Giving & the Origin of Condo Srisuwan

A for-sale sign is posted in a widow of the condominium building

In February 2017, our group of friends began to look into the rental market. We had been informally surveying locations in various parts of Bangkok. But we were most interested in the area around Lad Phrao, as it is our home neighborhood and we are partial to its qualities. Initially, giving was not our intention. But we were looking to do something special with the money we had for investment.

That’s when we came across the Condo Srisuwan residential area, a complex of five buildings, five stories tall each, just set off the road with a parking lot in front. Giving a call to the number of an advertised condo, an older woman picked up the phone. She became one of the many Aunties that we have the pleasure of knowing here in Thailand – and her story is one worth sharing.

The Auntie (and Uncle) Story

Auntie is 60 years old now. She had been a government worker, and her husband was an engineer. Throughout their marriage they both worked, but never had children of their own. Of the early investments they made, the Auntie used 600 baht from her own salary to pay for the loan she took to purchase Condo Srisuwan. Over time, she and her husband increased their residential assets. They had continued to rent out the condo to people, but as the Auntie became older, she was not longer looking to care for the condo, which naturally involved managing the unreliable renters.

The door entering into the condo - number 9/386. A large blue bolt locks the outside of the door, and there are stickers decorating.

Giving to Auntie

We met her once to look at the condo and agreed to move forward with purchasing from her. Auntie told us that others had contacted her to purchase the condo, but they tried to lower the price. She didn’t want to lower it, so she did not sell to them.

“Keep it simple,” she had said.

We decided that we could help her. In our conversations, we discussed what it would be like if we were her. She was older already, and was hoping to reduce her burdens.

What would we want if we were in her shoes?

As women, we all nodded and agreed: we would buy it from her, at her stated price. This is how the basis of the decision to buy turned away from focus on the condominium itself. We were convinced of the story of Auntie, and it became a chance to help her.

A habit: give meets give

To start, we gave a deposit of 5,000 baht.

Shortly after we sent her the deposit money, she called us to tell us of her intentions for the money from the condo sale. She said that on the day the Condo was purchased, she would give 10,000 baht of the money to Siriraj Hospital (the location of Mahidol University’s Faculty of Medicine in Bangkok) . Quite impressed and happy with her intentions, we joined her in her donations, and gave her 2000 baht to give to Siriraj Hospital for us.

After a week, we had processed the paperwork and gave the remaining money to the Auntie for the condo. Not long, Auntie called us again to inform us that she she did not just give 10,000, but she gave the remaining balance of her earnings from the condo to Siriraj Hospital.

Auntie explained that she and her husband were retired with no children, and they already had other real estate investments. This gave them more than they needed. In fact, giving to the hospital was something they had done for many years now. Whatever was extra, they would give it. They had given so frequently that the Auntie’s name is in a placard posted on hospital donations wall.

The special thing about this older couple is that their giving is a habit. Auntie and her husband have not just been giving to Siriraj Hospital, but they give elsewhere as well. She told us of how they send money to children in need – they have separate relationships with six children, and support them with monthly allowances.

They give until it is second nature for them – it is easy for them.

Give first and you will get.

In addition, Auntie and her husband have never had difficulty financially. They enjoy traveling abroad when they can, and have been to Europe and United States. The husband was an engineer for the motorway that was constructed from Bangkok to Pattaya, and now they could live easily on his retirement alone. They also keep an orchard for fruit in eastern Thailand. They give what they can and are happy for the opportunity. Their habit seems to leave them with a comfortable life, their generosity returning to them consistently.

We can each practice to give – give what we can. We gave the Auntie and her husband ease of mind – to be able to sell the condo at their stated price. In turn, they used the money for public benefit. Instead of seeing the purchase of this condo as an exchange, we had thought from the beginning to give. From here, more opportunities to give arose.

An important lesson we learned from this story is that our intention is the foundation of everything. Whether we think to give or think to take, this comes from within our own mind. We can consider this before every transaction. In fact, it doesn’t have to be a transaction any more, but an opportunity to practice thinking of others and giving to others in a world where most of us give mostly to ourselves.Lotus flower turns into lotus seeds

 

The World Is Your Classroom

THE WORLD IS YOUR CLASSROOM

The world is the classroom and everyone learns through their own selves and their own life experiences.

Everything is connected. You can learn from everything.

There is no need to separate and categorize knowledge into subjects.

Be open to it all.

Be Interested

Be curious about things you see and hear, all of the things around you, anything you find along your path.

If you are truly interested, you will be able to put your heart into learning.

If you’re not interested in what’s right in front of you, then what else are you busy with?

Be interested because… you never know when you will need to use the knowledge you have gained.

Oftentimes, we only give attention to the things that have value for us in the present moment.

But we never know when what we learn in the present will have value in the future.

Say, for example, you get a new baby niece or nephew. You have many opportunities to learn about taking care of a baby and about a baby’s development. But instead, you’re interested in your own personal matters and don’t give much attention to learning how to take care of the baby. Then, one day, you have a baby of your own and it’s difficult to learn how to take care of a baby…Wouldn’t it have been easier to already have that knowledge in your knowledge bank, ready to be used and applied? Instead, we let knowledge grow and build up like a pile of old junk… We never use it and thus, it loses its value.

Be Open

Life is not like a test, but the way we live our lives will show whether we pass or fail.

If we know everything already, then why would life be difficult or tiring?

If we knew where to get money already, how to get to places we need to go, then we wouldn’t have to learn.

Do you know what you need to know to make your life succeed?

It is necessary to be open to everything if you want to survive in this world.

Learn

You can learn at any time.

Imagine someone comes to you selling lottery tickets, but you just buy some tickets because it makes you feel good.

You don’t ask where he is from, what he does, how the lottery works, etc.

This is a missed opportunity to gain knowledge.

Don’t miss those opportunities…

OBSERVE.

ASK QUESTIONS.

FIND THE ANSWER.

SEE THE TRUTH.

Be Present

Make each moment a learning opportunity.

Make the knowledge you have of value and use it to develop yourself and your life.

Real education is in your hands. It is up to you what you are going to do with your life.

The world is your classroom. What kind of student do you wish to be?

Attitude

What is attitude?

Attitude may be referred to as one’s mindset, or perspective, or way of thinking.

Why is attitude important?

Our attitude comes from our thinking.

It determines the way we think about things, speak, and act.

Our attitude becomes our identity, our character…It becomes deeply rooted in our habits.

Our attitude can determine our mood, how the course of our day goes, whether we think an experience is good or bad.

If we have a negative attitude, then we will see everything as bad or as a disappointment, an obstacle.

But if we have a positive mindset, no matter what we meet, we won’t be affected.

We will welcome obstacles and challenges, and see them as opportunities to develop and learn rather than blaming the world for sending them our way.

People says attitude is contagious.

Our attitude can infect others positively or negatively.

It is like an energy that we spread from our minds, and transmit to others.

What kind of attitude do we wish to give others?

We are the only ones responsible for our attitudes — not the things outside of us, or others, or our parents.

We are in complete control of shaping our attitudes.

And so, the important question we must ask ourselves is…

What kind of attitude do we want to carry with us through life?

Take good care of your attitude.

It is your greatest asset in developing and becoming the best version of yourself.

5 Life Lessons Learned from a Foreigner in Thailand

Learning Thai has opened up doorways of insight into Thai culture and a deeper understanding of what lies in the minds of Thai people. It has also revealed some important life lessons:

Life Lesson 1: Focus on the Mind

 

As a Westerner, I am used to hearing about the brain, but rarely about this deeper concept known as the mind. It’s common to hear Thai people referring to their จิตใจ (‘jit jai’), or heart. This word is a combination of ‘mind’ (jit) and ‘heart’ (jai).

You may hear Thai people saying that their ‘jit jai’ is ‘sabai’, or feeling at ease, content, not busy in the mind. When you ask them how they are feeling, they speak straight from the mind. They give importance to the mind, which is their leading force in life.

If your mind is happy, your life is happy.

If you change your mind, you change everything

 

 

Life Lesson 2: Give

Thai people are some of the most giving and hospitable people. Regardless of how much they have, they know how to give with a full heart and a big smile.

One example that stands out clearly in my mind was a trip south to Chumphon. In a matter of a few days, I experienced 3 situations that left me feeling the warmth of southern Thai hospitality…

1. On a visit to a temple, I happened upon a festival and a group of Thai aunties fed me a piece of cake from a larger cake that was for all of the temple visitors, as they taught me about the significance of the festival. They made sure everyone there received a piece.

2. One morning, sitting and having a traditional Thai breakfast, a group of older men came along – men that gather at this spot daily for morning (Thai traditional) coffee talks – and struck up a conversation, asking how foreigners feel when Thai people refer to them as ‘falang’. With their best efforts at English, they shared their perspectives, and when everyone was full and finished with breakfast, they insisted on paying our bill!

3. The next morning, eating breakfast, the head chef and Aunty owner  of a local curry shop happily gave a bundle of bananas from her farm.

 

Life Lesson 3:  Be Grateful

 

Aligned with the idea of giving is gratitude.

One pattern I have noticed after living here for some years is the respect and gratitude that Thai people show towards their parents. They regard their parents in the highest respect, as the givers of life and opportunities. You may find many children working and learning side-by-side with their parents, learning real life skills from a young age. In interviewing the children or adults at various restaurants, I find that it is not uncommon for people’s purpose in opening up a restaurant, or working, to help and give back to their parents. To return many of the favors their parents have done for them throughout their lives, whether by giving money, happiness, or comfort back to their parents. When chatting with one of the owners at Raan Mai – Baan Café for example, she enthusiastically shared about her driven intention to help and support her father. Without having any knowledge about wood or coffee, her dream eventually came to successful fruition as a result of her gratitude.

Thai people recognize that those who have done favors for them — their mothers, fathers, teachers, or anyone who has done something good for them, or made them come to an important realization, or helped them develop or change — should be people worthy of their gratitude.

Contemplating about all of these people I have encountered really gave a hit to my heart… The question arose in my mind as to why it wasn’t a natural thought in my mind to give back to my parents for everything they have done for me, for my entire life… That is, until I came to Thailand.

 

Life Lesson 4:  Make your life happy

A common trend I have observed in speaking with Thai people, no matter what position they hold in this world, is this notion that having “enough” is well, enough. The main goal for many Thais seems to be the desire to be happy — to live a happy life with just enough, and to be happy doing the best they can with what they have. For them, it isn’t about how much they have, but how fulfilled they feel in their minds.

I once shared a conversation with a van driver who easily opened his heart to share his life’s story. He told me of his past and how he used to chase material things and money, thinking they would bring him happiness…which he found out later that it did not. He shared how happy he was with his present-day work, that he is happy to work with young children, who bring his life joy and a sense of fulfillment. This, he explained, is the real happiness for him. He told me that he doesn’t need much money or presents but that “making himself happy is the biggest gift he can give himself”. My perception did a complete 180 after hearing this man speak his truth. I realized that his social status or job did not matter one bit compared to the immense joy he had found in his life. This is the largest asset one can have in their lives.

Where the Western perspective emphasizes external sources of happiness, Thai people seem to have found the real deal intrinsically.

It is no wonder that Thailand is known as “the land of smiles”.

 

 

Life Lesson 5: Sabai Sabai

 

‘Sabai sabai’ is a phrase you will encounter often here in Thailand. It is the English equivalent to ‘chill chill’ or ‘take it easy’. In essence, this means ‘don’t take things so seriously’, relax about them, and don’t worry too much.

This phrase can be used to lighten up a situation or reassure people that they don’t need to be so serious and their minds not too busy with thinking. It is a good reminder to not take life so seriously and to be relaxed no matter what situation you meet. Everything will pass, and most things are never as big as we think they are.

Life is as serious as we make it out to be…But with a simple ‘sabai sabai’, it can feel a lot smoother and happier.

 

Thank you to the Thai people for being great teachers, and for giving me many good lessons along the way.

Thank you, Thailand, for inspiring me to be a better person and giving me the tools I need to live a fulfilling life.