Thailandia – Janey Kroneberger

I was pretty scared before coming to Thailand, being that I knew absolutely no Thai dialect. My friends kept asking me how I was going to navigate through the trip, if I didn’t even know simple words like “yes” and “no,” and to be honest, I really didn’t know what I was going to do! Shortly after we arrived, I realized that these fears we’re silly, because so many Thai’s speak English! I thought wow, this is so cool, no work for me! There are English signs everywhere, the bathroom, banks, restaurants, menus, street signs, etc., it’s not too hard to get by knowing absolutely no Thai! But when looking closer, what have we done in America to accommodate and learn about other’s dialect…not much, not much at all. Here and there you will see a sign with Spanish translations, but it’s not too common. America consists of a melting pot of different cultures and heritages, but we don’t really worry about any other dialect than English. It’s pretty much our way, or the highway, and in Thai culture, it is the exact opposite.
Why do so many Thai’s learn English and accommodate to Americans, but in America, there is not much accommodation done in return. For instance, if a strictly Thai-speaking individual came to America, what do you think their experience would be like? Unless this person comes into contact with an American having similar heritage to their own, they probably won’t be able to communicate with the majority of our population. It will be pretty hard for this individual to navigate the airport, read a menu at a restaurant, or utilize any transportation, due to the language barrier! When I entered the airport in Thailand, I didn’t need to seek out specific profiles of people to communicate, because most Thai’s speak English. When a Thai individual comes to our airport, they more than likely are going to need to seek out others with similar cultural/ethnic profiles, or they will have no chance at successfully navigating. Basically what I am trying to say is, why as American’s do we not feel the need to try and accommodate to other’s as much as possible…sometimes we don’t seem to return the respect that we are given.

Gender Roles: Bad vs. Different

     Fans oscillate slowly while I listen to the monk speak in a room at MCU Buddhist University near Wat Suan Dok. He iterates how all religions share common themes such as morality, love, and compassion and that sugar by any other name is just as sweet. He continued on that sexual orientation, gender, ethnicity, and religion were not to be discriminated against and that all were welcome.

      In Thailand and a few other Theravada Buddhist countries, women are not allowed to sit beside and touch monks because they are told they are temptations against the monks’ enlightenment. Women are also not allowed to enter certain sacred sides. When asked why we were denied entrance at the City Pillar, the monk said it was originally put in place due to possibility of menstrual cycles but now it is up to the Abbot, or head monk, and his personal beliefs.

     I have grown up in a family with many sassy women who are career oriented and independent. My mother paid every dollar for her college tuition herself and was forced to finish her four year nursing degree into six. She has worked late nights saving many lives and is the breadwinner of our family. Her sister, has also been very successful as she was the Director, U.S. Market Strategy & Engagement for Microsoft for seven years and is currently the Global Head of Business Strategy & Growth for Facebook and has her own fashion line DB Style. I was raised to believe that men and women have equal opportunities and that barriers hindering these alienated rights were wrong and immoral.

     In the five weeks I have been here, this blatant sign is only one example I have seen of gender roles. Various entrance signs to wats illustrated correct dress code and what not to wear; all of the pictures consisted of women models. Things like wearing a hat, tank tops, or shorts, could just have been easily violated by men. Then, as I was in the process of taking my shoes outside the temple, I was told a few times that wearing a hat was not allowed. However, I saw other men wearing them inside without being reprimanded. Lastly, when asking tour guide Icki about places women can go out to have fun, he claimed that women often stayed home and that it was not common for them to go out alone. His tone made me feel that he believed in that sentiment.

     Observing these events were eye-opening and my initial reaction was hyperfeminist. Why were women so accepting to being denied entry at the City Pillar? Wasn’t the sign sexist and discriminatory? I have pondered at those thoughts and have since wrapped myself in one question– what does it mean to be a woman in Thai culture and is equal gender roles the only “right way?” My ideals are very American where one serves themselves and strives to be successful. I have noticed that the Thai way of life is more communal and that their decisions best serve the interests of their family and community. Perhaps, designated roles do not strictly mean a lesser quality of life.  I hope to continue witnessing the roles of women, men, and children alike in Thai society and further evaluate the point of assimilation of modern ideals versus tradition.


One thing that I have been most moved by during my time here so far is the Thai people.  Since my language ability is limited, I have been observing with caution and using my body language (along with the few phrases I know) to communicate.  Something I have noticed is, yes, the Thai people smile a lot and many of us see it and comment “they are so nice!”, but I think it is more than just being kind. I think that it is all connected – the way they interact, the religion, the culture – but I am still learning how it connects.

Visiting the school helped me to understand more about kindness and warmth with the Thai people.  When I interacted with the students, three of the girls latched onto me and helped me in my time at the school.  When I sat down next to them I smiled and said hi and I could feel the nervous energy that surrounded us, but it was a hopeful and curious energy.  I immediately felt so welcome.  I think that as I became more open and comfortable, they too became more open and comfortable.  Kind of like a mirror image with room for give and take.  They were constantly giggling and smiling and very accommodating.  When we would move places they would grab my arm and lead me to where we were supposed to go.  My time spent at the boarding school is one I will never forget.  It also reminded me that receiving this sort of hospitality and welcoming is one that all people benefit from and something I would like to do more of.  

The monk chat allowed me to draw deeper understandings of suffering and love and kindness.  One phrase from the monk that really stuck with me was at the very end when he said “take what is good and leave what is bad”.  I think this goes hand in hand with the idea to not cause suffering to oneself and to others.  By taking what is good, one is bringing more love and kindness into their lives and by leaving what they do no want, no suffering will occur.  This idea fascinates me and is one I would love to take into my life.  I think that I sometimes cling on to things too strongly and that is what causes my suffering.  I believe that  the desire to not cause suffering relates to the hospitality and kindness that I have so strongly felt here.  I have noticed situations where I feel the need to say something, but the Thai people do not say anything and I think this stems from not causing suffering.  I think that maybe since suffering is usually avoided that we feel the warmth in a more genuine way.

Here in Thailand I found myself comparing different interactions to ones I have experienced in Minnesota.  I often find myself testing how the people react.  For example, when I find myself walking down the street in Minnesota a lot of the time the people will do anything not to look at you, and if they do look at you, there is no smile on their face.  I think that this has to do partly with our more individualistic culture.  Here I have found that people, if you look at them and smile, most will smile back.  It is kind of similar to what I mentioned before with the students.  I think that I still have a lot to learn about the Thai culture and people, but what I have observed so far I think also relates to how I am portraying myself and interacting with the people.  I am being open and kind and thoughtful and most people respond in positive ways to these interactions.  I think with more time here my connections will grow deeper and my knowledge on the topic will continue to expand.

So Where Do I Stand?

According to Shaman is defined as “(especially among certain tribal peoples) a person who acts as intermediary between the natural and supernatural worlds, using magic to cure illness, foretell the future, control spiritual forces, etc.” which I do agree with some of the definition but I would not say that they use “magic” to cure illness. In my opinion the word “magic” does not state exactly how illnesses are cured. I would have to say that because I grew up in a family where shamanism is a big part of our culture and my step mom is a shaman herself, “magic” is not used to cure illnesses but what I see from experience is spiritual calling. It is funny how I claim myself to be Shaman but when someone asks me what Shaman is, I always hesitate to explain. I can’t be a Shaman if I don’t know the deep meaning about it right? But I grew up participating in the rituals and my whole family is Shaman, so where do I stand?

Although I still have not truly understand the religion I grew up in, I am willing to explore and learn about other cultures, like Buddhism. After the monk chat, I have learned so much about what Buddhism is and how beautiful their belief is. There are just really three things that they focus on their life on and it is abstain from bad, do good, and cleaning the mind. They may seem so simple but they are hard to obtain without being a true believer in doing all those three things. I feel so connected to Buddhism in many ways and I loved how it presents itself throughout Chiang Mai.

A big part of me wanted to come to Thailand because there are many Hmong people here so they would be able to help me understand more about my culture… well at least that was what I thought. I was so surprised that Shamanism is not practiced as much as it used to be or as much as it is in America. But I also understand the fact that the Hmong people we visited needed to adapt to what will help them survive and in this case it is being Christian. Shaman may and will always be the root of my family culture but I can and will always explore my beliefs.

why do we even care about the differences

Coming to America with a perspective that everything will be just like what they display and commercial on Television about U.S culture. I will see everything white, white teachers, white friends, and white neighbors. My assumption was everybody would be really friendly and no segregation regarding social classes differences. However, the reality is always surprise and opposite from your expectation. I was lost in a culture shock and confusion in the fact that America has the most greatest culture diversity in the world compare to my origin homeland, Laos. There are so many cultures, races, and people from everywhere in the world live together in America, which creates a complexity and competition.

Because the existing of multiple cultures in U.S, people tend to enhance their individualism over developing the community base. I remember throughout my time of living in U.S; people always complete with each other. For example, I took a college course, “Multicultural perspectives”, and we had a reading about the role of women in Islam religion. There was an open discussion in the class where we allowed to collaborate opinion and thought about the role of women character and her actions in the reading. I don’t remember exactly what was going on in the reading, but we had have a heat argument between the classmates. One of the students was an Islam and the other was Christian. Both of the students tried to make an argument that their religion or culture is better than other. An Islam students believe that what the women did was a right thing to do, but the Christianity students argued that it was a wrong and inappropriate action regarding to his culture. So that moment made me realized about how American living system that emphasize on individualism. I see this concept almost every day in my life living in U.S. People always assume and jude about other about my ability because I can’t speak an efficient English. That why there is always competition between group of cultures and people from different back group compete each other to make themselves look superior than others. And this is how I adapted and live my life in America.
But coming to Thailand has opened me to see a different perspective on how people live their lives in other place. Thai people really live their lives as simple as how the Buddhism principle play a role in their lives. I remember when we went to Wat Chedi Luang to meet with Jo lee, a master monk in the temple, and had a valuable conversation with him. There he was giving a speech about what Buddhism is and how it play role in people lives in Thai, but one thing that struck me the most was his example about why do we need to argue about the differences of religion and which one is better than other. He used “sugar” as his example to explain his concept and principle of Buddhism. There are many ways and term in implying to the word sugar. For example, in English we called sugar, but in Thai they called “Num Tan”. We could see the differences between the two country of how they pronounse and spell the word sugar. We might say that American sugar is more quality or better than others just because we are develop and civilize country. But one thing that we forget is all sugar taste the same which is “sweet”. Therefore, why are we even arguing about who is better than who. Every religions teach people who to be good, love, and share to one another. And This is why people called Thailand is a “smile country”.


We have experienced so many amazing things since we arrived here! I have been struggling to articulate my thoughts, partially because of jet-lag, but also I find myself at a loss of words to describe what I am seeing, hearing, etc. Trying to choose a topic to write about is like sifting through a hundred beautiful photographs, looking for the best one. What I find has been driving my thoughts most recently is the ideas the Buddhist monk shared with us. 
He discussed the concept of “cleaning your mind”, which means taking care of both mind and body. Happiness is created by finding a balance between the two. With that stated in front of me, I started to think about whether or not I have balance. Of course the answer is no, but what I really started to think about is why: why is it that I don’t have a sense of balance? I eat pretty well…I drink moderately…exercise often enough. As I list those things off, I think about the idea the monk discussed of not clinging to unnecessary things, what we would call “stuff”, and I have that ah-ha moment. My balance between mind and body is interrupted by the unnecessary items I rely on: my phone, computer, etc. This week I have been thinking a lot about the excess of things in my life, and how difficult it has become to be in the moment. In many ways our society trains us to be be this way, because we are guided to be consumers of “stuff” and media. It is difficult for me to picture what our world would be like if instead of striving for success, we began striving for balance. 
As I am out of my normal environment here in Thailand, I hope to continue to explore what it means to find balance and how to find it in a society filled with “stuff”. 

Qub Teb, Qub Chaws; Old Land, Old Home Place

Since landing in Thailand, the feeling of being in a foreign country seemed so surreal. However, now it has really hit me of how far away I am from home and how this country has become my temporary home. Through all the friendships I have made and peers I have met on this beautiful journey, Thailand has been amazing thus far and words cannot explain how I feel.

Growing up in a rather traditional Hmong family, I have seen my mother garden for multiple years now. As a way of earning extra income, my mother grows vegetables to sell at the weekend flea market near our home. My mom’s garden reminds me of the agriculture in the Hmong village in the Chiang Dao district that we visited yesterday. I have always wanted to visit a Hmong village and reconnect with my roots. As I was looking into the scenery upon entering the Hmong village, I saw mountains in the distance. After clearly looking among the mountains, I noticed there were acres upon acres of land for gardening/farming. Later on I learned that the Hmong people in the village do agriculture in those mountains. There is a road they travel on by truck in order to get to the land. A portion of the agriculture they do is for selling in order for the village people to make a living as well as other things. 

Driving up in the mountain to visit their land used for farming made me feel very sentimental. My immediate reactions to seeing the village and garden was that in a way, I felt a little closer to home. From listening to my parents talk about their qub teb, qub chaws (pronounced ‘qhu-thay-qhu-kaw’) or old home place of Thailand and Laos, they would mention how their village and scenery looked like for me as a little child. They would also describe the acres of land used for farming and growing food to eat. From this experience, I saw the connection from the agriculture and land for farming relative to my mom’s acres of farming land. Seeing the squash vines from their agriculture land they let us tour made me think of how happy my mom would be if she were to see them. I know the greens from the gardens, acres upon acres of land, and beautiful mountain scenery would excite my mother if she were to be there with me and remind her of home as well.


The photo above represents a lot of what I have learned about Thai culture so far. It was taken at a park near Flight of the Gibbon zipline adventures, and the time I spent there calmed my spirit and inspired a feeling of connectedness I have not yet known.
There was a definite path leading up to the top of the waterfall, which was appreciated by all of us who traveled there to experience its majestic beauty. As I walked up, I started to wonder what “path” means to me, and why I have certain expectations about what a good path should or should not be.  When I came to a section of the path where water was flowing, I stepped through the running water without even thinking about it – we had all gotten drenched in the rain earlier that day anyway. I found it made me very happy, to feel like I was a part of this natural beauty instead of just admiring it from afar. In the US, most parks will put up walls or stones to redirect the water when they make a path for tourists. That way people can still observe nature, but don’t have to really participate in the natural phenomena that are happening all around them.  Here, however, the water is allowed to flow over the path and continue on its way down the mountain, and those who visit must adapt to the environment in order to reach their goal. If your feet get wet, they get wet. Water is here, and so are we.
I have found the Thai people to be very fluid in their ways of living with and adapting to the environment around them. This is true of the natural environment, from accepting moths and other flying creatures on food outdoors to wearing cool clothing and driving on rural mountain roads that are more nature than road. I have also experienced this with the flow of people; driving here is much less structured, as is walking. Where we are staying there are no sidewalks, but street vendors line the busy roads. People walk on the side of the road, just far enough away from the speeding cars to not get hit. Dogs and roosters roam the street, and people simply move around them as they would anything else in the environment. Drivers flow between lanes and around slower vehicles with a deftness I have never experienced, and one that is not created by having strict rules on traffic etiquette as we do in the US.
The harmony of the Thai people with the environment around them is remarkable. So often I feel in the US we work to control and/or avoid interaction with our environment; we climate control our homes, put high fences around everything, and pour concrete paths with barriers to protect us from the environment. Here people use what they find, live together with other creatures that are not their pets, and go with the flow of time and nature. They also seem to have a strong sense of community, and welcome new visitors with open arms. I have felt welcomed by all we have met here, and have learned so much already. I am excited to experience more of this beautiful culture and environment, and hope to be more like the Thai people someday.

Human Trafficking

While on the plane to Thailand, I had the chance to watch the first movie of Taken. In the movie, a daughter is kidnapped into sex trafficking and how that came about, I thought, was quite Hollywood. She and a friend met a guy outside of the airport, to which they shared a cab with. The next thing you know, these men dressed in black suits rushed in and grab both girls, in broad daylight. Amazing isn’t it. I mean, these things only happens in Hollywood. Right?
My first ever official lecture in human trafficking blew my mind. Yes, foreigners can be kidnapped, stripped of their identity, and forced into sex labor. These things just don’t happen in movies, they are real life issues. In Thailand, people like the poor are targeted into human trafficking. They go in looking for any kind of job available and trafficker advertise these trafficking as a job or an opportunity. The people that take these jobs aren’t able to return and forced which ever business that are put into. These jobs ranges from being a fisherman on a boat to being a prostitute on the street. Even parents would sell their flesh and blood into trafficking.  All men, women, and children are victims to this gruesome nightmare. They are stripped of their identity, stripped of their human right, stripped of their power, stripped of everything.
All I was thinking was, “Wow, what an unfortunate thing Thailand is facing.” As lecture continued on, I begin to realize that human trafficking is actually a world phenomenon, globalization. In an article I read, America is actually “second largest region of destination for trafficked women and children, with as many as 50,000 trafficked victims annually”(Garrett-Akinsanya). American GIs were the one who introduced trafficking to Thailand. Human trafficking affects America as much as it affects any other country and I believe that because some Americans have the mindset of the “Almighty Americans”, we think that something like human trafficking would never be a problem with in the US. “The Twin Cities is the 13th most heavily trafficked metropolitan area in the U.S”(Garrett-Akinsanya). North Minneapolis is my home. I’ve lived on Morgan Avenue for eight years. Something so serious like Human Trafficking is happening in my backyard and yet, I had no idea whatsoever about it. It’s quite scary.
Let us all rewind and think about this. Human trafficking is a global problem and it has much to do with globalization. It is an illegal business that is operating internationally and each and every country in the world is connected to trafficking one way or another.
Garrett-Akinsanya, Bravada. “Human Trafficking: The New Slavery.” Insight News RSS. Insight News, 12 Mar. 2012. Web. 23 May 2015.                         
          Our first mini lecture about Human Trafficking done by Achran Linda and Achran Cathy

Hmong Village Visit- Personal Experience and Thoughts

 5/22. Each day spent in Thailand has been a roller-coaster of emotions, observations, impressions, and outcomes. I have felt excitement and fun as well as discomfort and confusion. The most specific experience that has me comparing life here to life at home was our visit to the Hmong Village in Chiang Dao District. Immediately what I noticed were the style of homes, next, as we climbed the mountain more in the van, I noticed the nature and views. My thoughts throughout our stay changed drastically as we explored more and got to know some of the locals.

The home where I was raised is in Minneapolis and while it may be considered small compared to some of my neighbors and friends, it would seem large and excessive to some of the Hmong villagers. Many of the homes we drove past were very small and some in pretty rough condition. My immediate reaction was that the village was all low-income, and while some may be, I have come to learn that there homes do not reflect the amount of money they make or their ability to work hard. This is different from many places in the U.S. as so many homes truly do reflect how much it’s owners make. However, when I thought more about it, my grandparents also choose to live very simply and grow food in their own garden and live in a smaller home. This connection was neat to make between my grandparents and some of the Hmong villagers as they are both extremely different people raised in not-so-similar areas of the world.

Overall, I came to find so much beauty in the culture and the area they lived. I thought to myself when we made it to the top of the mountain “wow- why would you need anything else if you had this view??” The nature and surroundings were breathtaking and my heart felt such joy from the beauty. If the Hmong have their community, their family, their religion, their pride, and their mountain I can see how simple happiness can come to their lives. I look forward to comparing this experience to our next Hmong village visits.