The week leading up to Orientation, I kept trying to imagine what my experience at Wat Temple in Elk River would be like, which of course made me increasingly nervous! When I arrived at the door of the Wat Temple I was greeted by the familiar face of Acharn Cathy, and quickly removed my shoes. We were ushered up the stairs, and I could see the students ahead of me greeting someone to their right as they reached the landing. I would later learn they were using the Thai greeting for the highest respect. Because I was behind them I had time to prepare my greeting: a mimic of their gesture. Although my mind was telling me to follow suit of the other students, by the time I rounded the top of the staircase and saw the abbot monk, star-struck, I panicked and awkwardly bowed my head. Embarrassed, I quickly found a seat on the floor and wondered on a scale of 1-10 how disrespectful I just was. That moment I realized how much I was going to learn, and needed to, about Thai culture.
As our orientation continued, my nervousness faded into excitement for our trip to Thailand as I began to catch my first glimpse of the beauty of Thai culture. Everything was new to me: what the abbot monk spoke of, translated by a member of the Thai community, the offering of the food, and the food itself (which I have been craving ever since). One moment that stands out to me is the abbot monk teaching us that how we hold our hands together reflect the shape of the lotus flower, when greeting someone. I wish I could remember his exact wording; however, what stood out to me was the time and precision he used to show us the gap between our hands, the slight flex of the fingers outwards, and the importance of it all. This detail would be something that I would normally overlook. Therefore, my learning goal is to be mindful and attentive to details while in Thailand, so that I do not miss any learning opportunities that will build upon the new ideas and concepts I am exposed to while immersed in Thai culture.
My dog Rose and I on Stone Arch Bridge!