Sunday, June 12, 2005

On to Moo Baan Dek

Hello again. Tomorrow we leave Hua Hin to begin our projects. Claudia is going to NorthEastern Thailand to live and work with a family on an organic farm. Chris, Erica, and I will be traveling to Moo Baan Dek (Children's Village School) which is located in the Kanchanaburi Province Northeast of Bangkok.
Yesterday we got somewhat of a preview of the type of community in which we will live when we visited the Asok community just north of the Webster Campus. The Asok are a Buddhist sect that live in a few different communal villages in Thailand. We arrived at the Asok village at about nine a.m. that morning... just in time to share breakfast with the community. We sat on the floor of their main gathering house in two lines, men on one side, women on the other, as rolling carts of vegetarian food were passed between us. We were encouraged to take only what we could eat to avoid the waste of food. The community seemed delighted to share their meal with us... and they even passed the microphone over to us in hope that we might say a few words. One of the monks said to us in Thai...which Ted translated... "Tell your students they won't be eating any chickens or ducks here!" The vegetarians in our group were delighted! The rest of us were not disappointed in the wonderful feast before us, either.
We toured the Asok community to see their tofu factory, sesame, mushroom, and vegetable gardens, and also a plant in which one of the community members, who told us he only had a second-grade education, had constructed a machine to convert plastic into gasoline. WE also spoke with an Asok monk about the community and the life there. The Asok live by the philosophy of take little and give back much. No person in the community is paid any salary, they simply all work together to live self-sustainably. They do make money for the community's needs, however, by selling vegetables, fruits, and herbal medicines to the community outside.
Also,yesterday we visited the temple of Dhammananda Bhikkuni, one of the very few ordained Thai nuns. We had a wonderful and surprisingly lighthearted talk with her about the obstacles she faces, and all women seeking to become nuns face in being recognized by the Therevada tradition of Buddhism. Actually, we spoke less about the obstacles than about the movements that were happening and the work being done by Dhammananda and the nuns around her to make progress. I felt so honored just to be in the presence of a woman with such courage. I had read the writing of Dhammanada in my Bhuddism class last semester and, in some way, I felt like she was a celebrity. I was in awe.
That said, I'd like to bring up something that both Ted, our guide, and the monk that we spoke with at the Asok community stressed. This sense of amazement and enchantment within the prescence of these engaged Buddhists has come over me in the past week. I'm sure that it would overtake anyone in my situation. However, it's not all peaches and cream. There are problems within these systems that I need to discover in order for me to maintain a scholarly, critical, practical and ultimately meaningful experience. The picture of freedom and "utopia-esque" atmosphere that I am about to encounter at Moo Baan Dek deserves both my appreciation and my critical analysis. I hope to be mindful of both.
Signing off with much love to you all. Sawutdee ka! (goodbye) and Chokdee! (good luck)


Blogger Emily Posey said...

Hello Sarah! I just got back from my vacation this morning! I had a great time and I'm happy your doing well! Dad says Hello and he misses you. Also, Please be careful!! I love You and have an awesome time! Talk to you later!
-Emily and Dad

11:51 AM  
Blogger Aunt Deb said...

Have enjoyed reading your blog and it sure sounds like a great trip and learning experience. Keep up the good work, stay safe, take lots of pictures, and have fun. Can't wait to see pictures of all the things you have described. You certainly are an excellent writer. Hope all continues to go well.
Lots of Love,
Aunt Debbie, Uncle Steve
(Jason & Stephanie too)

2:04 PM  

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