This past week in Thailand has provided a lot of food for thought. It was very intriguing to compare and contrast changing culture here to that in minnesota (and the US). I noticed traditional values of simplicity in daily activity, particularly during the visit to the Hmong village and in the relaxed, patient outlook of Thai society. Some of this simplicity stems from collectivism, sharing and accommodating woven into the cultural fabric. For instance, as guests at our hotel in Chang Mai we have been served breakfast with the intent if never leaving a guest unfilled. This intent results in a lot of food leftover with each breakfast. When we attended the cooking class, water falling from the roof was used as a method of cooling. These approaches to treating guests went above and beyond our usual expectations of how to please guests. I am intrigued from a sustainability standpoint on how to take only what I need (values of simplicity) without being wasteful. It was extremely encouraging to see the strides in sustainable agriculture in the Hmong village. It serves as a great example for the complex simplicity I see everywhere here in Thailand. Detail is placed to add meaning, such as on temples, but also creeps into daily life subtly through rich plant life between buildings.
Taking such care of visitors comes from different ideals from what is familiar to me, centered on sharing what you have and receiving joy from the joy of others. Although changes from globalization are adding faster-paced industry and technology to Thai society, individualism appears slower to catch on. This is in part due to core values of family and grounded patience.
We saw values of family in how both communities and businesses are run. The school itself is a community, one that contains students from very diverse backgrounds living as siblings with their teacher acting as a parent, nurse and companion. It seems that lines between societal roles are blurred so that everyone within a community work collectively. I look forward to spending more time in more traditional cultures in the next few days! Here are two pictures of the beautiful landscape, examples of cultural practice informed by nature.