Monkhood

Trip Start Jan 02, 2013
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Trip End Jan 25, 2013


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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Today we ate breakfast at 8am. The BCNU students are still here and will be participating in today's Student Conference. BCNC, BCNU and MC students will be presenting on Disaster and the Role of the Nurse. The Thai students have actively participated in disaster relief as Thailand experiences many floods and landslides. The students discussed the disaster response framework and showed many pictures of the activities that they participated in. They were extremely nervous, as they had to present their information in English. They did an EXCELLENT job. The presentations were about 15 minutes in length. Once again, we prepared more than what was needed for our presentation will be about 40 minutes in length. I had to help the students on this presentation for they are not exposed to disaster content until next semester.

During our conference Decha worked on finalizing tonight’s slideshow. For lunch we made the Vietnamese Meal that Decha and I had the other night with Pi Jip. The students really liked it and it was easy to make. It will just be a challenge in the USA b/c of the ingredients. I will need to shop at the Asian market. Students were given an hour to rest and complete the evaluation form for the program before leaving for the "Monk Chat" at the temple.

We got a call from Bri today and she got an “A” on her first Thai examination. She had to speak in Thai for 3 minutes. She could only use the words that they covered in class so she used words to introduce herself, where she was from and what foods she likes in Thailand. Last night she was practicing with every Thai native she could find. We had a similar experience on Sunday. We were at the Rimping Market when a group of Thai natives approached us asking if they could have a few minutes of our time. For school two 10th grade girls had to hold an English conversation with a foreigner. They had their questions written out on a piece of paper. The conversation had to be recorded so several people were videotaping our conversation. Both Greg and I were interviewed. They wanted to know our names, where we are from, how many times we were in Thailand, what we liked about Chiang Mai, what foods we like and if we would come back to Thailand again. The girls were so nervous and the parents were so appreciative. We felt like celebrities J.

This afternoon we went to the Monk Chat at one of the local monastery schools in Chiang Mai. This was a new experience for us so we did not know what to expect. When we arrived at the Monastery school approx. 30 monks of varying ages greeted us. They were second year students of a 4-year BA program. Many of the Thai people cannot afford a college education. So these men chose to become a monk and study at a Monastery because it does not cost much. Many of them will decide to leave the monkhood after graduating with their degree. This seemed to be an acceptable practice. We were introduced and then we broke into 8 different groups. We spent the next 2 hours talking in English. I learned a lot about Buddhism and I hope they learned just as much about Christianity. It was a real test of everyone’s theological understanding. I had 3 young monks that had not decided if they were going to commit to monkhood for lifetime or not. In Thai culture it is expected that if you have a male, the male will become a monk at least one time in his life. There are two phases in which a male can join monkhood. The first is from ages 12 – 19 years of age and the second is over 20 years of age. They refer to new monks as novices. monkhood does not have to be for a lifetime. They can decide at anytime to “disrobe” and join civilian life.

Several of the monks were wearing different color clothing and they told us that there was no real meaning to the color of their clothes. The common color is orange or shade of orange. Some monks wear the color of their native country, like Burma monks wear a burgundy color robe. We did learn that both of the monks’ shoulders should be covered when out in public but if they are hanging out at the temple grounds they can have one shoulder exposed. They shave their hair once a month and some monks shave their eyebrows as well. Many of the monks said that they enjoy the “simple” life.

It was interesting to learn that monks are on Facebook and social media. They also like Google map. Because they have no money they are not able to physically travel but through virtual travel they can experience the world. A typical day for a monk was described as follows:

1)            They wake up at 4 am for a time of meditation and chanting

2)            They then clean the temple grounds

3)            Around 6:30 –7:00 they go out to the community and collect food donations from the people

4)            Around 8 am they eat breakfast. Their meals vary day to day as it all depends on what food was donated by the Thai people.

5)            They have scheduled meditation and teaching sessions throughout the day

6)            Lunch is the last meal of the day for them.

7)            By 7-8 pm the schedule for the day is complete.

The group of monks that I spoke with asked questions like: What is the meaning of life? If God created all, why did He create sin? What is the rebirth? How was Jesus God and man? What is the Holy Spirit? My impression of Buddhism is that it is primarily a moral and philosophical understanding of realities from a human perspective. Buddha’s teachings are very moral and a lot of them are similar to the teachings of Jesus Christ. When asked if Buddha was God the monks said no. He was just a man that received wisdom and understanding. They really do not have a God. They do not believe in a supernatural being. 

After our time with the monks we headed back to BCNC to get ready for tonight’s Farewell Party. I can’t believe it is time to leave. At 6:00 pm we left for the party. The BCNC and BCNU buddies attended the party. This year the party was held at “The Garden” restaurant. It was beautiful as many restaurants are in Chiang Mai. The evening was spent eating, singing Karaoke, giving gifts, taking pictures and giving thanks for everyone’s efforts in making this program a success.

The party ended and we had to say good-bye to Brianne. She is leaving tomorrow at noon for a 4 day-3 night stay in a Karen Tribe so she will not see us off on Thursday. We all dreaded this night. She cried a fair amount. Her father teared up, Jeremy was extremely quiet and I did everything in my power not to cry because I knew if I cried I would not be able to stop. 
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