When people think of Asia and religion, Buddhism is usually what comes to the forefront of most people’s minds. What many don’t always realize is that there are a different schools of thought within Buddhism. Zen Buddhism is pretty widely known, but the two sects that I’ve become familiar with through my travels are a bit less widely known. So, I’d like to explore some of the similarities and differences between Theraveda and Mahayana Buddhism.
It’s been a little more than a week since King Rama IX, Bhumibol Adulyadej died. His passing is a tremendous event in Thailand, and as such the next year has been declared a year of mourning for the Land of Smiles. Many people who haven’t spent an extended amount of time in Thailand, and even some who have, don’t understand what the King meant to the Thai people or are confused about what significance he had to them. The story of the Thai monarchy is a difficult one, however, understanding that history can provide greater context for the reasoning of the masses of Thai people donning black.
Last month, the Thai people voted on a referendum for a new constitution, their 20th constitution since 1932 when King Prajadhipok (Rama VII) acquiesced to the demands of a bloodless coup. It passed with 61% of the vote, with 59% of eligible voters participating. But the numbers don’t tell the whole story.
I had the opportunity to take advantage of some extraordinary experiences and participate in some wonderful cultural exchange this past year. It was truly wonderful and I cherish these memories, and as this is the time of year to look back and plan ahead I want to share some of those memories and cultural experiences from around the world.
I love how the Internet has not only connected volunteers with life back home more, but also with volunteers in other countries. Hannah is a volunteer in Zambia and is trying to do interviews with volunteers in every Peace Corps country. Of course I volunteered to talk about Thailand.
On What Thai People are Like
I live in the poorest region of Thailand, the northeast, but in all of my travels I think that the people here are the best. Not many tourists or travelers come to this part of Thailand, and so when they do see me, they are genuinely interested in meeting me, talking to me, and helping me. They are so proud of Thailand and their region and want to show it off to me, and when I bust out the minimal dialect I know (usually I just say “I can’t speak Isaan!” in the Isaan dialect, which always gets a laugh), I have instantly made a new friend.
Because my time here is Thailand as a Peace Corps volunteer has officially drawn to a close, I’m feeling a bit sentimental. I previously posted a video that used this song, but I wanted to post the official music video as my farewell.
Today is officially my last day as a Peace Corps volunteer in Thailand. Even if I could sum up that last two years in words, it would likely be a novel, or at least a novella. Can you put the last two years of your life in a blog post? Didn’t think so. So, harkening back to the old adage that a picture is worth a thousand words, here is a gallery of picture highlights from the last 27 months. (Click on any picture to enlarge.)
(Apologies to my readers who are in locations with limited data and Internet connectivity. I suggest skipping this post and coming back to it when you have decent Internet.)
As my time here in Thailand draws to a close, the topics of my posts are going to shift away from Thailand. I will keep blogging, and you should expect some travel writing over the next couple months!
However, if you are in need of a Thailand fix, never fear! I bring to you some fellow Peace Corps volunteers who will be staying in Thailand after I leave and whose blogs I think are pretty exceptional. Check ’em out and click “Follow.”
After living in Thailand for just over two years, I have picked up some very valuable life lessons. As an American, Thai culture can often times feel like everything is upside down. However, living in a different culture allows you to reflect on yourself and your own culture in a very unique way. These are some Thai ways of life that I want to continue to incorporate in my life.