Monica Hernandez earns trip to Thailand


Religion has been a huge factor in my life; being born into a Catholic family I was taught to worship God, Jesus, and the Virgin Mary. Living in a neighborhood highly populated by Latinos and Central Americans I am not culturally enriched. I enjoy learning about diverse cultures and traditions. I believe acknowledging others beliefs keeps me open minded. Buddhism is the one culture that fascinates me. Bangkok, Thailand would be the perfect place to learn about Buddhism; I would be able to grasp their culture and traditions as a whole by returning to its roots. I would document my trip through sketches I will draw of each scenery I visit.

When deciding what places to visit, only the most significant comes to mind; therefore, I would love to visit Wat Phra Kaew better known as the Temple of Emerald Buddha. A once in a lifetime opportunity to admire an ancient temple, built in 1782 and once home of the Thai King, with interior walls filled with murals showcasing the jataka stories and when Buddha achieves enlightenment after defeating the evil demon Mara. My desire to raise awareness about other religions in society, begins by living these spectacular descriptions for myself. There are thousands of temples spread over Thailand. One of them being Wat Arun named after the Indian God of Dawn, Aruna. This buddhist temple is believed to be the representation of Mount meru, being the center of the world in Buddhist cosmology. Their unique architecture and the significance of arrangement is another reason why buddhism interests me. Bang Nam Pheung Floating Market is a less hectic area where I may be able to ask people about their daily lives and how floating markets became popular. What is your daily routine? What religion do you believe in, if any? What is your favorite thing about Thailand? I will connect to people that live across the world on a deeper level and come back to Los Angeles to share all of their stories.

If I am fortunate enough to attend this trip it would be a waste if I were the only one benefitting from it. Many of my friends and classmates, if chosen, would not be able to go. Whether if it is because they can not afford it, do not have papers, or simply because their parents would not let them. Being one of the few students who are fortunate enough to go to Asia I want all my friends and peers to experience Thailand with me. This gives me a chance to take my leadership role as the ASB president into the real world. By arranging a presentation with my senior class I will be able to share my experiences and my new knowledge on Thailand’s culture, traditions, architecture, and people. I will also bring awareness to Buddhism by having a booth at my school’s cultural festival. It is my last year in high school and I want to leave my small school with something to remember.

I was born in Mexico and brought to the United States when I was 2 months. All my best memories have taken place in the same neighborhood with the same people. I love my people but going on this trip to Thailand can completely change my views of the world. Being a graduating senior my options of where I would like to study are opening from all directions. A year ago I was not able to imagine myself leaving my home. After this trip I may potentially want to study abroad and continue my studies in Asia.

Being a young artist, I would document my trip by making an animated photo essay.  My plans are to capture the beauty of Buddhism in all shades and forms.

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