Being in Thailand everyday reminds me of racial identity. Thais refer to anyone who is not Thai as a “frang” (fun fact: it also means guava). I live in a suburb of Bangkok that is not a tourist area and have to take the local busses to work everyday. Walking around my neighborhood, I am constantly reminded I am not Thai by the constant stares and questioning looks from the Thai people. When I first got here, it bothered me a lot because I wanted to be able to fit in and go about my day not being reminded I am not Thai. I still struggle dealing with the stares because they make me feel out of place, but now, I have come to accepting terms that the Thai people are mostly just interested in what I am doing here. Furthermore, anywhere I go, people talk to me in Thai first assuming I know what they’re saying even though I look foreign. This is really fascinating to me because usually people assume all foreigners usually only speak English. Thus, being an outlier in Thailand has made me more aware about my surroundings and how people perceive me. I have tried my best to learn as much Thai as I possible can (it is such a hard language). When I attempt to speak in Thai, the people always love the fact that I am attempting to speak Thai and nicely comment on how good my Thai is (but it is not good).
Another aspect of my identity that is changing in Thailand is my religious beliefs. I consider myself culturally Jewish, but besides that, I don’t really have a strong religious belief. Thailand is a prominent Buddhist county filled with beautiful temples and incredibly nice people. One of my goals when coming here was to learn more about Buddhism, and I have been able to experience the belief first hand myself. I attended a prayer and meditation session with my Thai mom, which was all in Thai. During the session, I was in awe how beautiful the chants sounded and the fact that part of the prayer session was a meditation session for twenty minutes for people to reflect upon themselves and their awareness. For me, Buddhism emphasizes the idea of being aware and living in the moment through the practice of meditation in every day practices. I have only begun to learn the basics of Buddhism and hope to meet a monk in the future. The religious culture here is making me rethink my identity and influencing me to become a more mindful person.