good news. There could be upset in knowing it was bad news. You could face reality and move on. There are too many possibilities for what could happen as the mind has a great imagination.
To speak or not to speak, you have a choice. Let it be one that will help you move forward, or drop it and free yourself from the itch caught in your throat!
A moment of an encounter called: An Unexpected Connection
Janine and Ray, a husband and wife couple, were avid churchgoers. I was not. We didn’t seem to have anything in common. So, how did I come to connect with these incredibly kind-hearted people?
Cousin Eason moved into town and was looking for a church to join. He knew I had no interest in going to church, but he asked anyway. Finally, after a number of invitations, I agreed to go with him to check out yet another church. Why? I suppose he found a way to get me to go! He knew I loved learning a foreign language and told me he found a church conducting services in a foreign language.
I heard joyful singing as we entered. I saw screens on the left and right sides of the stage. It had words for people to follow along and sing. I was ecstatic because I love karaoke singing! Soon the pastor appeared to give his talks. He was like a professional storyteller telling stories relating religion to daily life. He was most animated and captivating. I enjoyed the foreign language, karaoke singing, storytelling, and public speaking. They were all things of passion for me. I enjoyed myself so much that I felt guilty about being there because I am not religious. I believe that there are spirits somewhere, but I was not a churchgoer.
Cousin Eason was the serious churchgoer who probably wanted me to be a part of something important to him. Soon after the services, he looked for Bible study groups hoping to have me join. Eason found one near my neighborhood for me. He didn’t pressure me. But I agreed to go because the people in the group were friendly and kind. Importantly, I’d get to practice more of the foreign language, which was my passion.
I met Janine and Ray from this Bible study group. They are two of the nicest people I have ever met. I went to their house every week for Bible study for six months. I enjoyed the language practice, the socializing, and being with them.
Despite spending so much time with them, I never became religious. However, the friendship did go beyond the Bible study schedule. Janine and Ray were a most unexpected connection. One time, they invited Eason and me to go cherry-picking with their family of four. Another time, they had a Thanksgiving gathering with friends after the holiday to celebrate the holidays and my birthday. How could I not go with a birthday cake waiting for me on the day of my birthday! It was unbelievable because my own family never even did that for me. Their kindness touched me.
I didn’t have anything in common with Janine and Ray, yet they treated me like family. It felt a bit odd, but they gave me a warm feeling. I enjoyed being around them; I felt good around them. Perhaps they intuitively sensed that I wanted family, and they gifted it to me.
In less than a year, I moved abroad and was surprisingly sad to part with them. I so enjoyed Janine and Ray’s warmth, care, and consideration. To my surprise, they invited me over for a farewell dinner. They were around my age, but I wish I had parents like them! Though there did not seem to be a connection, I was drawn to them because they gave me a sense of family that I secretly and desperately wanted.
After a year of working abroad, Janine called me to inform me that she and her daughter would be in Asia for a summer vacation. She said she would like to drop by for a visit since the country where they would visit relatives was not far from mine. I could not believe that Janine thought of me and would come to see me. We were not close friends, yet with the Pacific Ocean between us, she’d fly over and stop by to visit me. My relatives or friends wouldn’t even do that! Her actions and thoughtfulness were beyond measure.
Who could have guessed that you could connect with people even when there seemed to be no commonality. Thinking about Janine and Ray warms my heart to know that I was so fortunate to have had this unexpected encounter.
A moment of a perspective called: In Search of Peace and Happiness, Part II
Craving for that exceptional experience, longing for that peace and joy at the same time, I yearned to return to Bhutan a second time. I would not be a tourist this time because there is only one tour schedule when you are a tourist in Bhutan, and I certainly didn't want to hike the high-altitude mountains again. No, thank you! This time I would be a volunteer in their educational system. I didn't particularly want to do that, but it was a way to get back into Bhutan. Since my first trip, I have read some books about Buddhism. I wanted to understand another way of being and how or why it felt peaceful in Bhutan with most Buddhists. I was planning a spiritual journey, unusual for someone with no religious faith. One concept in Buddhism, as I know, is that happiness comes from giving unto others. Volunteerism is one way. So, to practice that on a large scale, I decided to teach in a volunteer program that would allow foreigners to stay a month to teach in their schools.
Why was I not particularly looking forward to doing that? Just Eight months earlier, I resigned from my teaching career because I had become disillusioned with it. It was a career I loved for over twenty years, but now I didn't love it anymore. Looking at today's generation, the children of today, especially teenagers, I'm disgusted. They don't seem to care about anything except their cell phones, social media, and technology. Any information they want, they can google it. They have no desire to listen or learn from the teacher because they can get all their data or knowledge from the internet. They have no regard for other people's feelings in real life; they are too immersed in social media and texting to communicate with others. That's just my take on today's kids.
My teaching career in the USA had ended on a negative note. Looking at the opportunity to teach in Bhutan, I hoped to complete my teaching career on a positive note. I was guessing and hoping that the children in Bhutan would be different. After all, Bhutan is such a different world. Before arriving in Bhutan for the second time, I learned that I would teach in a high school. I thought, goodness, my last teaching position was in a Los Angeles high school. It was the worst experience of my entire teaching career because of the teenage attitudes and behavior I described earlier. I could only hope that the high school kids in Bhutan were different.
Upon arriving in Thailand, the transfer point before Bhutan, I approached the ticket counter to check in. To my surprise, the ticket agent knew I was an expected guest of Bhutan. Bhutan must first learn of the foreigner's purpose of travel through their visa type. Upon arriving in Bhutan for the second time, it was fun to see that as people exited the plane, the first thing they'd be doing was taking pictures of the building where they'd collect their luggage. Already, you sense a leisurely way of being. Get off the airplane, take your time, take some pictures of the Bhutanese-style building. It is unique looking, so you have that urge to take some pictures of it. Then you see the mountains all around. That is unique to see them so close to the small airport that you have to take pictures. You can't wait until later, because you won't get the chance to see it again until you leave. Since the airport is so tiny, it is effortless to get your luggage and find your way out.
More than anything else, you see mountains and mountains everywhere. My first stop was Thimphu, considered a big city in Bhutan because here is where you'll see some stores and restaurants. My host to the volunteer program brought me to buy a couple of kiras. It is the national dress, the style of clothing that is like a uniform that you must wear at work and official or important events for all the locals. It would look like something you might wear to a party in the USA, but it is a national uniform in Bhutan with its unique style. I was excited to wear this Kira I had never worn before. First, you go to a fabric shop, choose the fabric for your skirt that will fall to the ground, and choose the material for your top jacket.
Next, you go to the tailor's shop to get your skirt and top jacket made. It is wrapped around you twice and hooked on the side to keep it up for the skirt. For me, it feels strange to wear it because the wrap around starts high above your waist. I feel like my stomach is all wrapped up like a baby bundled up. Then the skirt is straight, not flared, so walking is not as comfortable as I'd like to feel. The top jacket has loose sleeves, with the bottom of the sleeves folded up to just below your elbows. There are no buttons. You need a pin to hold the two collar flaps or sides together. It all looks nice, but trust me, walking in pants is way more comfortable than walking in long skirts.
For men, the national dress looks like a robe that goes up to the knees, and they wear socks up to their knees. The style for each gender is the same, but the fabric may be different for each person. This kind of clothing has been worn for over one hundred years in Bhutan with little change since its beginning. Tradition appears to be well-respected and followed. This way of dress and seeing it everywhere gives me the feeling of national unity and a sense that they are all connected in a common bond.
Paro and the Chelela Pass were the next passing stop, where the highest point is. You can see the Bhutan mountains to the Himilayan mountains at this location. What a sight it is to see. These enormous mountain ranges can't help but make you realize what small space you occupy on this earth and the massive mass of landforms there are in front of you. They are rocky, sharp, rugged, and massively sturdy as you stand there. You feel the strong winds that could blow you away, and you feel the mountains that stand strong and tall.
After the Chelela Pass, I arrive in Haa Valley, where I reside for a month to volunteer to teach at a high school. With mountains surrounding the small town, there are only several dozen buildings in the valley. The hills look soft because they are full of trees, like Christmas trees. The mountain tops are round and gradually slope down, one mountain after another. There may be a space between each mountain slope; massive scenes of clouds and some sky color of blue would fill the area. Some mountains do not slope down quickly but look horizontal with trees lined up side by side across at the top. Behind each mountain are other mountains. They look like gray shadows, and the third layer of mountains behind the ones in the forefront have snow at the top.
At the foot of one set of mountains, a narrow river-like brook is where you can see rocks through the clear water flow. The river is behind a row of small general stores, hardware stores, and restaurants. There is even a pathway constructed to walk along the river. If you didn't want to walk it, you could go up some stairs to a short suspension bridge; look down to the river in front of you or behind you. You can also look up to see mountains all around you. It is such a beautiful scene that you cannot help but stand there and admire the beauty. But more than that, a joyous feeling comes across me as I observe all this surrounding me. It's incredible how one can feel happy by looking at the scenery. It is pretty quiet and serene. Taking pictures doesn't seem to do the scenes justice because more captivating than the view is how it makes you feel: calm, content, and enchanted.
Under a spell, it is easy to overlook the unsmooth roads with gravel and bumps, the cold cement walls and poorly lit stores, and the dirt and litter scattered around. The roads have no dividing lines to separate the directions in which drivers are going. They don't even seem to design the roads for two cars going in opposite directions simultaneously. I suppose this is because there aren't too many drivers to warrant having dividing lines. So when two vehicles are driving in the opposite direction and about to pass each other, one car will stop at the side of the road while the other vehicle will narrowly pass by. With so much sand and gravel on the ground while riding in a car is no fun. It is bumpy and unenjoyable, but if you are busy looking out the window at the majestic mountains everywhere, you can momentarily forget the discomfort.
I am off to school with just a skip, hop, and jump away. The hallways are made of concrete cement from walls to floors to ceilings. Passing through feels cold. The classroom walls and ceilings are concrete cement. Again, you feel cold. The floors are wood planks, not sanded down or glued together, so there are no spaces between them. Some areas even have holes from the wood. I almost fell into one! The desks are wooden, looking at least 50 years with chipped uneven corners. The legs of the desks are of thin steel; they too look like they've been used for at least 50 years and look like they could collapse at any time. They don't look sturdy. The chairs are the same, too.
Doors to the classrooms are of thicker wood, but they creak. They are chipped, unpainted, and have no layer of protection. Being so old, they look like they could collapse with one kung fu kick. The only thing in the classrooms that may be worth anything are the projectors mounted from the ceilings. But I don't think anybody will take anything as this is just not how people are in this country.
Steps to other floors may be wooden or cement. Many steps are half the length I am used to seeing. It must be that I have big feet, size eight, and I cannot put my whole foot down on a step. I often worry that I will fall down the stairs as they are so small, and I am wearing a Kira that includes a long straight skirt that passes my ankles. Because I was careful and walked slow, there were no accidents. The steps, the classrooms, the hallways are all similar to the not many stores around. They all seem made the same way.
Whether at a school or a store, you find lightbulbs with a wire or cord hung from the ceiling with no covers or designs unused during the day. The light shines through the windows. It is often not enough light, but it would have to do. There is warmth despite all the coldness emitting from concrete cement walls indoors and in the outdoor hallways. With the tiny amount of light coming through windows into dim classrooms when you walk into a classroom full of high school-age children, it is surprising that you will find a face full of smiles on me.
I even feel light, like there is no burden, no stress. And I am in rooms of about 35 teenagers at once. How is that possible? When I walk in, students stand up to greet the teacher and show respect. Students then sit down. Without giving a signal, students are already at attention listening to the teacher. I am talking, all are listening, and no one is interrupting. I teach and give directions; they listen and follow instructions. When they work in small groups, they whisper to each other and cooperate. The walls are cold, but the teenage smiles of innocence warm my heart. This scene is a teacher's dream come true. Indeed, it is real in Bhutan. My desire to end my teaching career on a positive note came true in Bhutan.
Now, note that the well-behaved students are no accident. It is a national commitment to teaching students to respect teachers and anyone in a position of authority. Students have an assembly every morning. And every morning, they pray in their Buddhist faith. They sing the national anthem. A student, teacher, or principal gives a short talk, reminders on conducts of behavior. This assembly could include speeches about attitude, guarding the mind against negativity, leadership, optimism, taking care of the property, being responsible for oneself, taking charge and not waiting for others to take the lead, emotional intelligence. With daily reminders of their faith, patriotism, moral conduct, and given leadership responsibilities to take care of their school environment, it is no wonder the students are a dream to work with, and importantly, they too look happy and light.
The school of 600 students doesn't need janitors because they are responsible for cleaning the school and keeping things in order. They don't need hall monitors because they have learned the codes of conduct and are reminded daily in one way or another. In one assembly, the principal said, "You are responsible. I cannot be in every nook and corner to see you. You need to mind your behavior. When you see someone not doing something right, you need to say something, care for others, and be a leader. You need to be a leader of yourself; you need to be responsible for yourself. And you need to help others to be responsible, too." Standing there, in the line of teachers, facing the 600 students on the grass field, I too am reminded that I am responsible for my behaviors and thoughts.
Key Takeaways: Though the unspoken voice does not speak, it speaks from the inside and only heard on the inside. Whether you speak or not speak, it is a choice; choose the one that will help you move forward.
Though I didn’t seem to have anything in common with a husband-and-wife couple, they gave me a warm feeling of family. You never know who you may encounter and could make a difference for you.
Though I was in Bhutan at a school with cold walls and hallways made of cement, I was warmed by high school student smiles, kindness, and responsible behavior!
Next week, you will hear three new real-life stories called The Inside Voice, The Many Faces of Like and Love, and In Search of Happiness III. If you enjoyed this episode of Eye-Opening Moments, please share it with others, subscribe or click like on Youtube, support the show by clicking on the link in the description, or go to www.inspiremereads.com and leave a message. Thank you for listening!