One month prior to arriving to Bangkok, Thailand’s king passed away. The news spread to people travelling, and it was paired with guidelines for respecting the time of mourning. He passed away on October 13, and the official time of mourning was until November 13.
We arrived November 14. It was one day after the mourning period ended and about a week shy of Donald Trumps election win. Our hearts were heavy for them, and for America.
Thailand is known for it’s temples. In Bangkok alone, there are over 40,000. Among the many temples that we encountered, we also saw memorials for King Bhumibol Adulyadej. He was their leader for 70 years, and he was honored everywhere. Although the official mourning period ended when we arrived, many people wore black ribbons or muted colors. It was beautiful.
We learned early on that Thailand was spiritual place. Praying and offerings were abound. On our second full day, we spent a lot time in temples. In most of the temples we had to remove our shoes and be sure that we were appropriately covered. Even when we were’t instructed to, we understood the expectations and customs. We admired the architecture, colors, and brilliance that went into the structures. We saw people on their knees giving offerings. We saw people honor their king. Again, it was beautiful.
I can only speak for myself, but being a Black woman I was worried about how I would be received in Bangkok. I wondered if they held the same thoughts about colorism, if they agreed that Donald Trump should be president, and if they would treat us differently based on our skin color. Fortunately, that wasn’t the case. It felt like people were overly nice to us. Aside from the random photos being taken, Bangkok offered us a freedom. Our ethnicity was apparent, but it didn’t seem to stop anyone from getting to know us.
When we were at Cher Ry’s, Donald Trump came up and our heritage. While we were hanging out, Cher Ry’s business partners asked us if we were African Americans. We said yes. Then he asked if we were Africans living in America. Humbled we said no, and I told him we were “Black Americans”. It felt pretty silly that we didn’t know to say that first.
In America, we are Black. Everyday we are reminded of our Blackness. In that bar, we were just Americans, that just so happened to be Black. Questions about our nationality led to our conversation about Trump. We were exactly one week past the election, and it was felt all the way in Thailand. They weren’t feeling him either.
Catching on to Thailand’s spiritual culture was easy. After the election, we were frustrated, tired, and weary. Individually, we had our own battles. Fortunately, we had each other. During our time in Thailand we leaned on each other for support and love.We found ourselves in random prayer circles or discussions about life. Bangkok became our temple, our sanctuary, our church. Nothing was left unsaid. We talked about depression, hopelessness, and fear. We talked about love, the future, and mindfulness. Our tribe was a sacred space, and we all took advantage of it’s splendor.
Sisterhood saves lives. It’s so necessary for growth and I appreciate that I could share that space.