It’s crazy to think my 2nd week of classes in Chiang Mai has just finished! It’s even crazier to think that I am now about halfway done the program. Where did the time go? Although, when I look back and think about how much I have done THIS far, I am pretty satisfied. As I write these blogs I don’t really have an outline of what I am going to write or about how long things are going to be so fair warning, this may be a long one.
Waking up Monday morning I was a little bit scared for Thai class because I hadn’t practiced too much over the weekend, so I though I forgot what I learned. It turns out after a quick refresher in the beginning of class I was good to go! It is satisfying to say that learning Thai does seem to be getting easier, although it is still very challenging. The most strange part of this class though was when we learned how to ask for blood in our soup. My professor was completely serious too. She said she prefers it with blood cause it has a much better flavor. On the other hand, I was completely nauseous and if she mentioned it one more time I would have ran to the bathroom to throw up. I think the problem was that I was thinking there was a slight chance I could have already eaten blood soup because how was I supposed to know the difference and how was I supposed to know that was even a possibility? Even writing this now and reflecting I find myself a little sick to my stomach.
For Monday’s lunch I decided to have Khaw Soy, which is basically crispy and soft noodles in a curry. The curry was amazing; the only problem was it was SO spicy. It was baffling to think that there were people adding extra heaping amounts of chili powder to it to increase the spice. I on the other had, had to go buy myself a coconut smoothie to soothe my mouth and throat so I could actually finish my meal. Both were amazing.
For Buddhist Philosophy, my teacher took us to the temple Wat Suandok, which also happens to be a university specializing in Buddhist studies. It is also rather interesting because it is about half regular students and half monks studying here. While our professor was showing us around and showing us the uniforms for the regular students, I learned that the general uniform is pretty standard, the only thing that changes is the shirt buttons, pins and belt buckles students wear depending on what university they go to.
The temple was very beautiful! My favorite part was how from the parking lot there was a beautiful view of the mountains in the background, with the temple in the fore ground!
Later that day we took another venture around the old city; however, instead of going right towards Thae Pae gate, we took a left to see what we would find. We ended up turning down one of the main roads and then making a right down a smaller road when we saw a sign for a vegetarian restaurant. This ended up taking us almost through a residential area, and the vegetarian food was simply a stand in front of someone’s house. Because we wanted to sit down to eat something we continued. It was really neat seeing people come home from their days or whatever they were up to and listen to them having conversations I couldn’t understand. What a strange concept: eavesdropping but not being able to understand a word someone is saying.
Eventually we made it back out and realized we were only about a block from where we had made the right into the square. Just before we left the old city square area, we realized we had were passing a place one of our friends was telling us about with terracotta statues, so we decided to take a quick stroll around.
Apparently the grounds are being turned into a gastropub and I think a coffee bar. Once it is all finished up this place is going to be awesome! It has a wall around it and is filled with plants and statues so you completely forget about the hustle and bustle going on outside. Once we realized there wasn’t much more for us to see or do here, we continued on to the Chiang Mai gate Market where I decided to try and avocado mango smoothie and boy it was delicious!!
After, we continued strolling around new slightly different areas until we ended up back at the hotel. I love seeing this small city at night. I love the way the lights of buildings and cars reflect into the water of the moat. I love how the smells of delicious foods from street vendors are always present and you can smell the shift in different flavors as you pass down a street. I love how this city never fails to make me smile and my heart happy.
Tuesday was great because during our break in Thai class, said my entire coffee order in Thai. Now that’s a pretty cool trick or interesting fact to be able to say about yourself… I can order coffee in Thai. I was feeling pretty good about myself because I had actually learned something and was able to apply this knew knowledge.
In Buddhist philosophy today, we went to the temple Wat santi tam where we were able to meet with one of our professors monk friends, who ended up giving us a quick tour and then sat down and talked with us for about an hour.
In this temple, they have a museum room with relics of various monks and meditations masters. The museum even apparently had a relic from the Buddha himself, which is pretty amazing!
After when we were talking with the monk, it was super neat to be able to hear some of his stories, as well as learn a lot from his outlook on life. Something that is definitely going to stick with me for a while is when he said “If you are suffering or angry it is because you created it, if you are happy or feeling joy it is because you created it.” Maybe it’s silly, maybe it’s not but I think it is so true; we can interpret situations however we want and if we want to look at it positively and be happy then we can, if we want to be miserable then we can. We are in control of how we feel, no one else.
So, after that I was super blissed out, the rest of the day I took a quick walk to the market for another mango-avocado smoothie, 2 spring rolls and a samosa, which I enjoyed in the hotel while editing photos, uploading photos, writing, and most importantly, smiling. I ended up going to bed around 9:30 and falling asleep probably by 11. What a nice day!
Wednesday we had our first class cultural field trip for Thai class. Our professor took us to the Thai market that David and Pat took us to when we had to try and find various fruits. We had the morning to look around and explore and use some of our knew Thai words and phrases. Because it was hot out and we were stuck in our uniforms I was covered in sweat by the time the van came to take us back to school. I know it’s kind of disgusting to admit to but this was probably the most sweaty I has been the entire trip. It was hot and humid and I was stuck in a uniform that did not breathe one bit. I am not sure if it is fortunate or not but everyone else was the same way so I was not the only sweaty American.
Once we got back to school, I had some sticky rice and a Thai tea for lunch and then headed on up to Buddhist Philosophy class.
Today we actually stayed on campus and chatted about the Buddhist perception of time, and talked about ego. Buddhists believe that your mind has two parts: your eo and then your true self. Your ego is what prevents you from being your true self, or seeing things just as they are rather than your perception of things. After talking back and forth with the professor and the other two girls, I was taken back when the professor said I have a very low ego. I took this as a major compliment because basically the professor was saying I make little judgment on the world and simply just see things and take them in as they are. What a kind thing to say about someone.
In my opinion the best compliments a person can receive is when their attitude is complimented. For example, someone complimenting a person’s smile or laugh, or in this case, the way you perceive things, and your attitudes about them because at the end of the day, what else really matters.
Once we got back, we decided to check off walking around the entire moat and Old City walls from our bucket list. Before we started walking, we grabbed smoothies and I chose dragon fruit, which had a subtly sweet yet earthy flavor. As we were walking there were various tents with chairs set up. Once we reached a tent that had a small buffet outside with the centerpiece of two pig heads, I had to ask what was going on. Apparently in was a celebration for the city’s birthday so later there was going to be some dancing and other sort of events.
The walk eventually took us an hour and forty minutes, which is pretty good because it did not feel that long at all! As well, it was nice to get a much better orientation and sense of where everything is. I also learned that there are a couple temples on the opposite end of square that I would love to be able to take a closer look at.
Once we were back at the Chiang Mai gate market it was time to eat dinner and I found myself in another mood to want to try a whole bunch of different things. First I got what was listed as vegetarian Turkish pizza. It basically came out as almost a quesadilla filled with spinach, mushrooms, onions, and something else. It was so delicious!! Then, I continued on to have another samosa and a vegetarian noodle soup. It was refreshing to finally have a soup that I knew for sure wasn’t going to have meat in it and was something I didn’t need to make a special request for.
After that my friends and I were finally full so we took the quick walk back to the hotel and went to bed a little bit earlier.
Today was a good day!
Thai class went well again and I actually got something else a little more interesting for lunch because the special was fried rice with shrimp! I had this with a cappuccino and then went on to our highly anticipated Buddhist Philosophy class, because we were going to be trying a device that simulates the deepest level of meditation. The device does work a little differently on everyone depending on the way his or her brain works; however, we were all excited to give it a go.
I decided to go first because I as just super curious. The device uses flashing LCD lights, which apparently trigger various functions in your brain such as creativity, calmness, alertness, and then your subconscious. The whole time my eyes were close and the lights were going I was super jittery and hyper focused. I was following the blinking lights around in my head and noticed every single change whether it was 7 spinning blinking circles, 4 spinning squares, circles moving vertically and horizontally, or a honeycomb of circles moving all at once. Even though it was supposed to make me calm and relaxed, I found myself unable to focus because there was so much happening at once and changing every so often.
After comparing results with the other girls in the class and my teacher, apparently I was the only one this happened to, everyone else had various levels of calms because I think the lights focused them. The professor said next time he would change mine up a bit so that hopefully I was able to experience the complete zen feeling.
Even after it was over and we were walking to our red truck for the way home I still felt a sense of hyper-focus. For example I noticed every single sound around me and everything I say seemed extra clear. I could hear the sound of my feet brushing against the road, every bird in the trees, every car horn, the wind in the trees, etc. I felt like I could see every single leaf on the tree and every brick on building even far away. Eventually I mellowed out a bit more but I am very happy with my experience and am excited to try it again next week.
The best part was as lights took certain patterns it triggered so many great memories that seemed super simple or like things I wouldn’t remember. It was also curious how certain people kept showing up in my memories and people who I thought would did not. The whole time I just felt super happy and even now writing this I still am.
Tomorrow for Thai class we are going back to what suan dok for a monk chat program the temple and university runs. I am excited to hear what the monk has to say and learn from their insights on life.
Hope you all have a wonderful day!