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an Easter special: a post on religion! « Jocelyn Wong's Blog

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an Easter special: a post on religion!

They say never to discuss religion or politics in mixed company (or your blog?), but in honor of Easter Sunday and the random monks that we see almost daily (living next door to a huge temple) I’ve been inspired. Plus I’ve got all these sweet pictures!

I still get tripped out seeing the monks get out of a pick-up truck or answering their cell phones.

I still get tripped out seeing the monks get out of a pick-up truck or answering their cell phones.

Religion has the power to unite people but also causes far too much conflict and war.

My mom is Catholic and will no doubt be going to Easter Sunday mass. My dad will be going to his Chinese Baptist church. At home in the kitchen, the wall is adorned with Jesus, Mary, various Buddhas and other Chinese deities. When we go to the cemetery to pay respects to my late grandfather, we burn incense… along with paper clothes and paper money for him. And do the three bows.

All my cousins on my mother’s side grew up Catholic and went to a private Catholic school in San Francisco. Meanwhile, my siblings and I went to public school (but heck, we turned out ok). My parents didn’t want to choose between their two religions, and so they didn’t push a certain religion on us. Plus, public school was free…saved that tuition money for college.

Sure my mom threw in the occasional Bible story during bedtime; Noah’s Ark and Adam and Eve mixed with Green Eggs and Ham, Corduroy Bear and the Very Hungry Caterpillar (my personal favorite…hahaaa). We even got dragged to church with Mom every now and then on Christmas and Easter. I was always jealous of my cousins who got to eat the bread and drink the wine.  My favorite part was singing along to the songs. When I was younger, I was terrified of ghost stories and thought maybe if I believed in God, the ghosts wouldn’t come get me at night. Oh, who am I kidding, I still hate scary movies. :(

I’ve lived all over the USA where the degree of religiousness varies from one end to the other. I was in college in California when the Pledge of Allegiance debate happened in our state–to remove the clause “Under God” from the daily pledge to the American flag. That same year on the other side of the country, stickers were placed in science textbooks in Cobb County, Georgia, with a disclaimer that “evolution is a theory, not a fact…” I would actually go on to live in Cobb County, GA when I moved to the Southeast USA for graduate school. When living and racing in that area, I got accustomed to a “morning prayer” for the safety of all competitors before the starting gun went off. In Texas, I’d sometimes drive by the mega churches on the freeways…which caused traffic jams on Sundays.

I believe in being a good person and doing good things, and have pretty high morals. But I don’t believe you should go to Hell if you are homosexual, or if you use birth control, or if you believe in evolution. Everyone is entitled to their own beliefs and I respect that. To each their own. Unfortunately not everyone agrees with my philosophy–while I have an open mind and heart, I do get bothered when others try to convert me. When I worked at a running store after college, one of my coworkers was always sneaking religious materials into my cubby hole. She would make snide comments about how all the hours I spent on triathlon training would not help me after I died, but if I spent that time studying the Bible, it would.

When traveling the world it is also interesting to observe the different religions wherever we go. In the Philippines, it was Catholicism to the core. It was actually difficult to find tampons in the grocery store. Here’s a picture I never got around to posting of the Easter parade that went through town when we were in Subic:

Easter is a big deal in the Philippines

Easter is a big deal in the Philippines

Here in Thailand, most of the Thais are Buddhist, but there is also a sizable Muslim population. So there are temples and mosques every where.

Central Mosque of Krabi Province

Central Mosque of Krabi Province

We live next door to Wat Thum Sua, AKA the “Tiger Cave Temple.”  The big temple is currently under construction and it’s a very impressive structure. Easy landmark to spot when you are coming home from a bike or run!

Wat Thum Sua!  i.e. what to tell the taxi drivers as your destination

"Wat Thum Sua!" i.e. what to tell the taxi drivers so they know where to go

offerings to one of the two tigers guarding the temple

offerings to one of the two tigers guarding the temple

under construction!

under construction!

its a flying god!

it's a flying god!

When I was in Nakhon Si Thammarat a week ago, one of the local women took me on a mini tour of the city, which included seeing the Lak Meuang, or City Pillar Shrine. Most major cities have one, which houses the city’s spirit deity. Visitors are encouraged to pay their respects and also make a wish, expressing your heart’s deepest desires.

Lak Meuang of Nakhon Si Thammarat

Lak Meuang of Nakhon Si Thammarat

I was caught off guard and wasn’t sure what to wish for. All I could think of was “to always be happy and healthy…and my loved ones too.” Of course now I think maybe I should’ve wished for the ability to swim, or maybe to be able to eat ice cream every day and still be skinny. But I think if I am happy and healthy, then many other good things will come my way. :)

make a wish!

make a wish!

I was wondering why there were all these chicken statues hanging out around the shrine. Our host told us that whenever someone’s wish comes true, they bring a chicken back to the shrine. That’s a lot of wishes that have come true!!

like the chicken in The Hangover...how did these get here??

like the chicken in The Hangover...how did these get here??

The ceremony to give out the legs was actually hosted by a local Chinese temple…yup a Chinese temple in Thailand. There is a big Chinese population here too.

reminds me of SF Chinatown actually.

reminds me of SF Chinatown actually.

I think we have some of these at home too.

I think we have some of these at home too.

So have a Happy Easter, or whatever you may celebrate or believe in!

And thank you to the little Easter bunnies Zali and Sophie for the chocolate Easter egg. Now that’s something I can truly believe in. ;)

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