Farewell (for now) to Thailand

My last two weeks in Thailand had their ups and downs. After remaining very healthy for the first month, I finally caught a food poisoning bug. In addition to being physically ill, I felt terrible for not being able to contribute at work.  

I managed to recover enough to enjoy my final weekend in Thailand. I planned a trip down to the southern coast in order to get a glimpse of some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Fortunately, my friends David and Jess who are also living in Bangkok were taking the same trip.  We arrived at Ao Nang beach and waded into the crystal clear blue water to board a long-tail boat and catch a ride over to the secluded Railay Beach. It was stunningly beautiful with large protruding lime stone rock structures. The weekend was lovely and was spent exploring, snorkeling, relaxing and reflecting on the previous 6 weeks.

My last two days of work at Thammasat were very busy. We hosted a design-thinking and innovation workshop for a group of Chinese executives handpicked and sponsored by Intel. My colleague Viria – a trained expert in design thinking from the Stanford d-School – led the way and I supported her and joined in with the participants. The group was incredibly excited and motivated and, despite the work being done in Chinese, it was inspirational to watch them create, prototype and test ideas for building a university campus that inspires social innovation.

On my last afternoon at Thammasat the faculty gave me a short and sweet goodbye party that involved a plethora of Thammasat gifts and many farewells. In just 6 short weeks I felt as though I developed lifelong relationships and certainly took away many lessons learned from the experienced professors at the school. Stephane, the French human rights expert who spent decades with the UN in Southeast Asia, is a sweet and honest soul who works harder than anyone I know. Marc, the Belgian public health expert, whose sense of humor and genuine interest in the well being of the students provided an example to live by. Nitya, the Dean of the School, was welcoming and professional and always treated me with the utmost kindness. Bill, the American doctor and reproductive health care expert who arrived in Thailand from a year in Afghanistan, showed me what it means to be truly passionate and dedicated to your work. Toi, the founder of the school and the “Thai mother” that took care of me during my trip, showed me the most amazing hospitality imaginable and demonstrated the toughness and perseverance needed to make a difference in this world. Of course my direct colleagues Ada and Viria who became fast friends and peers who are working so hard each day to create social change in their country and make a difference for the people of SE Asia.

My time in Thailand came to a quick and abrupt end. Before I knew it I was on a plane back to Europe and the Western world. Time for reflection and thought is never enough, but wow, what an experience I was so fortunate to have. I learned so much about the Thai people and the country and more importantly about that region of the world that had been so foreign to me. I left feeling more complete, inspired, and excited to find out how my new Thai friends will be part of my life in the future.

 

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