Category Archives: 2015 Thailand Learning Abroad Blog

My Mediator’s Initiation

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.

First Blog Post: Orientation for Thailand/Pre-Departure

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.

Wat Temple Reflection

Wat Temple Reflection
My experiences at Wat temple was an eye-opening experience.  I thought I knew more about Thailand because I lived in Thailand from the day I was born until I was 10 years of age.  It turns out that I didn’t know as much about Thailand as I thought I did. 
I thought that the Wat temple would look more like those that I saw when I was in Thailand, but it looked more like a house.  It was when I entered the Wat temple that I realized the appearances of the Wat temple doesn’t matter, it is what is inside that mattered and the inside felt just like the temples that I went to in Thailand.
I went to Thai school for three years and “wai” (greet) all the time and didn’t realized that I’ve been it improperly.  Although speaking and understanding Thai was not an challenge for me, there are two important lessons I learned about Thai culture which I never knew before.  I learned that when “wai” others, my hands are not suppose to pressed flat on one another, they are supposed to spread apart in the middle to form a “lotus” like flower.  When I went to school in Thailand, I’ve always “wai” (greet) my teachers with my hands pressed flat together and no one have ever corrected me.  Something else that I learned is that females are not suppose to sit close to and or touch the Buddha, only males can do so! This was shocking to me, I’ve never heard of it.  I’ve always thought that male or female could sit and touch the Buddha.  This was truly an eye opening experience for me because I learned valuable lessons about the Thai culture and this is one of my favorite part about the Wat temple experience.

Another of my favorite part of the Wat temple experience would have to be the food that we ate.  The food was as good as I remembered having them in Thailand.  The chicken “kang” or curry with eggs is my favorite dish and the sweet sticky rice with mango and coconut cream on top was the best Thai dessert for me!  I love this mango sticky rice dessert.  I’ve tried to make it multiple times at home, but I can never find the right mango to go with it, the mango is either not ripe enough or not as sweet as it should be.  I had two to three dish of this dessert! 
Although it is true that I lived in Thailand for ten years, I’ve never felt as “free” as this.  When I was in Thailand, I lived as a refugee in a refugee camp which was strictly controlled as of where I can and can’t go.  I am looking forward to my experiences in Thailand and can not wait for the day to come!  I look forward to the different places that I will go and the many different food that I will eat again as well as new food that I have not eaten before.  My learning goal that I have is to compare my experiences of Thailand as a ‘refugee child’ to my experiences as an ‘adult tourist’ and learn from them.  I hope to be more open-minded than I am now with the new insights that I will gain from Thailand.  This is going to be an life changing experience as well as a reminder of where I came from.  THAILAND, HERE I COME!

Reflection about the Wat Temple

My experience at the temple was phenomenal. I didn’t know what to exactly expect when I went to the temple. I honestly thought that the temple would look like the temples I saw from the Thai movies and pictures, but it was very different. I thought the temple looked more like a normal house. However, in the inside of the temple it was quite different from a normal house because it had no technology and very open.

Being at the Wat temple I learned a lot about the Thai culture. Previously, I only heard and watch movies about the Thai culture, but experiencing it in real life helped me gained a better perspective.  Being at the Wat temple I learned many new things from how to sit correctly to how to give merit to our love ones. Learning how to chant was probably the most interesting part to me. Although, I couldn’t

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.

Ready, set, THAILAND.

Hello, hello!

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.

Orientation Thoughts

            Heading to the temple for our orientation, I had no idea what to expect. What does a Buddhist temple look like? How would one in Elk River look, and who would be there?
                It took me some time to find the correct location, as I was sure it would look different from the surrounding houses. However, we met in a large house similar to the others, and gathered on the living room floor. I was immediately impressed by the calm, friendly yet authoritative presence of the monk sitting above and in front of us. Bald with a friendly face and traditional orange robes, he silently observed us all as we filtered in. After a few others and I had sat down, Acharn Cathy asked us to introduce ourselves. I did not know how to do this in the Thai culture, especially to a monk. I watched others and saw them bring their hands together before saying their name, so I did the same. Acharn Cathy motioned for me to bow as well. I did so, flustered, hoping I had not offended the monk. He simply looked amused and moved his gaze to the next person. We later learned about the different hand positions when greeting, saying thank you and other situations, which helped me to become more familiar with the customs. I am very happy to have had the experience of learning things like how to greet others, where to sit in presence of a monk, language basics and a little bit about Buddhist rituals in such a friendly environment. This experience helped me to feel more comfortable about immersing myself in Thai culture.

                One learning goal I have for myself is to simply learn more about the way other people view themselves and the world. I get such a narrow picture of it here, and I really only know how I see the world. I’m excited to see how different groups of Thai people live, what’s important to them, and how they go about their daily lives. Within that, I look forward to learning about how global societal and environmental change are impacting the people of Thailand specifically, and hope to use this information to broaden my perspective as an individual and become an active agent of change. 

My Experience at Wat Temple

So much was going through mind as I walked up the stairs, 20 minutes late to the meeting. “Oh my gosh, how utterly rude can a person be?” As I got to the top, I couldn’t ask for a better greeting, a smile. That moment was how I knew that my experience at the Wat Temple would be special, and it was. And why was it special? The absolute elegancy and sophistication of the Thai culture. We were taught different gestures and phrases, like how Thai people greet or thank one another. We also learned about the importance of giving in the Thai culture and some teaching of Buddhism. It was an absolute honor to be taught these minor things from a monk which was what made it that much more special. Another special/amazing thing was the food. That was my very first time tasting authentic Thai food. Everything was delicious and unique. I especially love the mango rice! Of course, this experience was as it is due to the hospitality of everyone there.

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.

Closer and Closer to Departure!

I grew up watching Thai Lakorns (dramas). I have always loved how Thai culture, their history, their tradition, and of course their food was portrayed in the films! But of course what is portrayed in movies is not exactly what reality is. Finding out that I got accepted into this program was astonishing because now I am able to really learn more than what I have seen from movies and lakorns. I am so excited for the day I departure with the friendly people that I have met at orientation.
When I received the information that our orientation was going to be held at a temple, I was so excited to see how beautiful it was because from watching Thai Lakorns their temples are beautiful! The day of orientation I drove to the temple confused…. Is the temple behind the house? I think we will have to walk to the temple because it should be up the mountain somewhere right? Like many others I did not expect the house to be the temple, I was quite surprised. Even though the temple was not like what I expected it to be, I came to a realization that I should not be guessing this and that and I should go with the flow like what Acharn Cathy has said during the orientation.
Walking into the temple, I felt a comfortable and happy sensation knowing that I am finally one step closer to making my dreams come true; going to Thailand and learning about their culture. Growing up I did not know much about Buddhism because I grew up in a Hmong shaman family. When I met the abbot monk and listened to what he had to say about their tradition, it amazed me how beautiful their culture is. From the orientation, I learned so much about Buddhism. Their religion is an insight to the true nature of reality. Their religion has a lot to do with meditation, and I have always heard how soothing and calm meditation can do to one’s body and soul. Their religion is so beautiful for the fact that it does not discriminate gender, sexuality, race, or really anyone… it is about the awareness of kindness and wisdom in your own life.
One learning goal that I have for myself in regards to this learning abroad seminar is to really learn more about myself during this journey. I have always been so focused on others, my family and friends that sometimes I forget to focus on myself. I want to go on this trip and explore the different opportunities, options, and happiness in life and I am really looking forward to learning more about Buddhism. I am really excited to go on this trip and am ready to learn so much more!

Orientation and Pre-Departure Reflection

The week leading up to Orientation, I kept trying to imagine what my experience at Wat Temple in Elk River would be like, which of course made me increasingly nervous! When I arrived at the door of the Wat Temple I was greeted by the familiar face of Acharn Cathy, and quickly removed my shoes. We were ushered up the stairs, and I could see the students ahead of me greeting someone to their right as they reached the landing. I would later learn they were using the Thai greeting for the highest respect.  Because I was behind them I had time to prepare my greeting: mimic of their gesture.  Although my mind was telling me to follow suit of the other students, by the time I rounded the top of the staircase and saw the abbot monk, star-struck, I panicked and awkwardly  bowed my head. Embarrassed, I quickly found a seat on the floor and wondered on a scale of 1-10 how disrespectful I just was. That moment I realized how much I was going to learn, and needed to, about Thai culture. 
As our orientation continued, my nervousness faded into excitement for our trip to Thailand as I began to catch my first glimpse of the beauty of Thai culture. Everything was new to me: what the abbot monk spoke of, translated by a member of the Thai community, the offering of the food, and the food itself (which I have been craving ever since).  One moment that stands out to me is the abbot monk teaching us that how we hold our hands together reflect the shape of the lotus flower, when greeting someone. I wish I could remember his exact wording however, what stood out to me was the time and precision he used to show us the gap between our hands, the slight flex of the fingers outwards, and the importance of it all This detail  would be something that I would normally overlook. Therefore, my learning goal is to be mindful and attentive to details while in Thailand, so that I do not miss any learning opportunities that will build upon the new ideas and concepts I am exposed to while immersed in Thai culture.  

 My dog Rose and I on Stone Arch Bridge!

understanding my own identify

As born and raised in Buddhist family, I have always thought that I am truly knowledgeable and educated about my culture. However, this perspective has shifted my thought after I came to America, the great diversity country in the world. I was exposed to different cultures, believes, races, and norms that completely opposite from mine. I have learned and adapted to this diversity, which made me realize of “what is really my identity”. As far as my knowledge about Buddhist, I went to (Wat) temple for almost any occasion to celebrate traditional ceremony for the family. But I have never been aware and noticed of the reason why we have to do it. I never paid attention to any details of the ceremony nor the monk’ teaching about my own culture. Everything I’ve learned and absorbed about my culture is just passive.

            Therefore, going to the (Wat) Thai temple was a new experience for me in actually learning and challenging what I really know about the culture to find my self-identity. Surprisingly, as we went inside the temple and listen to monk telling story about the Buddhist, I actually learned new things that I have never been aware of before. For instance, why would the monks give blessing before they eat? I finally understand that reason behind this cultural practice. The monks have to give blessing before meal to send or deliver the merits to the cousins or family members who has passed away. The food that they are eating will be share to those who have passed way. Another thing that I have learned was that Wat or temple isn’t only opened up to Buddhist people, but we welcome to all the races and religious group. This is really reflected of how my parents raised me to be an open minded, acceptance, generous to other people no matter what where they come from.

            As business marketing major, I want to explore and learn about a complexity of diversity in the world. I want to used what I learn in helping me seek and understand the differences about people behavior/culture beliefs in order help me open my own business. So one thing that I hope to gain from the learning abroad seminar is to understand my own identify first in comparison to others. I want to be able to used what I learn from America and imply those learning to discovery and understand people in different