As we enter into Wat Temple, the sun was bouncing off my winter-white skin and the birds were chirping their daily songs. We were struck by the spring breeze that brought immediate calmness to our busy mind. We sat quietly as the Monk enlightened us on the multiple benefits of using breathing techniques to bring calmness and peace into our lives. What stood out to me, was when the monk mentioned that we should live our lives in a world where we are not dependent on material things. When we can survive by the simplest things in life, that’s the best way to live. We are often blinded by how materials things can enhance our image in the society we live in. I appreciate the simplicity in the Thai culture, in their food and their values. My goal for this learning abroad seminar is to go back to my roots and learn to live life with simplicity.
My name is Chee. Like some of you, I was born in a refugee camp in Thailand in 1991. This refugee camp was called Ban Vinai and I lived in section 2. I found a picture capturing the whole of the camp in it’s entirety and immediately I was feeling nostalgic. My mother was able to pinpoint where we lived up until 1994.The gallery was not found!
Question 1: My experience at the Wat Temple was great. I think just to be immersed into the exposure of the monk and the Thai religion was an eye opening experience. From observations alone, I was able to learn some Thai mannerism, behaviors, interactions and much more. I saw the way posture and sitting on the floor posed to be quite dificult for many of the students (myself included), I noticed that we were all constantly adjusting and readjusting. I was also aware of how buys the kitchen was and how grand of a hospitality they all provided for our stay. Afterwards, I was thinking of how and in what ways can I learn to project similar things once in Thailand.
Question 2: My learning goal is to be mindful, open minded, and receptive to learning opportunities during our stay in Thailand. This includes learning and practicing the language. Hopefully this will help me foster my sense of identity (being a Hmong woman, daughter & student.
I had a wonderful time at the Wat Temple meeting everyone and getting exposed to the Thai culture. I learned right away that it wasn’t the look of a temple that I had expected. I need to be more open minded that not assume what things are going to be like based off of social media and the Thai lakorns that I’ve watched in the past. My experience at the Wat Temple helped me to understand the respect that people have for Monks. We must be cautious of our space and not point our feet towards the monk. It was nice knowing that there are still people who follow the old tradition even though they are in America where people tend to shift culture.
During the trip in Thailand, I hope to emerge myself in Thai culture and step back away from my judgments. I want to learn about the Thai culture and traditions of how it differs from culture in America. I am excited and I believe that this will be a wonderful experience.
May 2, 2016
Hey it’s Madison! And this is my all-time favorite place (so far) – the Pacific Ocean.
~ AVOID EXPECTATIONS ~
Orientation at the Wat Temple was my first significant experience with Thai culture, and wow, was it already an eye-opening experience! I had the image of an ornate temple in my head prior to arrival, and while we were approaching I believe everyone in our car made a comment on the odd rural location. I was extremely taken back when I discovered it was more-so a large house that didn’t fit my conception of a traditional Buddhist Temple whatsoever. Right then and there I decided expectations only limit open-mindedness and should, from this point on, be avoided in order to immerse myself completely in this unique learning experience. Once inside, the presence of the monk filled the room with this nobility that seemed to pull out my innermost respect. I was transfixed by his words, even though I had no clue what he was saying. I’m so intrigued by their religion and have done some reading on it, so listening to him and the translator was a highlight for me. I also really enjoyed the short meditation session we had. I don’t know if it was the environment or if I was just tired, but I was so relaxed and at peace after that. I can’t forget to mention how warm and welcoming I noticed the Thai’s were to us, and how thankful I am for that delicious meal they prepared for us!
My learning goal is to ~BE CONSTANTLY LEARNING~ throughout our expedition around Thailand. I want to learn from the people, the environment, and this reliant and respected relationship between them. In particular, I’m personally excited to learn as much as I can absorb about the Mekong River, due to my interests in water quality and public health. Another goal of mine is to get to know and make friends with my fellow travelers! I’m looking forward to this wild journey!! Just have to get through finals………
- Being at the Wat Temple during orientation was the first encounter that I had ever had with the Thai culture, other than eating Thai food or watching Thai movies. The Thai community members were very welcoming and it reminded me of my family. It was really interesting to see how respectful and mindful the Thai community acted towards the monk and to see how much the Buddhism religion influenced Thai culture and their ideas of morality.
- One learning goal that I have for myself in regards to this Learning Abroad seminar is to be open-minded and to be able to understand things through different perspectives. I feel like it is hardest to understand things that we aren’t accustomed to in our own cultures that sometimes we just disregard them instead of trying to appreciate them like the people who practice those cultures. So my goal is to appreciate things even though I may not be able to understand them.
1: It was a long ride to the Wat Temple, but Mai, Maimee, and I made it safely and was even there a bit earlier than expected. The moment I realized that this was the Thai temple was when we went inside and there were beautiful Thai temple furniture/props set up. They were open to sharing their space with us and really made sure we felt as if we were at home. In addition to that, I began to feel familiar with the Thai culture when Acharn Catherine started speaking Thai to the owners. I use to watch Thai Lakorns (Thai TV shows) all the time, but seeing it and hearing it live was mind blowing to me.
2: A personal goal I have in mind is to really take in everything I am learning. I want to take advantage of this trip and do more than just focus on getting my assignments done, even though that is very important as well, but I hope to take what I learn from this trip and pass it on to the people at home and to any upcoming opportunities ahead.
1.) The Wat Temple in Elk river was such an amazing experience for me. It still hasn’t fully resonated with me that I’ll be studying abroad in Thailand, but the orientation made it feel so much more real. The moment that I entered the room I immediately felt the overwhelming feeling of peace and enlightenment. It was fascinating to hear about the Thai culture, the concept of mindfulness, simplicity, and everything that Buddhism entails. The meal that we were provided with was not only amazing, but the way that the hosts were so giving and encouraging us to eat more was so heartwarming.
2.) One learning goal I have for myself in regards to this Learning Abroad seminar is to attain the practice of mindfulness and immerse myself in the Thai culture. I love and deeply admire all the aspects that Buddhism embodies and would love to be able to emanate that within myself and have it contribute to my personal growth as an individual.
- I’m glad we had the opportunity to visit the Wat Temple before heading off on our adventure because for me, and I’m sure for everyone else, this gave me great insight into the culture we will be immersing ourselves in. Learning how to interact in the presence of a monk was especially helpful because I would never have known how to act otherwise, and this is something that we will need to know during our time there. I know that the culture is conservative, but seeing it firsthand was very helpful. I also think that interacting with the people at the Wat Temple was interesting because they were so nice and welcoming. I know this is also a part of Thai culture, and it makes me so excited to be a part of it, even if for just a short time. Overall, this experience made me very excited to leave!
- I like to think I have an open mind for the most part, but my biggest goal is to learn how open my mind truly is and make it more open than before. I’ve immersed myself in new cultures before, but I think that I will experience more culture shock in Thailand than I have anywhere else. So overall, I’m hoping that this will allow me to have the greatest experience possible (and make new friends along the way)!
Question number one
At the Wat Temple I noticed a few things about Thai culture. Body language, body parts, and space between bodies informs others of status, communicates unspoken messages, and can be seen as sacred. In regards to body language, when giving a wâi, the position and height in which your hands are represents how much respect you give the receiver. Saving face is important to Thai culture and one of the ways they do that is smiling even if they are embarrassed, angry, etc. Additionally, different body parts have different meanings. One’s feet should not be pointed towards others, especially the Monk. The head has a spiritual importance and they do not touch or pat someone’s head because it is seen as rude. Finally, the space between each other also informs on who holds status. The women all sat on the ground surrounding the monk who sits on a higher platform that was distanced from the audience. The meaning and interaction of and between bodies shows how unspoken communication plays an important role in Thai culture.
Question number two
During our trip to Thailand I hope to understand how religion, tradition, and rituals positively impacts the people. Often times Millennials, including myself, see religiosity, tradition, and practices as something of the past that actually harms and discriminates against populations instead of uniting them. I have seen the harmful effects of conservative ideologies and racist institutions that use a narrative rooted in “maintaining the status quo” only because it ensures the survival of a few privileged persons. Thailand appears to be a place, whether accurately portrayed or not, where the maintenance of these old beliefs, rituals, and practices benefits the population as a whole and fosters an environment of perseverance, peace, interconnectedness, and respect. Hopefully, my cynical views can be broken down a bit!
I have always wanted to learn about another culture especially Thai culture. I like how calm Thai people are because even if they are angry you will see them with a smile. I love their food and desserts. I have always wanted to learn how to make their desserts and food. I am excited about the food that I will get to try and how much I will be able to learn about Thai culture. I want to know the differences and similarities between my culture and Thai culture. While going on this trip I don’t have any concerns other than just making sure I don’t catch a fever and ruin the trip for everyone.
My academic goal is to learn about Thai culture through the service-learning that we will be doing and also communicating with people from another culture. I really hope I will be able to learn as much as I can from this three week study abroad.