We’re thrilled to be able to blog our experiences with this year’s Thai Heritage Returns, aka THR, a ten-day heritage program in Bangkok. (Please bear with us through the Thai names and institutions.) The Thai Cultural Center of the San Francisco Bay Area has revived the program after a nine-year hiatus, and this will be the fifth time we’ve brought our youth to Thailand.
Over 20 Thai-Americans make up the principal cast and musicians of Phra Apai Manee and the Spell of Nang Laweng – an excerpt from a well-known epic in Thai literature – that will be presented at the National Theatre on July 2. Once in Thailand, we’ll be hosted by our partnering university Ban Somdej Rajabhat University (BSRU), and local schools will join us to complete our cast and musical ensembles. In addition to performing, we plan to visit the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Parliament House and the Museum of Siam – and only because the kids have asked, yes, we’ll go to a beach. Older students will also have the chance to bond during a rock-climbing excursion and rural village homestay.
These trips do a lot in terms of rejuvenating our center. It’s difficult to keep our youth motivated beyond the chance to hang out with their friends every weekend. The center is completely volunteer-run, and we compete with the other “forces” in our students’ lives – school, sports, family work schedules. But those of us who have stuck with the program and continue to perform will stand by its importance. We get to experience “the mother country” as more than a vacation or family reunion. As alums, over ten years later, we still think back on previous THR’s as a defining experience of our youth. It draws in our families (who stay with us throughout the entire program – and rehearsals), forces our Thai and performance skills, but most importantly, brings us closer together during the six months leading up to show time. For most, the benefits won’t be “felt” until after the program.
We’ll be posting every week until departure (June 20) and as often as we can while in Thailand. So we invite your comments, questions (and support!) from now through the end of THR in early July.
Nicha and Virada