On Wednesday, Feb. 25th, my "Introduction to World Religions" class took a field trip to the one place here in Amarillo, Texas where we could get a taste of traditional Buddhism: the Wat Lao Buddharam, which means something like "Laotian Buddhist Temple." The campus, which includes several acres and a number of buildings, is located at 4695 Hwy. 136, just inside Amarillo Loop 335, and is open from 6:00 am to 6:00 pm every day.
I had been trying to set up such a trip for a long time. Some of my first phone calls were answered by a monk who didn't speak much English at all, just enough to tell me that the one man who did speak English wasn't there. And since I hadn't gotten very far with my Laotian language studies, well. . .
Eventually, though, I was able to meet up with a new friend, Bantun, a monk who speaks English quite well and who agreed for my class to come out.
Coming through the entrance gate, we saw the small temple pictured at the top. We were told that this facility usually sits empty, used only on special occasions like the ordination of a monk.
Once inside the main building, which doesn't have the ornate exterior, we were greeted by Bantun who spoke to the group and answered our questions. Over all, it turned out to be a good trip, one that my students and I won't soon forget.
I really like it when my classes can get out of the classroom and do something out of the ordinary, something they didn't expect when they signed up for the course. People truly learn and retain things that they actually do. And, while things like field trips, experiments, etc., always involve more risk and inconvenience than keeping everyone in the classroom, I think that the extra effort is worth it.