Throughout the trip there has been a recurring issue that has been at the forefront of my mind that I would like to discuss a little. The issue put in words is the conflict between the organized program and the self-directed happenings of individual students in regards to what provides an overall better experience of culture, history, religion etc. For John0 and myself, we side towards the self-directed adventures that we like to embark on. But the question is whether that is just our own personalities at work.
At one point in the trip we made a stop at a grand old cathedral built by the Spanish. The spectacular part was that even the sight of the large and very old building gave me, the student, a sort of connection with the past, a fixed place in history (and a bone to Prof. Gregg). Seeing grand new structures that are triumphs of human ingenuity and then seeing these very old structures that were triumphs in their own time always amazes me. To say that “history is not dead” is to beat an old cliche to death, but that very realization is paramount to one’s experience with culture, community and religion ( a bone to Joel Mason). It is these encounters in our SE Asia trip that will continue to educate and develop me as a person. Included in this would be the random and spontaneous group shin-digs that we initiate in our search for adventure and experience. When we invite a few friends over, or just happen to be at the same place at the right time, and we go for walks, we explore, we build something and play with it, or we just sit around and kick back with the locals and talk about ourselves, our lives, and our ideas, we have connected, shared, and developed our identity in the world.
So I say that the best way to live and learn in a new culture is not through planned activities, but to engage on a personal level with people and let activities happen in their own time under the initiative of the individual. It is only when the individual takes ownership of his/her education that ideas will connect, relationships will be made, and knowledge retained.