SST 2012 Update #6 is written by Brandi Yamada, Senior Communications major from Westmont College.
As I reach the one month mark of my semester in Thailand, I am filled with joyful contentment. One of the most rewarding experiences for me so far has been at my internship at a juvenile detention center named Baan Dek (translation: children’s home). A few other SST students and I go there 3 times a week and spend time with the girls doing various therapeutic activities such as doll making, floral card décor, Thai massage, and textile craft. The purpose is threefold: it aids them with life skills, it gives them a small income (the crafts are exported and sold), and most importantly it provides a therapeutic time of peace and healing for many of the girls who have suffered traumatic experiences in their young lives. At first it seemed that we didn’t have anything in common and it was very uncomfortable, but after a bit of gentle persistence, we have developed a mutual respect, admiration, and love for one another. There’s really not much we (the interns) can do to help the girls there, but I think they just appreciate the fact that we give them our time and presence. It’s definitely the place I look forward to going to the most in my weekday.
At school this week our brains were filled with more knowledge as we had the privilege of hearing lectures on Buddhism for our Thai Culture and Society class from a few very highly respected Ajarns. It has been especially interesting to learn about the differences between and similarities with Christianity. My prayer for our SST students is that we will be open to what we’re learning and that it will challenge us intellectually and spiritually. I hope that as a result we will think more critically about, yet be more understanding of other people’s and our own beliefs. Perhaps it will deepen or redefine our faith. Maybe for some, their faith in the Lord will become their own for the very first time. Phii Abigail introduced a quote to us at the beginning of the semester that I think is very applicable here as we learn about the complex Buddhist philosophy, history, and practices. The quote is:
“May we be as fascinated by our differences as we are consoled by our similarities.”
It’s actually very applicable in almost every aspect of our time in Thailand, whether we are learning in the classroom, interacting with our Thai families, or out and about making new friends. It’s in our nature especially in a foreign land, to search for what’s familiar because the familiar things are comforting. Yet, how much more helpful would it be if we went out of our comfort zone to search for the unfamiliar and trained our minds and hearts to not only accept the differences we discover, but also to rejoice in them. I hope that we all continue to be glad for both the similarities and the differences that we come across.
Another way in which this quote is meaningful is in our Thai art class. This week we went on a field trip to a textile museum, lacquer ware shop, and paper making company. Many great purchases were made, and we were happy to get our shopping fix on (well, I was)! We also got to view a very private collection of rare and ancient lacquer ware at a kind acquaintance’s home. I think it’s safe to say that we all have developed a keen appreciation for Thai art as none of us are artistic enough, nor do we have the patience to make the beautiful art that the Thai people produce (but we’ll continue to try).
After the school week, we had more fun to look forward to at yet another flower festival—The Chiang Mai Flower Festival, held right in downtown Chiang Mai. We enjoyed a parade of large yet intricately designed floats made using just about every kind of flower imaginable along with fruits, sesame seeds, and rice.
It felt as if we were on another art class field trip as we stood in awe of the colors and details, and as we imagined the hard work and long hours that were put into each float. Later that night many of us attended a play that the English department at CMU produced. A couple of our very own Thai buddies starred in it and made us all so very proud!
All the elements for a picture perfect day were present: good weather, amazing sights, delicious food, and awesome friends. It was a great way to end our week, and we look forward to the many more amazing experiences that God has in store for us!