Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Chiang Mai 23 July 2009
Internet access has been spotty lately, but a couple of highlights from the trip so far....
We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves on Elephant Day. That included hand feeding the elephants; an elephant show that included how elephants perform labor, how elephants relate to their trainers, and even elephant painting (no kidding, with a brush and with precision); an elephant ride through forest and river; and a raft ride down the river. Huge fun. One of our hosts, the fabulous Dada, taught us "Chang, Chang, Chang," the traditional children's song about elephants.
Yesterday was an extremely full day. We received a tour of Payap University, our host institution, complete with a presentation by the president. Payap is a private Christian university, and its primary aim is to educate whole people.
We also enjoyed a presentation by Laurie Maund. Laurie is an Australian Buddhist who has lived and studied in Thailand for almost 40 years. He's developed innovative international work with Buddhist monks throughout South Asia to address the HIV/AIDS crisis. Their distinctive Buddhist approach has even been welcomed in closed societies like Vietnam and Burma. Laurie really connected with our kids with the work he does to organize novice monks, basically high school age books, to work as peer educators and mentors for other youth.
Finally we experienced Monk Chat with Phra (meaning Monk) Saneh at the Buddhist university here. Phra Saneh explained how Buddhism frees people to be happy, in large part by clearing their minds and simplifying their lives. For example, he asked why we wear shoes. To protect our feet. Well, if shoes are to protect our feet, why do we need more than one pair? Why suffer over shoes? Phra Saneh also provided a powerful experience with meditation. Some of the students found themselves experiencing a profound new level of peacefulness. I bet I'll set lots of us, myself included, using our meditation beads on the flight home.