Coming to America with a perspective that everything will be just like what they display and commercial on Television about U.S culture. I will see everything white, white teachers, white friends, and white neighbors. My assumption was everybody would be really friendly and no segregation regarding social classes differences. However, the reality is always surprise and opposite from your expectation. I was lost in a culture shock and confusion in the fact that America has the most greatest culture diversity in the world compare to my origin homeland, Laos. There are so many cultures, races, and people from everywhere in the world live together in America, which creates a complexity and competition.
Because the existing of multiple cultures in U.S, people tend to enhance their individualism over developing the community base. I remember throughout my time of living in U.S; people always complete with each other. For example, I took a college course, “Multicultural perspectives”, and we had a reading about the role of women in Islam religion. There was an open discussion in the class where we allowed to collaborate opinion and thought about the role of women character and her actions in the reading. I don’t remember exactly what was going on in the reading, but we had have a heat argument between the classmates. One of the students was an Islam and the other was Christian. Both of the students tried to make an argument that their religion or culture is better than other. An Islam students believe that what the women did was a right thing to do, but the Christianity students argued that it was a wrong and inappropriate action regarding to his culture. So that moment made me realized about how American living system that emphasize on individualism. I see this concept almost every day in my life living in U.S. People always assume and jude about other about my ability because I can’t speak an efficient English. That why there is always competition between group of cultures and people from different back group compete each other to make themselves look superior than others. And this is how I adapted and live my life in America.
But coming to Thailand has opened me to see a different perspective on how people live their lives in other place. Thai people really live their lives as simple as how the Buddhism principle play a role in their lives. I remember when we went to Wat Chedi Luang to meet with Jo lee, a master monk in the temple, and had a valuable conversation with him. There he was giving a speech about what Buddhism is and how it play role in people lives in Thai, but one thing that struck me the most was his example about why do we need to argue about the differences of religion and which one is better than other. He used “sugar” as his example to explain his concept and principle of Buddhism. There are many ways and term in implying to the word sugar. For example, in English we called sugar, but in Thai they called “Num Tan”. We could see the differences between the two country of how they pronounse and spell the word sugar. We might say that American sugar is more quality or better than others just because we are develop and civilize country. But one thing that we forget is all sugar taste the same which is “sweet”. Therefore, why are we even arguing about who is better than who. Every religions teach people who to be good, love, and share to one another. And This is why people called Thailand is a “smile country”.
Since landing in Thailand, the feeling of being in a foreign country seemed so surreal. However, now it has really hit me of how far away I am from home and how this country has become my temporary home. Through all the friendships I have made and peers I have met on this beautiful journey, Thailand has been amazing thus far and words cannot explain how I feel.
5/22. Each day spent in Thailand has been a roller-coaster of emotions, observations, impressions, and outcomes. I have felt excitement and fun as well as discomfort and confusion. The most specific experience that has me comparing life here to life at home was our visit to the Hmong Village in Chiang Dao District. Immediately what I noticed were the style of homes, next, as we climbed the mountain more in the van, I noticed the nature and views. My thoughts throughout our stay changed drastically as we explored more and got to know some of the locals.
The home where I was raised is in Minneapolis and while it may be considered small compared to some of my neighbors and friends, it would seem large and excessive to some of the Hmong villagers. Many of the homes we drove past were very small and some in pretty rough condition. My immediate reaction was that the village was all low-income, and while some may be, I have come to learn that there homes do not reflect the amount of money they make or their ability to work hard. This is different from many places in the U.S. as so many homes truly do reflect how much it’s owners make. However, when I thought more about it, my grandparents also choose to live very simply and grow food in their own garden and live in a smaller home. This connection was neat to make between my grandparents and some of the Hmong villagers as they are both extremely different people raised in not-so-similar areas of the world.
Overall, I came to find so much beauty in the culture and the area they lived. I thought to myself when we made it to the top of the mountain “wow- why would you need anything else if you had this view??” The nature and surroundings were breathtaking and my heart felt such joy from the beauty. If the Hmong have their community, their family, their religion, their pride, and their mountain I can see how simple happiness can come to their lives. I look forward to comparing this experience to our next Hmong village visits.
The experiences and conversations I had in the village were inspiring and life-changing. It helped me reflect on my life in America and gave me a better understanding of the system I live in. This also made me realize what I need to do in order to be in peace with my heart, mind, and soul. I realized that the American system places great emphasis on success, efficiency, and independence. Though this may bring in wealth, riches, and achievements; it doesn’t necessarily bring in happiness and peace. In the village, my mind felt at peace. I interacted with the people around me, embraced mother nature, and my mind was free of cluttered thoughts. I wasn’t worried about what I needed to do the next day, did not think about checking my Facebook notifications, nor was I distracted by external stressors. I was in the present moment, and I was grateful. I was grateful to be alive… To see, smell, taste, hear, and feel the wonderful creations around me. I was smiling and laughing with the villagers and our group… I also dedicated a few moments of silence to this land. This was unlike any experience I’ve encountered before. For the first time ever, I learned how to be in peace with my heart, mind, and soul… And I realized how crucial it is to stop, breathe, and be grateful for what I have.