9. September 2014 | Von Clara Leal Wegenast 

Bangkok: First interactions and impressions

I would like to start my post by saying that Thailand is not a perfect country and you won’t find any illuminated Buddhist culture here.

Bangkok: First interactions and impressions

Au contraire. You are probably going to encounter dishonest taxi drivers and unpleasant salesmen. That is, however, exactly the reason why this is a special place to be. If you get to know the Thai culture and meet enough people, you will lose all kind of prejudice, find some incredibly nice Thais and probably realize a lot of your own way of seeing the world and your culture. I cannot imagine a country that would make me notice more how cultures affect people’s way of thinking, behavior, and interaction. From this paragraph on, I’m going to give more practical information about our first weeks in Bangkok.

As last year, we only have classes with the other guys from the MHMK, so mostly German students, but from different parts of Germany. It does not mean, however, that you have no chance to meet Thais and people from different parts of the world. In the CU iHouse, where I am living, and in many other residences as well, the students meet and go partying together. In the iHouse we are a large international group of people who meet everyday at least for dinner.

In the Gym you can meet a lot of people as well, including a lot of Thais. The Gym is free and well-equipped but there is nobody supervising so you have to know how to use the machines. Nevertheless, there are some classes you can take part in. Most of the girls from the MHMK go to yoga twice a week. Other options include gymnastic and boxing, but the class plan is in Thai and it is difficult to find out where and when the classes are hold.

We have three American professors and an Australian. They are all really good! We cannot complain about the education quality here. Besides the Thai culture class, all of the professors give us insight on the Thai and Asian culture as well as on their topics: economics, marketing and entrepreneurship. In the last entrepreneurship class, for example, our professor taught us Buddhist techniques to stay calm in stressful situations.

The Thai culture for Communication Arts class deserves a special paragraph. We still have a lot planned: visits to museums, a visit to a temple where we can learn to meditate and a trip to the famous festival of lanterns. This is going to provide us with great topics for the next posts. Already in the first month we went to see some temples a few hours away from Bangkok and a very peculiar kind of performing art called “shadow play”. It is a mix of dance and theater, where the Buddhist monks that have preserved this kind of art dance while holding enormous figures that represent the story. With traditional music in the background, another monk tells the story and makes the dialogs.

The story is an Indian tale about the king Rama. If you travel around, you will see the same Indian story repeating itself in many countries. Before I came to Bangkok I’ve been to Indonesia and I’ve seen the same story being represented in a completely different way, with another body language, another music style and maybe even another meaning. The entire Southeast Asia is a wonderful place to see how cultures heavily interact with each other but still remain themselves.

The partner university also gives us opportunity to interact in a deeper way with Thai society. In this first month we had the chance to go to an English Camp, where we could teach English to children who live in the interior of the country, and to go to a higher part of Thailand to plant trees. The trees had mushrooms growing with them that can later turn into food for the local community.

All this trips were super well-organized and fully paid by the university. Even though it is a good initiative, there is still a lot to criticize with regards to the effectiveness of those initiatives. Sometimes the trips seem to be more to appear good then to actually do good. This is something we can learn here too: Thais are always worried with their image; living here you should deliberate on until which point is image really important and what kind of person you want to be.

Clara Leal Wegenast

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