As some of you may know, I decided to apply for this scholarship on a whim… and at the 11th hour. Fast forward a few weeks and i’m sitting in the interview room surrounded by smiling people. I arrived at the LSE Asia Research Centre, after spending the whole journey agonising as to whether I should offer the Thai embassy staff a wai, or shake hands, and nervously stuck out my hand. They received it, limply, dropping it as soon as they touched it with an air of discomfort. Great start Sarah. One of the Thai gentlemen asked me in a very solemn voice whether we could talk in Thai. I fell over myself offering my most sincere apologies that I could not say even one word in his language. A moment of silence followed before he burst into laughter, bellowing out ‘JOKE!’
After those brief first moments, I sailed through the interview. Perhaps having an Indian lady as one of the 5 panelists helped! She loved the fact that I was half Indian and at one point I found that the conversation had drifted onto Indian Marwari horses, and how important their conservation was. I hurriedly came to my senses and shifted the conversation back to Thailand, lest the embassy staff feel i’d rather be going to India. They did joke at one point that she clearly was so keen to work with me on her personal research, that maybe they shouldn’t give me the scholarship. The lady in question however, was very interesting. A staff member at LSE, it turned out she had recently written an article about forgiveness and it’s importance in an academic journal. Having just handed in my dissertation, titled ‘A Quest for the Unforgivable’, we had a lot to discuss. The Thais spoke very little English. One briefly questioned me about the political situation between the red and yellow shirts, and unsure of their affiliation or the probable results of the upcoming election, I skirted the question by lamenting the divide in society and saying that they were so lucky to have the wonderful King to provide stability to the country in times of conflict. Yes, I know… I morphed into a toad. I then went on about how Thailand was the only SE Asian country not to be taken over by the oh-so-nasty imperialists. My rallying cry – everyone is looking to the East as the economic centre of gravity shifts, however they are looking at China and India. Now is the time that Thailand should be showing off it’s exotic plumage, even if it is in the form of sponsoring British students to travel there, study, and bring back a piece of it’s culture and heritage.
I should probably mention what the scholarship is actually about… despite jokingly telling my friends that it is essentially a paid holiday, I do actually feel that this will be a serious academic experience. So much so, that I requested that I be allowed to write more than the 2,000 words they so stingily (or in the eyes of the lazy, generously) demanded.
Here is the link for the scholarship:http://www2.lse.ac.uk/asiaResearchCentre/students/thailandScholarship.aspx
It stipulated that my proposed project should be part of my degree at LSE – Philosophy. It also had to be something I would enjoy researching for 2 months, so I turned to my sole but somewhat tenuous link with Thailand – Muay Thai. The title of my mini thesis is ‘Dancing Under the Mongkhon: How Thailand’s National Sport Can Teach us How to Lead a Good/Moral Life’. By looking at individual aspects of traditional Thai boxing, I hope to be able to abstract to Buddhist Ethics, showing that Muay Thai alone can give a possible answer to the question of how to live a good life.
Anyway, I have set up this new blog to keep those interested informed of my progress and survival. Should I stop writing, you have my permission to start trying to locate me in some hovel that calls itself a prison. Alternatively, I might be having *such* a good time, that I just can’t be bothered with any of you, my readers.
Anyway, as Chow said, ‘Holla! City of Squala!’