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Lectures and Presentations

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Thailand 101: What Makes Thais Tick
9:00 a.m. Friday, Aug. 31, 2012
Corley Auditorium in Webster Hall
Admission: free
Speaker: Gary Wintz

Despite periodic setbacks, Thailand's phenomenal economic growth in recent decades has propelled it into the status of a key regional power. Thailand now plays a leading role on many levels for much of Southeast Asia. This presentation provides both an introduction to the spectacular land and beautiful people of Thailand and a general overview of its geography, history, religion, society, and politics, including its current dilemmas over monarchy and class. The speaker, who since 1977 onwards has been exploring, working − and even marrying − in Thailand, will share personal anecdotes and intimate experiences about Thailand's distinctive cultural traits which he believes makes this exciting country so special and unique.

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Sit There Till You Get There: Enlightenment or Bust − Thai Style
10:00 a.m. Friday, Aug. 31, 2012
Corley Auditorium in Webster Hall
Admission: free
Speaker: Gary Wintz

Similar to Christianity, with its multiple traditions, diverse denominations and variations of liturgical practices (or not), Buddhism also manifests a myriad of varieties of religious experience. Thailand's Theravada tradition, or "Southern School" of Buddhism, seems a world apart from the Mahayana School of the northern tier of Asian nations, or from the Vajrayana of Tibet. While the speaker will shed light on Thai Buddhism's unique characteristics in relation to the world's other forms of Buddhism, this presentation will move quickly to the essence of Buddhism, which is common to all practitioners everywhere: that the heart of Buddhism is not really "religion" but more a state of mind, or psychology, or a way of life. Over the years our presenter − though not a Buddhist − has immersed himself in Buddhist practice by actually living and studying meditation in a number of remote "forest temples" throughout Thailand's countryside. He will share some humbling anecdotes from his own frail attempts along the elusive path to enlightenment − Thai style.

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Tourism in Thailand: Challenges in Paradise
12:00 p.m. Friday, Aug. 31, 2012
Corley Auditorium in Webster Hall
Admission: free
Speaker: Gary Wintz

Lonely Planet Publications posed this question to their millions of global, guidebook readers: "In all the world, what is your favorite country to visit?" Answer: "Thailand." The respondents' No. 1 reason: "Land of Smile." This presentation, however, will not only discuss the friendliness and charm of the Thai people but also provide a descriptive survey of the entire country's spectacularly diversified travel opportunities.

But all is not well in paradise. Our speaker, who works as a professional, international tour leader in Thailand, will also highlight some of the problems facing Thai tourism, as well as serious problems caused by tourism. Sex slavery, human trafficking, and sex tourism will not be glossed over.

Medical tourism in Thailand, on the other hand, is a win-win for all involved. The speaker will go into some detail about the phenomenal growth of foreign visitors who are coming to Thailand specifically for medical attention. Our presenter, who himself gets all his medical care done in Thailand, will offer plenty of anecdotal evidence with personal stories of excellent service and of high quality medical care. All provided at a fraction of the U.S. cost!

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Big Turtles in Big Trouble: The Giant Softshells of Thailand
9:30 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 6, 2012
Corley Auditorium in Webster Hall
Admission: free
Speaker: Don Moll

Three species of giant narrow-headed softshelled turtles (genus Chitra) are currently recognized, and two of these reside in Thailand. One of these, Chitra vandijki, has only recently been described and its status remains uncertain. The second, Chitra chitra, is one of the most critically endangered turtle species on the planet, and its natural history and ecology remain poorly understood. Professor Moll's research team's objectives were 1) to determine this turtle's current and former distribution in Thailand to the extent possible; 2) to determine the major causes of its decline in order to develop a methodology to mitigate threats to its survival; and 3) to study its ecology in order to recognize and identify critical habitat requirements for the designation of potential sanctuaries. The results of these investigations will compose the body of this seminar.

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Saving Giant Softshelled Turtles in Thailand: A "Whole Technology" Captive Breeding and Head Starting Program
11:00 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 6, 2012
Corley Auditorium in Webster Hall
Admission: free
Speaker: Don Moll

The Thai narrow-headed softshelled turtle Chitra chitra is one of the most critically endangered freshwater turtles in the world. Professor Moll's research team considered it a prime candidate for a captive breeding and head starting program due to the small number of individuals believed remaining in the wild, and a program based at the Kanchanburi Inland Fisheries Development Center in Kanchanburi, Thailand was implemented in 2000 to rehabilitate the species. The results to date are encouraging with the propagation of several thousand healthy yearlings from eggs produced by captive breeding adults. Valuable information concerning captive care and breeding, and head starting methodology has been accumulated during the years since this program began, including techniques that have been developed to mitigate problems related to lower fecundity in breeding adults, fungal infections in head started captives, and biased sex ratios in hatchlings. Concurrent with the Captive Breeding/Head Starting (CB/HS) operation, field work was conducted to locate extant wild individuals/populations, to determine the characteristics and locations of remaining optimal habitat for potential juvenile release sites, and to identify and mitigate factors that threaten Chitra's survival in the wild. In this presentation the CB/HS protocol and associated field studies will be described and methodology for monitoring Chitra's recovery will be discussed. The broader implications of the team's approach toward the conservation of other endangered freshwater turtles will also be examined.

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Keeping Ghosts Happy: The Thai Spirit Houses
12:00 p.m. Friday, Sept. 12, 2012
Corley Auditorium in Webster Hall
Admission: free
Speaker: Conrad Gubera

If you ever visit Thailand, you will notice the tiny spirit houses near homes and businesses. Made of wood, concrete, or brick, the spirit houses may resemble an oriental bird house or a miniature model of a Thai temple. The houses provide shelter for any wandering spirits, discourage them from causing mischief, and bring protection and good fortune to the residence. Offerings are usually given in the form of food, drink, flowers, or incense while a short prayer is recited. Although 95 percent of Thais are Buddhists, the practice of the spirit house is not directly connected to the religion. Rather, it's a belief in animism – that natural objects possess souls.

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From a City on a Continent 10,000 Miles Away to MSSU and the Great Outdoors
1:00 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2012
Cornell Auditorium in Plaster Hall
Admission free
Speaker:
Noppadol Paothong

In this slide presentation, Noppadol Paothong shares his journey and shows some of the images that have made him known throughout the Midwest. He also discusses his new 204-page hardbound book, Save the Last Dance – A Story of North American Grassland Grouse (in collaboration with writer Joel Vance). The book captures the dazzling beauty of seven grouse species whose populations are diminishing across the prairies and plains of America, and one species that has already lost its battle for survival. Autographed copies of Save the Last Dance will be available for purchase for $45.

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Thailand's Pioneering Role in the History of Women's Suffrage
10:00 a.m. Friday, Sept. 21, 2012
Corley Auditorium in Webster Hall
Admission: free
Speaker: Katherine Bowie

Thailand was the first country in the world in which women received suffrage at the same time as men without any controversy. Women received suffrage in 1897, long before women in the United States or most other western countries. In this talk, Dr. Bowie will discuss the various factors which may have contributed to Thailand's pioneering role, ranging from the role of the Women's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) and Presbyterian missionaries to the importance of matrilocal kinship and palace women. She will note the continuing importance of women in Thai politics. Thailand's current prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, is a woman.

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Village Life in Thailand
11:00 a.m. Friday, Sept. 21, 2012
Corley Auditorium in Webster Hall
Admission: free
Speaker: Katherine Bowie

Once primarily rice growers, Thai villages have undergone dramatic changes in recent years. Dr. Bowie has conducted extensive fieldwork over the past three decades in villages in northern Thailand. The northern region is a stronghold of the "red shirt" movement which helped sweep Thailand's current prime minister to power. Taking a historical perspective, Dr. Bowie will discuss the economic, social, and political changes occurring in villages in Thailand. She will illustrate her talk with slides.

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Diversity, National Integration and the Questioning of "Thai-ness"
9:30 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 27, 2012
Taylor Performing Arts Center
Admission: free
Speaker: Charles Keyes

From 1892 through the 1960s governments of the country that became known as Thailand instituted administrative, religious and educational reforms aimed at transforming the diverse peoples of Thailand into citizens who shared a common Thai national identity. These policies were very successful, but did not eradicate local, ethnic or ethnoregional distinctions. Beginning with those of Chinese descent living in Bangkok in the late 1960s, the national consensus has been increasingly questioned. Although Thai governments began to fear that Lao-speaking people who were dominant in northeastern Thailand and Malay-speaking people living in southern Thailand would support movements to join neighboring countries, the movements that began to emerge mainly sought to have national identity – or "Thai-ness" (khwam pen Thai) – reformulated constitutionally to allow for significant pluralism.

In this talk, Professor Keyes traces the historical transformation of the empire of Siam with diverse peoples into the kingdom of Thailand with a dominant national culture and then the further and ongoing transformation of the country into one with a pluralistic understanding of citizenship.

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From Peasant to Cosmopolitan Villagers: The Refiguring of the "Rural" in Northeastern Thailand
7:00 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 27, 2012
Corley Auditorium in Webster Hall
Admission: free
Speaker: Charles Keyes

On March 12, 2010, tens of thousands of people wearing red shirts began streaming into Bangkok primarily from northeastern Thailand, but also from northern Thailand. They came to demand that Prime Minister Abhisit dissolve parliament and set a date for a new election. A few days later, another event took place a long way from Bangkok in an agricultural area in southern Israel. There a worker recruited from Thailand was killed by a rocket fired from the Gaza strip. Although these two events − demonstrations on the streets of Bangkok and the death of a Thai worker in Israel – may seem totally unconnected, they are inextricably connected.

Because villagers or their urban-dwelling close relatives from northeastern Thailand have become workers in a global system of labor, they understand their place within Thailand as cosmopolitans, not as traditional rice farmers even though most still retain their identity as "villagers." Even as this transformation has taken place, representations of "rural" northeastern Thailand that urban Thai encounter in TV programs, films, fiction, and the media have remained predicated on the assumptions that "villagers" still live lives that are primarily agrarian and that they have inadequate or misguided understandings of the larger world. It is this disjunction between the "rural" that cosmopolitan northeasterners actually identify with and the "rural" that Thai urban middle class people imagine to exist that helps explain why consensus on Thai politics has broken down.

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Political Change and Instability in Thailand After the Cold War
7:00 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 27, 2012
Corley Auditorium in Webster Hall
Admission: free
Speaker: Mark Mullenbach

In this presentation, Dr. Mullenbach will focus broadly on political trends and instability in Thailand in the past two decades, including democratization, political crises, and the Islamic insurgency in the southern provinces. After six decades of mostly Thai military rule, Thailand undertook a process of democratization following mass demonstrations against a military junta in 1992 (although the roots of Thai democracy go back to 1932). Although Thailand has held several elections since 1992, the past two decades have seen several setbacks to the process of democratization, including the 2006 political crisis and military coup and the 2008-10 political crises resulting in more than 100 deaths.

The September 2006 military coup led to the overthrow of the government of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who had initially been appointed head of government following parliamentary elections in January 2001. Prime Minister Thaksin's political party (Thai Rak Thai) won a majority of the seats in the House of Representatives in the February 2005 parliamentary elections. The 2008-10 political crises, which ended with a Thai military crackdown against demonstrators in Bangkok in May 2010, included violent clashes involving government security forces, left-wing supporters of former Prime Minister Thaksin ("red shirts"), and right-wing opponents of former Prime Minister Thaksin ("yellow shirts"). Meanwhile, an Islamic insurgency has simmered in three southern provinces (Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat) since 2004, resulting in the deaths of more than 5,000 individuals. After assessing the causes and consequences of political change and instability in Thailand since the end of the Cold War, Dr. Mullenbach will discuss the future prospects for democracy and stability in the country.

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Government and Politics of Thailand in the 21st Century
9:00 a.m. Friday, Sept. 28, 2012
Corley Auditorium in Webster Hall
Admission: free
Speaker: Mark Mullenbach

In this presentation, Dr. Mullenbach will describe the current structure of the government and the political system of the Kingdom of Thailand, including an explanation of the role and significance of the constitutional monarchy in the contemporary political system of Thailand. The constitutional monarchy, which replaced the absolute monarchy, was established following a revolution in Thailand in 1932. The 1932 revolution also led to the establishment of a parliamentary form of government. The current monarch, King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX), has reigned since June 1946. He is currently the world's longest-serving head of state.

The current constitution of Thailand, which was approved in a popular referendum in August 2007, was drafted by the military junta that took control of the government in September 2006. The 2007 Constitution retained the basic structure of the government of Thailand, including the constitutional monarchy (head of state, head of the armed services, granting pardons, and royal assent), executive branch (prime minister/head of government and Council of Ministers), legislative branch (National Assembly: House of Representatives and Senate), and judicial branch (Courts of Justice, Administrative Courts, and Constitutional Court). In this presentation, Dr. Mullenbach will evaluate the development, evolution, and strength of democracy and democratic institutions in Thailand.

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  Threads That Bind a Culture: Historical and Contemporary Thai Silk Textiles
9:00 a.m. Monday, Oct. 1, 2012
Corley Auditorium in Webster Hall
Admission: free
Speaker: Marilyn Staff

Thai silk is considered some of the finest in the world and the craft of sericulture and the art of weaving have deep roots in the culture of Thailand. Drawing on historical and current traditions, designs and weaving techniques, this session will delve into sericulture, natural dyeing techniques and traditional weaving patterns − skills that are having a major renaissance in Thailand. After centuries of development of a world class weaving tradition, in recent memory the creation of Thai silk textiles was becoming a lost art. This discussion will address the resurging role of silk weaving in Thailand as a measure of cultural cohesion, a fine art and a fashion trend that is sweeping the nation and the globe. Our speaker has collected Asian textiles for over 30 years and will bring samples from her collection.

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Living on the Fringe: Hill Tribe Minorities in Contemporary Thailand
11:00 a.m. Monday, Oct. 1, 2012
Corley Auditorium in Webster Hall
Admission: free
Speaker: Marilyn Staff

Living on the geographical as well as the cultural fringes of Thailand are approximately one million ethnic minority people know as the Hill Tribes. Having fled persecution in neighboring countries over the past 200 years, they have taken up residence in the isolated, rugged mountains of the northern border areas of the country. Marilyn Downing Staff will discuss the distinct cultural foundations of each of the six dominant tribal groups − the Akha, Lahu, Lisu, Mien, Hmong and Karen. These tribes still embody cultural customs that span from medieval times to the 21st century and provide us a window into traditional way long lost to the modern world. These traditional ways, and a certain level of discrimination, also constrict their ability to assimilate, modernize, and thrive economically along with the rest of Thailand. We will delve into the unique and valuable lessons that we can learn from each of these groups and explore their historical context, as well as the current state of their communities.

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Love Knows No Bounds: A Thai Adoption Story
1:00 p.m. Monday, Oct. 1, 2012
Corley Auditorium in Webster Hall
Admission: free
Speaker: Marilyn Staff

Living in Thailand and physically unable to have a child, Marilyn Downing Staff reached out to the Department of Child Welfare to see if there would be an opportunity to adopt one of the many orphaned children languishing in the state-run orphanage system of Thailand. Three years and stacks of paperwork later, she and her former husband took custody of a 5-year-old boy. This is the story of a journey of the heart, a lifetime blind date, and a profound and fulfilling experience that has touched their lives forever.

This session will discuss Staff's personal journey as the mother of an adopted Thai boy, current issues in orphan care in Thailand, and the stories of some remarkable people who are working to help alleviate this critical need. UNICEF cites 2009 statistics of 1.4 million orphans in Thailand, which is seen as a national crisis. Staff will also offer basic "how-to" information to perhaps inspire others to adopt a child.

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Can We Rely on The King and I?
11:00 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 11, 2012
Corley Auditorium in Webster Hall
Admission: free
Speakers: William Kumbier and Jim Lile

Generations of Americans have come to know Thailand through Margaret Landon's Anna and the King of Siam and through the films and the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, The King and I, based on that book. Yet both the musical and those films have been banned in Thailand itself because of their alleged gross misrepresentation of the country. This presentation will explore the startling differences between historical fact and the popular representations of Anna Leonowens, King Mongkut and the Siam of the 1860s in theater and film, raising key questions about how one culture represents another.

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Thai Piracy on the High Seas and High-Tech Market
9:00 a.m. Friday, Oct. 12, 2012
Corley Auditorium in Webster Hall
Admission: free
Speaker: Thomas Rhoden

When we think of pirates these days, images of a playful Johnny Depp and his swashbuckling mates are probably the most accessible. The reality, though, for Southeast Asia is not quite so charming. Modern-day pirates in Thailand take on two forms. There are the more traditional ones sailing about the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea and the newer ones on land producing black-market goods like "pirated software" and fake iPhones. This presentation will cover both Thai piracy inland and in the sea.

As for those pirates on the water, some of the more regular incidents of violent pirate attacks occurred during the 1980s and early 1990s when regular Thai fisherman in the Gulf of Thailand took advantage of Vietnamese refugees fleeing persecution from the socialist regime. In the 2000s, Thai piracy is more likely to attract headlines along the Southern Andaman coast near resort paradises like Phuket and Trang or even farther south along the Strait of Malacca. Thai piracy on land takes on all different forms. Though this lecture will focus on goods produced and sold for software and electronics markets, we shall also be reviewing other luxury items like garments and accessories.

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Volunteerism in Thailand: Getting Involved
11:00 a.m. Friday, Oct. 12, 2012
Corley Auditorium in Webster Hall
Admission: free
Speaker: Thomas Rhoden

Thailand has a plethora of volunteering opportunities for both current students and recent graduates of Missouri Southern. The goals of this presentation are twofold: 1) first, by utilizing the speaker's own past two volunteering experiences in the rural northeast of Thailand with the U.S. Peace Corps (2005-07) working with village communities and local farmers, and along the Thai-Burma border with the Burma Volunteer Program (2009-10) working with Burmese refugees, MSSU students will be presented with first-hand narratives of real programs and the positive impact that they have had on his career; and 2) second, students will learn about a wide array of volunteering opportunities available to them in such diverse fields as the environment, animal sanctuaries and clinics (elephants, tigers, dogs, etc...), rural development, English teaching, refugee assistance, missionary work, and others. Contact and pertaining information will be provided for all of these projects and programs. There is no reason why passionate MSSU students could not be spending their 2013 summer break volunteering in Thailand for one of these excellent organizations.

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Thai Language: Greetings and Script
1:00 p.m. Friday, Oct. 12, 2012
Corley Auditorium in Webster Hall
Admission: free
Speaker: Thomas Rhoden

The Thai language can seem quite exotic to English-speaking students. Thai has many characteristics that are foreign to both the Germanic and Romance branches of the Indo-European language family. Probably some of the odder elements of Thai are its five tones, its penchant for monosyllabic utterances, a few of its foreign-sounding consonants and vowels, and, of course, the 44 letters of its squiggly-looking alphabet. Basic greetings, however, can be a lot of fun to learn and are not too difficult to master. The Thai script, though intimidating at first, should seem like a breeze to anyone who has tried to learn the Chinese or Japanese Kanji scripts. The presenter will cover both basic greetings and some of the easier elements of the script. Students will be surprised to learn how easily greetings can be mastered and how workable the Thai alphabet can prove after understanding some of its fundamentals. The presentation will end with additional information for those interested in studying Thai both in the United States and abroad.

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Where is the Elephant in the Room?
10:00 a.m. Monday, Oct. 22, 2012
Corley Auditorium in Webster Hall
Admission: free
Speaker: Dennis Schmitt

For centuries, the elephant was the national symbol of Thailand; the kingdom was even known to outsiders as the Land of the White Elephants. Unfortunately, the Asian elephant population is officially listed as highly endangered and is in real danger of becoming extinct within three generations. EleAid, a British charity working for the conservation and welfare of the Asian elephant, estimates that while there as many as a million elephants across Asia in 1900, today there are between 38,534 and 52,566 wild elephants and 14,535 to 15,300 domesticated elephants in Asia with perhaps another 1,000 scattered around zoos in the rest of the world. Thailand has between 3,000 and 3,700 wild elephants and 3,500-4,000 in captivity.

Dr. Schmitt will provide a brief overview of current Asian elephant populations and the effects of HEC (Human Elephant Conflict) in range countries. Human-elephant interactions have an effect on both species trying to co-habitat in the same space. Thailand is experiencing the effects of expanding human populations while the elephant habitat of dense forests and jungles is declining. Professor Schmitt will introduce some of the proposals to reduce HEC in Thailand, including elephant corridors and captive elephant relocation to conservation centers.

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Shades of Gray: It's Not Black and White!
12:00 p.m. Monday, Oct. 22, 2012
Corley Auditorium in Webster Hall
Admission: free
Speaker: Dennis Schmitt

What do we know about Asian elephants? Social structures, behavior, and physiology are all areas that we are finding vary significantly from their distant cousin the African elephant. Because of their critically endangered status, a focus on Asian elephants' unique traits at all levels of study will benefit this critically endangered species with only 35,000 to 40,000 left in free-ranging environments. Is there really a wild left?

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Nang Talung
11:00 a.m. Monday, Oct. 29, 2012
Corley Auditorium in Webster Hall
Admission: free
Speaker: Jim Lile

Dr. Lile will present an introduction to Nang Talung, the shadow puppet theatre of southern Thailand. Dating from at least the 17th century and found in nearly every province of southern Thailand, Nang Talung is a form of entertainment that dramatizes classic stories for a popular audience. In company with traditional forms in other countries, the Nang Talung faces competition from a variety of contemporary entertainment options, but there are artists working to keep this fascinating style of performance alive. The characters, content, conventions, and cultural significance of Nang Talung will be discussed.

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The Immigrant Son: Confusion, Denial, Belonging, and Understanding
9:30 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012
Corley Auditorium in Webster Hall
Admission: free
Speaker: Ira Sukrungruang

How do immigrant parents negotiate the difficulties of raising a child in a foreign land? How does one retain national and cultural heritage while trying to be an American? What sacrifices are made for family stability? This talk will explore the hurdles of growing up in a Thai immigrant family and finding oneself stuck in two worlds: the motherland and America.

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What Is Home?
7:00 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012
Corley Auditorium in Webster Hall
Admission: free
Speaker: Ira Sukrungruang

Charles Dickens writes: "Though home is a name, a word, it is a strong one." This sentiment is true for the Thai immigrant. We are taught that home is comfort, is love, is family. For a Thai immigrant 8,000 miles from his or her native land, this idea of home is complicated. You find yourself in one land, but your heart, your memories exist in another. This talk will explore the varying ideas of home: physical landscape, class issues, and personal space.

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Thai Boy Becomes a Monk
10:00 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2012
Corley Auditorium in Webster Hall
Admission: free
Speaker: Ira Sukrungruang

In an attempt to have a better understanding of Buddhism, author Ira Sukrungruang embarks on a journey as a monk for one month in Chiang Mai, Thailand. This talk will explore what he learned, and what still boggles him about the religion he grew up in but never really knew what it meant.

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Book Signings and Q&A with Ira Sukrungruang
11:00-11:30 a.m. and 1:00-2:00 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012
8:30-9:45 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2012
Third floor of Spiva Library (by the fireplace)
Admission: free
Speaker: Ira Sukrungruang

Author Ira Sukrungruang will sign copies of his Talk Thai: The Adventures of Buddhist Boy and answer your questions in these informal sessions.

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