Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Give Me Burgers or Give Me Death!

Today was a day of burgers and temples in Chiang Mai, one of the major tourist cities in northern Thailand.

Just a temple down the road from our hotel. NBD.

Inside Wat Chiang Man, the oldest temple in Chiang Mai built 700 years ago.

Being surrounded by religion, I’ve been thinking a lot about spirituality. I guess I’ve always been frustrated when people talk about being spiritual, because I never understand what they mean. I’ve always felt like it’s kind of a buzzword/a cool way of saying that you believe in something off the beaten track and indescribable. And I know that I’m being incredibly judgmental (keep in mind, I’ve had some bad experiences with religion in the Bible Belt), but sometimes I feel like some people sound so pretentious when they talk about their spirituality. So today, inside this temple, I tried to get KHoar to explain her conception of religion to me. She talked about believing in fated choices, something intangible that is bigger than her, and the search for a higher truth.

I guess that for me, I believe that everything in this world is physical—love and emotions are chemical reactions (which is pretty beautiful in and of itself), the bigger thing at work in this world is science, and when you die, that’s it.  And for some strange reason, acknowledging that this life is all that I have, that my choices shape my life, and that at the end of the day all I can fall back on is me comforts me.

I understand that this sort of belief reflects the luxury of having a good life. It’s easy for me to think that life is the be all end all, because I don’t live in abject poverty that I can’t escape, I don’t have to deal with the repercussions of an abusive relationship, and I don’t feel trapped within a social system that I can’t escape. I don’t need to believe that there is a heaven to look forward to or that, in the afterlife, wealthy but cruel people will meet their fate.

So I guess, in that sense, I understand the need for religion. Like in Rwanda, this group of Hutu and Tutsi women lived together after suffering at the hands of each other during the genocide and, when asked how they did it, one woman pointed to the cross on the wall and said God.  Bottom line is just that I wish people would say what they mean and not assume that we all have to spiritual (an idea I’ve run up against many times back home in Tennessee), but just be open to discussion. 

Hungry after our conversations, we decided to hunt down burgers. After 20 minutes of walking and another 20 minutes of driving around, we gave up on the place recommended by Lonely Planet right at the spot (the Kodak store) where we had started our food journey. Ironically, the same two guys staring a map in confusion were right where we left them 40 minutes later. Farang problems.

But not to worry, we found a place.

What can I say? It’s been three long weeks without burgers and watching cows just walk around in the streets and shit wherever they please. I had to get me some beef!

In other news, I had a lot of questionable water today. I ate some ice in two places, drank from a water thing at a temple, and had some water at a restaurant that Katie refused to touch. So we’ll see how my stomach holds up over the next couple of days. I feel like I might be subconsciously testing it since I didn’t get sick in India. Oh well, Thailand pretty much feels like the US after India anyways.

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