Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Off again!

After a day of rest I realize how much my unsuccessful trip took out of me. I think I just felt so much disappointment because I had such high expectations in the beginning. Being in Bangkok has refreshed me and I feel more then ready to jump back into my project. It’s going to be hard to settle in for the first day especially because I had to speak English the whole time I was in Isan seeing as the guy wanted his kid to pick it from me. My Thai is beyond rusty. I’m a little concerned that they will be disappointed with my comprehension, but hopefully it won’t be too bad.
There’s so much that I want to learn while I’m there, including how to make tofu. It seems like a neat process and not that difficult to learn. I can’t wait to get out into the gardens and see what its all about.
For the moment though, I am just happy that I will be picking up my clean laundry in half an hour, my first truly clean clothes since I began the trip, and boy were they smelly. Bangkok used to be so unsettling to me because of all the activity but I’m starting to find some comfort in its familiarity now that I’ve been here a bunch of times and find comfort in my ability to get places on my own.
Well off for more adventures and more excitement for my blogging!

Well an adventure goes astray

It’s been quite a while since my last post. Since then I have traveled to Thamafaiwan to work on a farm up there. It turned out not to be the experience I had hoped it would be. I only “farmed” for about 30 mins on the first day. What it entailed was going around to villagers on our little motorcycle and getting seeds and cuttings and then planting them in this guy’s weed encrusted garden. It was interesting to learn about the different plants and which ones were edible, but I had hoped to actually get my hands dirty and do some hard work. The second aspect of the farm which I also had a brief encounter with was building earth houses. It was an interesting set-up which I was unable to really understand fully due to circumstances I will explain later. The “bricks” are made from different compounded types of earth. We used the broken bricks mixed with water to make the mortar and slowly built up the walls. The walls will be coated later with cement to increase its durability. The guy I worked with was selling these houses for profit but also wanted to start building them for the poor villagers. He wants to create a community based on Buddhist ideals, that includes living in a close community and having gardens that are natural to the environment.
I only got to stay at the farm for three days, for the rest of the time he dragged me to a conference to be the nanny for his kid while he was in meetings. I didn’t know that we would be gone for so long and only brought some of my luggage. It was disappointing that he fooled me into taking care of his kid when I had come through an organization that specifically sends people to farm. I left early because I really want to continue to look at land use and Buddhism and he was keeping me from this by pursuing his own interests. Nevertheless I tried to think of it as a learning experience, I got the chance to see how it feels to be the nanny of a child who doesn’t understand much of what you’re saying or care. I felt what it was like to be thought of as hired help and to skirt the outsides of groups and be at the beck and call of the father and the child for that matter as well. It was interesting and humbling. Being a foreign nanny is much more difficult then I could have imagined and I feel much more compassion for women who come to America for that purpose.
Tomorrow I am off to an Asok community which is somewhat like a Buddhist commune. There I hope to be able to farm and learn with them, as well as practice my Thai. Hopefully this endeavor will be more successful, but regardless I’m sure I will learn something. For now it’s time to do my laundry and sleep before I set off to a new place.

Monday, March 14, 2005

The First Post

My first entry due to computor difficulties and now I have so many things to write about!
I feel lucky that this is my second time to Thailand and as a result I am that much more settled with the pace and atmosphere here. We arrived in Bangkok on the 6th and began our experience by taking some language classes. Our teacher was very patient and knowing some Thai has helped a lot already, even though we are only able to talk about certain topics like fruit and introductions. All of the people that we have run into have been very understanding and while they laugh I think they appreciate the effort.
At the moment we are south of Bangkok and have just completed an orientation to Engaged Buddhism at Webster University. We were taught by the director of religious studies, and given a overview of some of the basic concepts and ideas, along with some bits of history and a few social issues that have arised in Thai society. Our teacher is an amazing man who has such an extensive understaning of not only the movement but also of a great deal of historical events that have influenced people's intrests and desires for an alternative Buddhist practice. As part of our orientation we were taken to an Asok community and to the wat of Dhammananda. At the Asok community we were able to not only share a meal with the students and adults but also talk with one of the monks. The monk spoke passionatly about the aim of the community, expressing their desire to develop individuals that would be able to not only live anywhere happily but also have an impact on their society by following right dhamma. At the community everything is voluntary, creating a sense of willingness to work and a culivation of values that he saw as being important to socital interaction. Even though the community is isolated in many ways they enrich their program through cultural field trips that help the children to appricate other people's views and practices, or as he put it, one must notice the differences but not seperate your belife from others, allowing the students to think of the other points of view as simply different not opposing.
Dhammananda was another amazing person that we met not fifteen mins. from leaving the Asok community. She is the first ordained nun in Thailand. She talked with us about the history of nuns in Buddhism and particularly Thailand, while giving us some insight into her struggle to reassert their order and gain aceptance. She talked about little steps and being able to see the positive aspects of a situation. She said that when people say bad or untrue things about her she no longer is upset because the person they are describing is not her, and she feels sorry for them because they have to resort to such measures. She talked about where the movement was going, and about the support and growth that is taking place in Sri Lanka, and about the support she is recieving from other monks. Despite the uphill battle that she is enduring, all of her explainations were told with a smile and a contagious joyfulness. She was very inspiring to all of us and so kind to have taken the time to speak to our group.
Tomorrow morning I am going off on my individual project. I am traveling 10 hours to the north to stay at an sustainable farm which is close to a forest monestary which is the home to a monk who is very involved with the Engaged Buddhist movement. My stay will be for two weeks and I am really excited. I feel that this will give me an oppertunity to see this way of life in action, talk with people, and help them with their gardens and child care. It will be exciting to get out to the countryside and see a community that is relatively new and full of ideas. If I am lucky perhaps I will get an oppertunity to talk with some of the monks about their views and hopes, any conversation will no doubt be valuable to me and my research. My next entry will be from there and hopefully I will have tons and tons to share about it! If anyone is reading this blog and has any questions that they would like me to answer, please just ask!
Sawadee ka for now!