All posts by Anastasia Press

Blog #2 – Balance and Harmony

Balance and harmony permeate several aspects of Thai culture, shaping the people, environment, and my experience of Thailand.

This first came to my attention earlier in the semester when Acharn Cathy talked about how people smile a lot in Thailand and avoid showing anger in order to preserve harmonious relationships with others. Being in Thailand now, I have seen how these social norms play out. I’ve noticed how the drivers of our vans remain very outwardly calm as they drive through the city, even if someone cuts them off or drives too close to them. Of course there are exceptions, like a few times when a driver gave a quick and gentle “beep” to other drivers, but for the most part they haven’t expressed a lot of anger or road rage.

imageMeals are also crafted in a way that embodies balance and harmony in both their flavors and presentation. When we went to the Thai cooking school, the woman who was teaching us made sure to identify the flavors in each dish and how they interacted with each other, and the way she arranged her food on the plates was visually appealing. I’ve noticed similar food aesthetics in the other places we’ve eaten too, like the Garden Cafe.

Finally, I’ve noticed how  the presence of nature is welcomed into many of the indoor spaces we’ve visited. For example, the cooking school had very few walls, which allowed for bugs and geckos to freely move between the cooking area and the outdoors. We also went to the Chiang Dao school where we spent a lot of the afternoon in a gymnasium with huge arches leading to the outside

I have really enjoyed experiencing Thai culture, and I look forward to learning more over these next two weeks.


Pre-departure Excitement!

In the months and hours leading up to our orientation at the Wat Temple in Elk River, I became increasingly eager and nervous to 12733389_10206863612602982_3261109381562977513_nlearn more about our trip to Thailand and meet the strangers who will eventually feel like family to me  (or so I’ve heard from past students who have gone on this trip). During the drive from Minneapolis to Elk River, I found myself fidgeting with the radio and tapping my fingers on the steering wheel more often than usual as I worried about getting to the temple on time and what the other students would be like.  But during my time at the Wat Temple, I felt so at ease, and now I’m even more excited to go to Thailand! Being at the Wat Temple also made me realize that I need to be a lot more aware of Thai culture before we go, and I have a lot more to learn. Like, I had no idea that as a woman I cannot touch a monk, which I started to catch onto as the day went on. I also didn’t know that I wasn’t supposed to point my feet towards a monk until Dr. Solheim pointed it out. I have a feeling that during this trip I will be having a lot of (good) learning moments like that, where I’m unknowingly doing or saying something improperly. Along those same lines, my main learning goals for this seminar are to become more aware of how my cultural background influences my perceptions of the world and to see the world using a different cultural lens.

I’m looking forward to seeing everyone again and getting to know you better!