Before Thailand: Orientation Experience

Before heading to Wat Thai Temple in Elk River, I had imagined a large temple adorn with beautiful architectural designs and glistening gold. To my surprise like everyone else, I assumed, there was no temple to be seen. Instead, in its place is a regular house that would pass as a family home if not for the signs at the gate reading “Wat Thai”. Despite my shock and confusion, I still proceeded to enter the temple with everyone else that I arrived with; my heart filled with anxiety and excitement.

Upon entering, I immediately felt out of place and awkward. Everyone was already seated on the floor with cushions facing the abbot monk who sat on a raised platform. There was little conversation in the room and I remember Acharn Cathy talking to some of the women present in the kitchen. I sat in the back of the room near the stairwells and waited for what was to come. I honestly did not know what to expect. This had been my very first time at a temple and I did not know very much about the Thai culture.

From the day, I would say that my favorite part was learning the different ways to greet people, especially when it comes to the hand placements. I always saw these actions done in the few Thai movies that I watched growing up, but I never knew that there were differences in the placement of the hands. It was nice to learn about it and finally know the difference, as it would play an essential part in Thailand. As a lover of learning, learning about the hand placements provided me with a small taste of Thai culture (in addition to the food, hospitality, and atmosphere of Wat Thai), a great and exciting beginning to the 3-weeks of cultural immersion in Thailand. 

From this seminar in Thailand, one of the many learning goal that I have for myself is to challenge myself to critically think and analyze the issues and interconnectedness surrounding the topics listed on the syllabus. I recognize that while I should allow myself to explore and absorb the Thai culture while in Thailand, it is also important to be an active thinker so that all the experiences I will be having will be meaningful and not just learned for the sake of learning. At the end of it, I want to be an active member in the global community and recognize that my world is bigger than what I know it to be.

2 thoughts on “Before Thailand: Orientation Experience”

  1. Mai,

    You were not alone in feeling out of place and awkward when you got to the Wat Temple. Like you, it was my first time at a temple and I also know very little about the Thai culture. I think its pretty normal to feel this way since it was our first experience. In my blog post I also wrote about learning the importance of hand placements. I found it interesting how something so small can make a big difference. I liked the goal you set for yourself. I think understanding the issues and the things that surrounds the issues is important. I think being able to do that will help you not only immerse yourself in the Thai culture, but also have a deeper understanding of it. I also liked your point about recognizing that the world is bigger than you know it to be. I think this is a big part for me as well. None of my family has ever been to Asia, or anywhere overseas for that matter. The world that I know is pretty small when thinking about everything that's out there. I'm excited to broaden my horizons and experience other cultures other than the ones I am familiar with. I think this will help in both of our future endeavors regardless of what our majors are or what we plan to do.

  2. Mai,

    It was also my first time at a temple too! It was a great introduction for what's to come. I love your point in on being an active learner for the experience to be that much more meaningful. I'm super stoke to get to go on this journey and for all of us to learn about the global change in Thailand together!

Leave a Reply