My family and I live in a rural, mountainous area of The Northern Rivers. The land is rainforests and macadamia nut farms, peppered with small villages.
A short drive from my home along the narrow, winding road is a Thai temple. As you first enter, a thick carpet of green grass comes in to view, with fruit trees and a garden bed filled with Thai herbs and vegetables around the edges.
This is where we go to speak with the resident monks, share a meal, have celebrations and connect with the Thai community.
We recently went there to celebrate Vesak Day, which commemorates the birth, enlightenment, and death of Gautama Buddha in the Theravada tradition.
As we entered, we were surrounded by Thai and Australian families talking, laughing and eating in the garden. I was holding my 5 month old baby, who had the attention of the older Thai women straight away.
‘Your children have many grandmothers!’ said one of them. Then another held out her arms and whisked my baby away to be bounced and cuddled.
This left me with free hands to go over to a long table filled with delicious Thai food. There was sticky rice, tom yum soup, papaya salad, friend chicken and tropical fruit. As I’m vegetarian, I was only able to eat the fruit. I was excited to have some sweet, fragrant dragon fruit though, which I haven’t had since last time I was in Thailand. My five year old was very happy with some fried chicken and sticky rice, his favourite. My husband ate everything!
We sat at a table with other families, and as we ate I watched the children run up and down a little slope on the grass.
It was then time to go inside, where three monks were ready and sitting cross-legged on a platform. We all sat on the floor, where we said prayers and received a blessing. Although I didn’t understand what was said, the sound of our voices together was beautiful.
Everyone was then given a flower, incense and a candle, which we carried as we circled the outside of the temple three times. We then lay them in front of Buddha.
We than enjoyed time sitting on the grass and chatting with other families. Some people were close friends, others I didn’t know. Yet all of us were connected through being Thai, part of a Thai family or having a love of Thailand. Everyone was welcome.
Being part of a community truly brings me happiness.
Knowing that there are other families like mine; whose hearts are in two countries; who love a good Thai curry; and can understand the challenges, frustrations and joy of a second language is comforting. I imagine that for my husband to be able to speak his native tongue fluently must be like putting on pyjamas after being in work clothes all day.
There are all sorts of different communities in Australia and around the world. Cultural, religious, sports, family, local, neighbourhood, online, art or special interest communities.
What is your community?
If you would like to know more about the Thai community in The Northern Rivers, please see their Facebook page.