Wat Thai of Minnesota– “the religious purpose of the establishment” is:
- To continue the teachings of the Buddha as a World Heritage Site.
- To be center of spiritual followers, for Buddhists from Thailand in Minnesota or anyone else from any background who are interested in Buddhism.
- To be a center of cultural heritage for Thais in Minnesota, including those who are of newer generations of Thai descendants in Minnesota.
I glanced away from my phone and looked up at the structure to which their website was referring. It was a two-story brown dwelling with a long shelter near by. It was far from the traditional Thai architecture in photos I had marveled at. As we approached the door, I slipped off my shoes and felt a little smug. I had thoroughly read our article, “A Mediator’s Initiation” and felt reassured in how to carry myself in front of the Abbot, or head monk. I made my way up the stairs and as soon as we eyes met, I became transparent and felt very out of place. My head was higher than his? Aren’t our knees supposed to be touching the ground? I shouldn’t stare too long… DO NOT TOUCH HIM! My mind flooded with questions and reminders and I soon became overwhelmed. I sat on the floor and my knee length skirt came to my thighs. I grew hot. I clandestinely looked around me and noticed that everyone else wore leggings or pants and I felt embarrassed and even somewhat ashamed. I positioned myself behind another classmate.
We listened as he spoke about his journey to becoming a monk and the practice of Buddhism and I found myself becoming at ease. He shared how to properly greet someone and how your hands should be partly rounded like a lotus flower. The position of your hands also showed a great deal of respect and differed depending on the age and respect of the individual being greeted. I was also intrigued about the role of women in Buddhism and how most forms did not allow women to become monks and that we were not to come close or touch the Abbot. Because the Buddhism way of life is so engrained in the Thai culture, I want to know more about how gender roles weaves its way into other aspects of Thai life.
After the session of chanting and overview of the five precepts, I urged my deeply sleeping legs awake and proceeded to eat the delicious cuisine followed by participating in the look-over of the study abroad itinerary. I left feeling both enlightened but slightly nervous for my impending first trip to another country.
One of my goals of study abroad is that I become more culturally responsive through global engagement. I want to grow as a person by exposing myself to knowledge, concepts, and/or experiences that reflect a different cultural frame of reference. I hope to increase my self-awareness, understanding, confidence, and self-reliance during this experience in such a way that it continues into my later experiences, both as a student at the University of Minnesota–Twin Cities and post-graduation. To do this, I need to not be afraid of asking questions and actively participating in my surroundings– to remind myself that it is okay not to fully understand everything and know that my initiation will be a journey supported by the people I travel with and those I meet along the way.
1) What I found interesting from the reading is how difficult meditating can be especially for Westerners. Individuals from western countries are often taught to be productive and to always plan for the future. We seldom take the time to be present and fully enjoy the moment. What surprised me is that I see this trait in myself as well. My mind is usually cluttered with thoughts. I’m constantly thinking about the tasks I need to complete or the people and things I am surrounded by. However, this reading taught me the importance of slowing down, taking some time within my day to be mindful, and to be comfortable in silence. I believe that developing this skill will be beneficial for physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. Rather than becoming lost by the day-to-day tasks and rituals, it is important to take in my surroundings and embrace it all.
2) A learning goal is to venture outside of my comfort zone and keep an open heart and mind while I am abroad. I want to start where the community is from rather than where I am from. I want to learn and expand my mind through making observations, interacting with the community members, and by making meaningful connections with the culture of Thailand.
An ocean apart; a world away . . . In less than a week, I will be embarking on a three-week long study abroad journey to a country I have never stepped foot on before. The land of smiles, as that is what Thailand is known as, will be the first ever foreign country I will be traveling to – and it will also be the first time I will be riding on a plane.
On Saturday, April 18th, I attended orientation at Wat Temple located in Elk River. Although I have never seen a temple before in person, through photos i have seen, I initially expected to see a big building with stone pillars and a scenic location. I was surprised to see how different the temple looked like compared with the photos I saw. Reflecting on my experience at the Wat Temple, the entire orientation session helped me become familiar with Thai culture. From listening to the monk speak about the etiquette for temples to learning that there are 13 smiles in Thailand culture and having Acharn Cathy explain further into detail more information about Thailand and it’s culture has all contributed to me becoming familiar with Thai culture.
Growing up, I have always dreamed of traveling the world and immersing myself into learning about a world other than my own. To learn how the world functions and how different life is outside of my own bubble, one learning goal I have for myself in regards to this study abroad opportunity is to educate myself about the culture of Thailand. I am ecstatic to embark on this exciting journey.
understand what the monk was saying in Thai I tried to be in sync with them as best as I could. It was a good feeling to chant about peace and wanting only peace without any sacrifices. Then at the end of the chanting we had to pour the water bottle into the cup, while thinking about who we want to give merit to. I felt great knowing that I was able to give blessings to my love ones. Also, knowing that any person from any culture and race could come to the temple amused me because the Thai culture is so welcoming. Thus, one learning goal I hope to gain from Thailand is to learn how to integrate myself in their culture from eating their food to living their lifestyle. I believe that once I’m able to integrate myself into the Thai culture it would help me see the world in a better point of view and grow into a well-round person.
I alwaysssssssss start off blogs with an introduction, so here goes: my name is Elaine and I am a going-to-be-junior in the Youth Studies department, and maybe minoring in Asian American Studies and Gender, Women and Sexuality Studies. As a daughter of Hmong refugees, it has always been a dream of mine to visit Thailand and Laos and to visit the places that my parents often reminisce
and dream about – and here I am, going off to Thailand and even getting the opportunity to visit Hmong villages.
Before our orientation I didn’t really know what to expect. When I heard “temple,” I imagined something huge like what you would see in movies and online. When I got to the Wat Temple I was definitely surprised to see it looked like a regular house. I think that this is something that I want to keep with me throughout the trip things aren’t always going to be what I expect, and it’s important to go into things with an open mind. Even though orientation was pretty laid back, it was really packed with a lot of information that would help me before our departure. For example, we got to know more about the different customs that the Thai people have, such as the different levels of bowing and how we are supposed to sit and act while we’re in a temple. It was also amazing experiencing the hospitality of everyone that we met there and learning more about Buddhism.
With this seminar, I’m worried that I’ll get carried away with the “tourist” things that I’ll want to do and forget or push away what I really want to get out of the trip. One learning goal I have for myself would be to be able to think critically about globalization and their effects and to be able to point it out on my own if/when I see it.
One learning goal for myself is to broaden my views in life. We are going to learn about the global change that is occurring in Thailand. These are some very serious issues and through this learning abroad experience, I hope to come back with a little enlightenment and better my understanding of this to better myself in the future.