Exploring Beyond Evergreen: Arriving in the Land of Smiles
July 19, 2016
For those of you who did not have a chance to follow my first couple of blogs earlier this summer, I am traveling with Jen Lowry, Ph.D., and Andre Colombat, Ph.D., in Southeast Asia. We are visiting our Bangkok program at Assumption University and meeting with new colleagues at Fu Jen University in Taipei, Taiwan, where we hope to begin a collaboration that will bring students from Taiwan to the Sellinger School. After leaving Taiwan, Jen and Andre will visit our study abroad partners at Kansai Gaidai University, Osaka, Japan. My husband, Andy Futterman, is traveling with us, as we will be heading to Indonesia where we are participating in Sanata Dharma University’s first international psychology conference at the end of July.
We arrived in the Land of Smiles, Bangkok, Thailand late Sunday night after over 27 hours of travel from Baltimore.
Visiting the Bangkok program is particularly important as the first Loyola students spent a semester here 25 years ago.
We are here to learn about the program and to ensure its success for the next 25 years! Father Jamie Kelly, S.J., outgoing Director of the Bangkok Program, met us for breakfast Monday morning before heading off to Assumption University’s old Hua Mak campus and a walking tour of the neighborhood where our students live for the semester.
When we arrived at the campus we were greeted by Dr. Samusa Nakasingh, past director and founder of Assumption’s International Center in 1994. After retiring in 2003, she has served as an advisor at the Center, getting to know our students every fall semester. Her smile and warm welcome were contagious and ever so memorable.
Father Kelly walked us through the Grand Sala gardens and gave us a tour of the students’ dorm rooms and common room. We got a real sense of where they hang out, share meals, and study—with views of the city of Bangkok. After wandering through this part of campus, we had a home-cooked Thai meal at Grandma’s, where our students may eat lunch everyday. Grandma, the owner, of Grandma’s, has been a friend to generations of Loyola students. She welcomed us with hugs and got a special kick out of meeting me as she rarely meets an American who is her height!
John Wilson, professor of English literature and philosophy, Samusa Nakasingh, Christian Dobbins, class of 2014 and teacher at St. Gabriels in Bangkok, Ioan Voicu, visiting professor of law and business, and past ambassador from Romania and his spouse, joined us for conversation and lunch at Grandma’s.
Adjusting to the heat and beginning to feel our jet lag, we headed to our hotel on the river to relax and nap. Father Kelly met us later that evening for dinner at Sala Rim Naam. We had a traditional Thai dinner that included pomelo salad with grilled blue river prawns, chicken with lemongrass and galangal soup, and dessert of Rambutan sorbet and water chesnut rubies in a chilled coconut milk.
During dinner we had the opportunity to see an ornate Thai dance show: Chansuda Parade, depicting the royal concubine of King Yasavimon, Peacock Tail Dance, traditional Thai boxing, and other historic Thai dances.
Before concluding the night, we crossed back over the river to walk through the famous Madarin Oriental Hotel, where many a famous author has spent time writing or dining including Somerset Maugham, Noel Coward, and Norman Mailer. As we were leaving, we happened to see the Princess of Thailand and her entourage leaving the hotel.
Tuesday and Wednesday, Thailand observes the holiday of Asahna Bucha, preceding the beginning of the Buddhist lent and of the rainy season. On Tuesday, after catching up on sleep (which I highly recommend), we traveled by boat up the river to visit the Wat Pho Buddhist Temple complex, walked through the old market along Maha Rat Road, and had a late lunch at Sawasdee House.
Father Kelly gave us a real sense of how he orients the students in their first few days in Bangkok. For example, he helped us arrange for a tour guide who went by the name of Waco. Waco, trained as a monk, gave us a genuine sense of the significance of the Temple complex, which is the home to the largest collection of Buddha images in Thailand and enormous reclining Buddha.
I was particularly struck by understanding that the Temple was the earliest center for public education and the birthplace of the school for traditional Thai massage, still taught and practiced at the Temple. Father Kelly was so impressed with Waco’s tour that he arranged for Waco to meet the Loyola students at the Temple in a few weeks.
We considered getting a massage experience after the tour; however, we were thirsty and ready for our late lunch at Sawasdee House in the Khao San Road area, known for fair trade, boutique hotels, tattoo shops, Thai tailors, and kickboxing. We traveled to this part of the city in a tuk tuk, a sort of open-air taxi.
This morning we will soon be taking a bike ride around parts of the city—a ride that our students take when they first arrive to help them begin to understand and appreciate their new home. I am looking forward to getting a better sense of Bangkok’s neighborhoods and to meeting with Loyola alumni who are now teaching at St. Gabriel’s.