Heading to the temple for our orientation, I had no idea what to expect. What does a Buddhist temple look like? How would one in Elk River look, and who would be there?
It took me some time to find the correct location, as I was sure it would look different from the surrounding houses. However, we met in a large house similar to the others, and gathered on the living room floor. I was immediately impressed by the calm, friendly yet authoritative presence of the monk sitting above and in front of us. Bald with a friendly face and traditional orange robes, he silently observed us all as we filtered in. After a few others and I had sat down, Acharn Cathy asked us to introduce ourselves. I did not know how to do this in the Thai culture, especially to a monk. I watched others and saw them bring their hands together before saying their name, so I did the same. Acharn Cathy motioned for me to bow as well. I did so, flustered, hoping I had not offended the monk. He simply looked amused and moved his gaze to the next person. We later learned about the different hand positions when greeting, saying thank you and other situations, which helped me to become more familiar with the customs. I am very happy to have had the experience of learning things like how to greet others, where to sit in presence of a monk, language basics and a little bit about Buddhist rituals in such a friendly environment. This experience helped me to feel more comfortable about immersing myself in Thai culture.
One learning goal I have for myself is to simply learn more about the way other people view themselves and the world. I get such a narrow picture of it here, and I really only know how I see the world. I’m excited to see how different groups of Thai people live, what’s important to them, and how they go about their daily lives. Within that, I look forward to learning about how global societal and environmental change are impacting the people of Thailand specifically, and hope to use this information to broaden my perspective as an individual and become an active agent of change.