to an assembly…honoring herself?

Well… not exactly. Please read on.

Today is wai khru at my university in Thailand, a holiday where students pay respect to their teachers. So instead of teaching on my day of honor, I got to participate in two different ceremonies featuring elaborate flower arrangements and students pledging how nice they’ll be to all of us. Sounds pretty good huh? Perhaps we could work on introducing this in the states somehow… I know my past teachers all deserve it.

I’m not an expert so I won’t go into the history or the extent of the customs, but I will give you an outsider’s perspective on the festivities. Please be patient through my descriptions. If we learned anything from today, it’s that patience is key.

We (my fellow student teachers and I) started the day at the campus-wide wai khru celebration in their spacious event hall. As we entered, we perused a long line of creative and astonishing flower arrangements made with candles and joss sticks. The flowers and plants are full of symbolism representing all the traits that a good student ought to have: humility, sharp wit, respect… you know, the whole package.

Just a taste of the flower sculptures…

As foreign student teachers,  we are only wanted to peek in at the celebration from afar. However, our protests were firmly refused by the higher-ups. No sitting on the floor or merely observing for us.

Spacious  hall and stage.

We were warmly ushered onto the stage to sit with the other teachers and enjoy the show from the place of honor. Well, after teacher refreshments of course:

Julia (foreground) and the rest of the crew scarfing down bread and coffee. Perks of being an ajan!

On stage we had an auditorium full of freshies (first-year students) sitting cross-legged on the floor, paying us their respects for… over… 2… hours…lucky kids.

so lucky. (me, I mean)

As I said, I can’t go into the details of the customs (considering that they were all in Thai and all I can say so far is “Hello, pineapple, papaya, thank you” in that order) so I’m probably skipping over lots of crucial stuff. But after some words were given, the student percussion ensemble began to play classical Thai music and a long line of students very gracefully presented their flower arrangements on stage. They did this by kneeling before the president, heads of department, and other important people in the first row, wai-ing, bowing, and handing the flower arrangements over. Then they sort of shuffled across the stage on their knees until they were clear of the cameras. I was amazed at their agility!

(Please bear with me and my poor video-taking skills)

The parade of flowers continued for over an hour, was followed by a chant, students pledging their respect for teachers in a chorus, a speech from the president, the auditorium of students singing their school song, student honor awards, certificates for the flower arrangement winners….  ‘Twas a thoughtful and thorough affair.

In the afternoon, my fellow Faculty of Management Science ajarns (ajarn means “teacher” <—oh look, a fifth word I know!) got to experience this again on a far smaller, though no less grand, scale in the department where we teach.

FMS Freshies

This time around, my fellow student teachers and I got to take turns sitting in the front row and being bowed to and presented with flower sculptures. It can be a little unsettling to receive such a gesture, but when in Ubon…

Receiving the flowers….
Pamela and I hoping we’re doing everything right.

Overall, I felt very humbled to be included in this tradition.  I was amazed by the ingenuity of the flower arrangements and the depth of sincerity and warmth between students and their teachers at UBU. It was an incredible experience to be a part of.  I feel fortunate to be here to witness it.

Wai Kruh memories! Celebrating with BBA faculty and students!
Jennifer Shannahan

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