The Southeast Asia program is full of big, momentous moments; touching an elephant for the first time, meditating with Buddhist monks, trekking through the jungle in Laos. But equally important are the small moments. Moments that make us remember how grateful we are to be here and reflect on the importance of staying present. Our group wanted to share some of those small moments that made a big difference.
- Alana: One of my favorite memories so far was the big thunderstorm during our first nice dinner. Out of nowhere, the wind picked up and it started pouring. Napkins where flying and many guests moved away from the open walls, but we stayed and sang through the rain with the live band. It was definitely one of those moments when I knew we were going to find the fun in every situation.
- James: Early on, we visited a small tribal village in Northern Thailand. Meeting this Lahu tribe was the experience of a lifetime and I grew attached to the community. Because of that experience, I’ve looked at other possibilities for my life that I would have once never considered. I now want to find my own community and hopefully one day help communities like the Lahu tribe. Their resilience will forever resonate with me and inspire me to push forward.
- Finn: Something that was meaningful to me was one of the free nights we had in Chang Mai. Me and a big group ate at a western themed Saloon style restaurant and everyone seemed to just click. After we ate we played the on hand games the saloon provided like Pool (which I won), darts, and foosball. Having everyone get along and be happy together in a spontaneous fashion really brought us together. That night just sticks out to me as a happy moment with the group.
- Kyra: Visiting the Lahu Hill Tribe and attending Pa Pae Meditation retreat were activities that were meaningful to me. The people and kids at the hill tribes showed me that happiness doesn’t come from those who have money and the simple things in life are the most important. The meditation retreat showed me a lot about myself and taught me a different perspective on life and I learned it’s okay not to understand the future and that life is a bumpy road.
- Illia: A moment already tied within the best moment of this trip was a simple walk to a night market. Time disintegrated as four of us talked about home and joked about the present. We talked about big things and chose food for one another… and we laughed deep from our bellies. What was thought to be a long walk, sped by as we hopped skipped and jumped through the streets of Thailand. This was when I realized that I would be okay. The specific people in this 14 person group that I’m surrounded by are truly awesome and make this experience exponentially more meaningful, important, and unforgettable.
- Conor: For me, I found an evening bike ride around a temple to be one of the most meaningful experiences. It was a beautiful temperate night where the wind was whirling causing leaves to kicked up and swirl around us as we glided through the night. It felt out of a movie, full of new people all having a blast through such a surreal experience. It was almost a week in but it was the first night I realized I was in Thailand.
- Cady: Although I’ve been especially inspired by the teamwork of the communities and the service work we’ve done, the most meaningful thing for me has just been going out to dinners during our free time. I love just talking and laughing with different people from the group and sharing new foods!
- Willow: Out of the many meaningful experiences I’ve had so far, the one that stands out the most is a conversation I had with Eleanor, Cady and Stella at the Buddhist meditation retreat. Our previous talks with monks about purpose and spirituality inspired a passionate, thought-provoking conversation about the meaning of life. I was able to listen to the different perspectives and opinions from my friends as we dove into these complex topics, which helped me understand them on a deeper level and feel more connected to them than I’ve felt before.
- Claire: One of my favorite days so far on this trip has been visiting the White Temple in Chiang Rai. Visiting the White Temple was not an activity on the program itinerary, so only myself and four others in the group agreed to spend an afternoon there with designated free time. I did not know anything about the White Temple prior to visiting it nor did I know that it even existed, but I really enjoyed learning about the history of the temple and walking around the site as it was quite large. The White Temple is by far one of the most breathtaking establishments I have ever seen in my life— if not the most beautiful. I love that I was able to bond with the small group I was with over a place so dreamlike with incredible architecture and aesthetics.
- Stella: I thought that I would learn some tips on how to meditate more effectively or maybe learn about life as monk or even just a deeper understanding of a religion I’m unfamiliar with. What I really got from our 4 day meditation retreat was an opportunity to connect with new friends in a whole different context and a lot of self-reflection. My favorite moments on this trip have been little moments of intimate connection with unexpected people and I feel like the epitome of that was during our Q and A with a monk where he shared his life story and his struggles that I, to my own surprise, was profoundly moved by. I got the opportunity to talk to him further about his insight on various things that he had spoken on that triggered a deep moment of introspection for me. this meaningful moment created a domino effect of vulnerable conversations with other people on the trip that I could not be more grateful for.
- Keenan: Something that was really meaningful for me was meeting the three brothers from the hill tribe. I really appreciated how honest and open they were when sharing about their community. There work is really inspiring to me because they are so committed to working for the good of the people in their village.
We are so excited to continue to learn and grow on this journey and not take anything for granted, even the little things as we make our way through more of Southeast Asia.