By Kristie Rodriguez, Junior
Travelling 9,700 miles to Thailand for Spring Break was all it took to be part of another world. Everything, from the spoken and written language, culture, religion, and currency was unrecognizable, yet I felt welcomed when I arrived.
I automatically noticed and listed things about Thailand that were different compared to Miami:
Thailand is an immense home for Buddhism; everywhere I looked, there were temples, spirit houses, and Buddha statues. The country is also a constitutional monarchy, which is represented through prime ministers as well as a king. Currently, the country mourns over the loss of their former king, Bhumibol Adulyadej, who died in October of 2016. While I was visiting the Grand Palace in Bangkok, locals were also present in their black attire to show reverence for the royal family, which was an incredible sight to witness. Like the consistent representation of Buddhist figures that honor the ancient practice, locals place black and grey sashes, as well as shrines of the fallen king all across buildings and street corners in order to pay their respects for their influential leader.
In the meantime, Bangkok and Phuket were celebrating a popular festival while I explored the city alongside my dad and sister. Songkran marks the beginning of summer as well as the Thai New Year, which lasts about three to five days. Streets fill up with water gun fights, music, and wet powder to symbolize the act of blessing, bringing good fortune, and washing away bad luck. The custom originated from the ritual of washing Buddha images and statues as a way to pay respect and bring a fresh start for the New Year. After a long walk in the heat, it was refreshing to be splashed by strangers with water guns and feel the ambience of a fun festival overall.
Reflecting back on my excursion, I realize that travelling and surrounding myself in a different culture is a nourishing and transforming experience. I strongly appreciate the opportunity to explore the world beyond and make lasting memories with my family in Bangkok and Phuket. I hope that anyone who travels finds as much familiarity in foreign places, as I was fortunate to encounter in a country as diverse as Thailand.