Hi everyone! Since I have been extremely busy lately and have been slacking on my blogging, I figured I would post something that I already had to write for my project. As part of the project we are required to right a cultural reflection essay about how we have grown personally and professionally and the lessons we have learned since we have been in Thailand.
I will try to post later this week about the adventures I have gone on since my last blog post! Sorry to disappoint my loyal followers with my lack of posting! I'll catch up eventually!
Until then, here is my essay, just to warn everyone, it's a little personal and sappy, but enjoy! haha
“Mai Bpen Rai”
Learning a New Way of Life
Thailand Cultural Reflection Essay
February 13, 2013
Before I came to Thailand, I had heard about this common Thai saying, “Mai bpen rai”. It can mean a range of things like whatever, no big deal, don’t sweat the small stuff, your welcome, and more. I believe for Thai people it goes even further. It truly reflects their culture and way of life. They don’t get upset about the little things, they are happy a large majority of time, and they really live in the moment and enjoy life. Although I had heard about all of these things previously, I never knew how true it really was, and I certainly didn’t believe that this way of thinking could ever become part of my life, but I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Up until the moment that I arrived at Logan International Airport, I thought for sure that I would be a sobbing mess when I said goodbye to my loved ones and boarded the long flight that would take me to Thailand and over 8,000 miles away from home and all the comforts of my everyday life. However to my amazement, although I had expected to be crying the whole flight to Heathrow, I didn’t shed one tear. Instead, I was filled with excitement and a sense of adventure. This would be the first thing that really surprised me about myself and it certainly was much different than what I had “planned”. Upon arrival to Bangkok, roughly 22 hours later, I still had not become upset. It was not until dinner that night, when it all finally hit me. I am so far from home, in this foreign city, where I am the minority and everything is overwhelming to say the least. Here I was at dinner, trying to eat a new type of food, with many people I barely knew at all, and I could feel the knot in my stomach starting to take over. As I began to cry in silence, and try my best to hide it, I thought, “what have I gotten myself into, what was I thinking coming here”. In that moment, and really for the next few weeks, those feelings seemed like they would never go away. Everyone else was excited and happy to be there, and here I was, just trying to cope and “plan” out how I would make it through the next two months.
I slowly came to realize, that “planning” was part of the problem, not the solution. I wasn’t staying in the moment and trying to enjoy where I was, right that second. Instead I was focused on thinking about what it would be like to go home, how I could possibly make it through the next two months and complete the project, what my group would do if I had to leave. All of these negative thoughts were consuming my life and I couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, despite how desperately I wanted to figure it out. However, I still had a little fight left in me. I was always told that asking for help was a sign of strength, not weakness but I had never felt that way when it came to myself. Somehow, I did ask for help, and I couldn’t have made a better choice. Eventually, I was truly able to come see the strength in myself and believe that I could make it, and not just cope, but actually thrive.
As time goes on I am able to reflect about the experience I had the first few weeks of this trip and really look at it from an outsiders perspective. I have seem myself grow in so many ways. Going through the hard times really helped me realize how important the idea of “mai bpen rai” was going to be in my own life, now and for many more years to come. I use to become very anxious about all of the little things, and I really let them get to me sometimes. But during the first few weeks of being here, I was so upset in such a consuming way that the little things didn’t seem to matter any longer. For example, I sat on and broke my brand new, expensive sunglasses that I had gotten for Christmas, and I dropped my laptop, denting the corner. Normally, both of these things would have upset me and I wouldn’t have been able to let them go or forgive myself for a long period of time. However, because I had many bigger problems, these small problems became insignificant. As I continued to improve, throughout my journey here in Thailand, I have taken this lesson with me. Even though I am no longer upset, I still don’t let the little things get to me. This is a remarkable change for me, for someone who would always become anxious and worried about every little thing that might go wrong.
With this I have learned how important staying in the moment is, an important aspect of Buddhism and Thai culture. My whole life I have been a planner. Before, almost anything I would do, I would go through the logistics in my head, think about what it would be like, and what the end result would be. Although in some aspects of my life, like schoolwork, planning has been a useful tool, it has also been a negative thing that has been a source of stress and anxiety. I never thought that traveling to Thailand would teach me this important lesson. I have truly learned how to stay in the moment and really take everything for what it is and make the most of whatever life throws at me. For example, every weekend that I have traveled, not one aspect has been planned more than a day in advance. In the past, this is something I simply could not deal with. I would have decided not to go if I didn’t know exactly what was going to happen. However, I have learned how enjoyable it can be to just take everything as it comes and live in the moment. It has been such a source of excitement and joy for me and I hope I can continue this new way of thinking when I return back to life in Worcester.
I learned early on in college that in order to grow, one must push themselves outside of their comfort zone. This is one of the reasons I wanted to come to Thailand, however I never knew I would go through such tangible growth, so quickly. In both personal and professional aspects of my life I have seen myself change for the better. I have become more confident and independent, and I am truly being my own person, not worrying about what anyone else thinks. I really feel that I have learned and developed the essence of “mai bpen rai” and I look forward to taking these valuable life lessons with me when I return home to the U.S. I will always remember my experience in Thailand fondly, the overwhelming good and the overwhelmingly bad. I look forward to being able to bring my friends and family to this amazing place, and be able to share the Thai ways of life with them.