Messiah in the News Once Again

Trip Start Jan 04, 2011
Trip End Jan 28, 2011

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Saturday, January 15, 2011

Today we had an early start. We ate breakfast at 7 am. Today's menu included vegetable salad, fruit, cereal, toast and the coconut battered chicken breast. Once again it was delicious. Following breakfast we prepared ourselves for the Global Warming Bicycle Tour of Nine Temples (Wat). The BCNC and MC students rode along with the Chiangmai Bicycle Association promoting the "ecocity" status of Chiangmai. Pi Jip had arranged this event with the Bicycle Association just for our visit. The students rode a bike for 5 K with stops made along the way to visit the Temples. The 9 temples that we visited were: 1) Wat Chai Mongkol 2) Wat U Paakut 3) Wat Bupparam 4)Wat Chiang Man 5) Wat Prasingh 6) Wat Phantao 7) Wat Chedi Luang 8) Wat Sri Suphan 9) Wat Suan Dok. In addition to the temples we visited the Baan Kingkaew Orphanage Foundation. We began the day with an orientation and a review of the day’s itinerary. All of the students chose a bike which was equipped with a large water bottle. I saw my first bicycle helmet made out of a large coconut shell. This was a most intriguing. A truck followed the bikers displaying a banner that explained the event. We had a police escort (2 police) and a TV crew met us at one of the Wats. They wanted to record the event and show it on the local television. So, we have hit the newspaper for the Khuntoke Dinner and now the TV for this event. What is next?

Next year they would like to open the event up to others and announce the event on the local radio and TV. We did pick up a few bikers throughout the day which was exciting to see. Aj See John and Aj Potjanee rode bikes along with the students. Pi Jip and I followed the bikers in a van. We carried the first aid kit and assessed the participants at each stop to make sure everyone was ok. I only had one student not feeling up to par but I believe we have that under control. The weather was just perfect for the event. The students really enjoyed seeing downtown Chiangmai. The Thai buddies introduced my students to a variety of foods throughout the day. No one could say they were hungry. Lunch was eaten at a small pub in downtown Chiangmai. We had fried rice, soup, fruit and vegetables. The owner is a man from Holland who settled in Chiangmai after marrying a Thai lady. American music from the 70’s & 80’s was played in the background. It was very enjoyable. This activity is definitely a repeater.

Our stop at the orphanage was very informative. A retired nursing professor from Chiangmai University presented the history of the orphanage. This orphanage was the first private orphanage in Chiangmai. Apparently, a group of high society members toured the local hospital and made a visit to the pediatric unit. When they arrived on the unit they noticed there were a lot of “normal” children on the ward. They asked why. They were told that some children were dropped off at the hospital by abandoned parents, some children came to the hospital because they were sick and the parents never returned to pick them up and some children were brought there because they were abandoned out in the community. The nurses expressed that it would be nice if they had a separate house or facility to keep the normal children away from the sick children. So, this society intervened and land was donated. A very rich woman donated money to build the orphanage. The original Teak home that housed the children in the early years caught fire and burned to the ground. Fortunately, all of the children escaped without harm. I believe the orphanage was only 40 years old.

So much was learned today about the Buddhist religion. I will not be able to share everything learned but I will try and highlight some of the beliefs/practices. Buddhist do not hold services as we know it. They visit the temples at any time of the day and week. They meditate, pray and perform rituals during their visit. The Monks live at the temples. They are highly reverend in their culture. During the last temple Pi Jip presented the Monk with an offering. All of the Thai students kneeled in front of the Monk as he blessed them with water sprayed on them by what looked like a saturated grass rod. The front of all temples face the East. The Buddhist religion encourages good works amongst its followers. There is a similarity in that both religions encourage good works. 
Buddhism teaches suggest that merit can be obtained through good
works while  Christianity believes that the “good works” performed is as
a result of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and does not
result in merit. Another interesting observation was the grid of string that was strung overhead in the temple. Apparently this string is another way they receive blessings from the Monk. If there are 9 Monk (9 is a good luck number in Thailand) giving a blessing, each Monk holds a string and that string is bound together with the other string and is strung throughout the temple. The string is strung like a grid. At each connecting block the string is dangled. The Thai worshiper then stands under those strings so they touch their head. That way when the Monk gives his blessing it is passed on through the string to their heads and then they are to pass that on to others through good works. I posted a picture of this so hopefully you can see what I am talking about. It is a little difficult to explain

We finished our bicycle event around 3:30 pm. The students were taken back to BCNC where they enjoyed eating pizza with their buddies. I was told that the Thai buddies would doctor up their pizza with
ketchup and spices. None of my students felt adventurous enough to try
it. They did say that the pizza had toppings that were different from
what we are able to get in America. Still everyone enjoyed it.

I was treated by Pi Jip’s family to a Japanese meal. This was like no Japanese Restaurant in America. We sat at a table and a conveyor belt of food passed by our table. The conveyor belt had small colored dishes with a small amount of food on each. Some of the items included: shrimp, various kinds of fish, port, chicken, various kinds of vegetables, noodles, tofu, etc. You would pull your food  off of the conveyor belt as needed. In the middle of the table sat a warming plate and on the plate was a large pot divided in half. Half of the pot had a clear broth and the other half had a milk broth. You would place all of the food except meat into the pot. Then you had a ladle with holes in it that you would place the meat in. You would dip the meat it in the broth until it was cooked. You would then add that to your soup bowl along with the other items that were cooking in the broth. This type of meal is called Suki. It was quite an enjoyable experience.

Upon my return to campus we held a debriefing session and had some “down time” for a little while. The students are looking forward to tomorrow’s event as we learn to cook Thai food.
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