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.