How I came to be famous for nearly 2 years.
Quite often I do a radio or TV show – mostly journalists fishing for something of novelty, and sticking a mic in my face for a few minutes, and then disappearing forever. I don’t often hear anything back except for an occasional comment from a Thai monk who might have been watching or listening at the time the program goes out. If it is Thai, I don’t mind because the intentions are usually good. But I shy away from journalists in English as they are usually hunting for some controversial angle, or point of disparagement.
So in 2011 (ish) when a team from the Thai TV program English Breakfast contacted me looking to do a small piece I was amenable. I’d never heard of the TV program, but looked it up on Youtube and saw it was harmless fun. They find a point of interest. Interview, film, and put up subtitles of English words the viewers might not know. It is designed to teach new vocabulary to Thai students.
The program is discontinued now, but still has a web page up here
My part was due to go out on Magha Puja – one of the big Thai/Buddhist celebrations. They were to interview me for a few minutes, and then film me on almsround.
This was awkward since in my temple we don’t do almsround. We either arrange our own food, or head over to the refectory which serves food twice a day. The film crew told me this wasn’t a problem, and hung up. On the day they turned up at the temple with a van full of people who they planted along the street for my ‘almsround’.
So off I went. But I noticed perplexed almsrounding monks from neighbouring temples walking past the planted lay people, who waved the monks off saying ‘We’re waiting for the farang monk.’ Can’t imagine what they thought of that!
I’d complained about the almsround too, in that I would miss my bus up to Ayutthaya, where I was to teach my class. No problem they told me – we’ll drive you and film that too. And they did.
They filmed me teaching my class for about 20 minutes and then all disappeared off in search of mid-morning snacks. At 11am they returned, filmed about 10 minutes more of interview, and then packed up and sped off.
I did not think much more about it. The program used to go out every weekday morning, and I was only one of several sections of the program. Not many people would see it. I was happy as the presenter was very nice, helpful, friendly, and respectful of the Thai Etiquette. He had a good sense of humour too.
A few weeks later, all the residents in my temple were looking at me and talking – turns out they all saw it. I guess it is one of those things, where you get excited when something close to home appears on TV.
And a month later they somehow they found the clip on Youtube and passed it round again. Then I started getting people in shops saying they recognised me from TV. Usually when this happens they really saw Ajahn Jayasaro, and just assume there is only one good-looking foreign monk in Thailand.
But they had seen the clip from English Breakfast. Even two years later I went into the office at Wat Anan – the Thai temple in Singapore. I had never been in the office there before, but the Thai officer there immediately ‘knew’ me. I figured she was doing as I do, and pretending to recognise people I think might be important. But no, she’d seen the clip a few years ago. She remembered what temple I was from, and where I taught my class.
My students in the university all saw it also – again because it’s always interesting to see your home on TV. They told me the clip had half a million views!! Probably most of those were the students though.
Eventually I went on Youtube to take a look myself, but the entire series of English Breakfast had been taken down for some copyright infringement. My 15 minutes had come to an end.
Fast forward another six months, and while tidying up I found a CD ROM. It had no label and I was about to throw it out, but thought I’d best check it first. And it was the show – I have no recollection of ever receiving the disc, but clearly I had.
I did wonder if I really wanted this up in the public domain. But I figure that hard drives crash, and if I just sit on it, it will be lost. Maybe in 20 years time I’ll like to look back. Or in a hundred years time there will be a documentary on People who should have changed they world, but didn’t.
So as part of my new mission to learn video editing, I added a splash screen at the front and back of the video, and clipped about a minute out in order to fit into Youtube’s 15 minute time limit. Otherwise, here is the clip as it appeared on Thai TV: