When I think of Elk River, Minnesota, I envision snowmobiles, big trucks, Carhartt coveralls and maybe a Fleet Farm. And when I see a house like this, I am instantly reminded of childhood friend whose family lived in one exactly like it. Though the building is perfectly structured to house a family of four (specifically, an Elk River-y outdoorsy family of four, based on the style of wallpaper displayed inside… see below photo), the inhabitants might surprise you.
For the last six or seven years, a group of Buddhist monks have called this split level property home. It’s also served as a de facto community center for Twin Cities-based Thai and Lao transplants. On the surface, Elk River seems a strange choice for a Buddhist temple, but the place is situated at the end of a heavily wooded cul-de-sac, which is actually quite beautiful and serene.
My Thai friend Pui (pronounced Poo-EE…) invited me to attend the annual Kathina Ceremony. The gist, according to the best source I know, Wikipedia:
Kathina is a Buddhist festival which comes at the end of Vassa, the three-month rainy season retreat for Theravada Buddhists. The season during which a monastery may hold a Kathina festival is one month long, beginning after the full moon of the eleventh month in the Lunar calendar. It is a time of giving, for the laity to express gratitude to monks. Lay Buddhists bring donations to temples, especially new robes for the monks.
Pui described it as a big party where everyone eats a bunch of awesome Thai food, followed by a bunch of chanting. Definitely a new experience for me, plus I love food. So off we went!
While I love writing, sometimes photos and videos do a better job of telling a story (see below). My main takeaways from this amazing experience:
- Thai home cooking is better than most of the stuff you’ve probably been eating
- You might be surprised to discover what’s hiding in your own backyard, especially if you live in Elk River.
Thanks for the cultural immersion trip, Pui!