Being in Thailand has put a lot of things in perspective for me. Back in Minnesota, going to a predominately white university, I have always felt like minority. Like I was always the one getting the shorter end of the stick. Then I come here and I realize how ignorant and privileged I am to live in a country where I have to drive 20 minutes to school and still complain about how bad traffic was on highway 94. How privileged I am to have air conditioning in every building that I walk into even though it is only 80 degrees outside.
Everyday here the sun is hot and the air is humid. Now I can finally understand why my mother has the heat turned on when it’s 70 degrees back at home. After being in the United States for over 30 years, she still hasn’t adjusted to the cold of Minnesota. Visiting the Hmong village was definitely my biggest wake up call. Things are so much different than the Hmong movies that I have seen. Both girls and boys have access to education and agriculture is so much more advanced than I had even considered. Furthermore, I was surprised to learn that only about 10 out of 200 families still followed the traditional Hmong practice of Shamanism. I thought that the conversion of religion was only a trend in the United States, but apparently that did not stand to be true.
Although so many things surprised me, I can say that I have never felt so proud of my Hmong heritage. Seeing the spinning tops, shooting the cross bow, and riding the kart down the hill really helped me embrace my Hmongness. Especially hitting the coconut on my first try! I had always known that those were genuine Hmong traditions but had never had the chance to actually do it. It made me feel like I could relate to my parents childhood. Walking around the village, getting caught in the muddy rain, and playing with the village children made me feel so at home. These are my people. This is my community. And I am their person.
Love from Thailand,
In the months and hours leading up to our orientation at the Wat Temple in Elk River, I became increasingly eager and nervous to learn 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!
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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.