Rotary Peace Center at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand
In preparation for writing this post, I reflected on one of the themes Mr. Charlie Allen spoke about this week – the idea of turning points. To me, turning points are the times in our lives that signify a seismic shift within whatever context we are in. While reflecting on this, I realized this is the midway point of our program, representing a significant turning point in the course. We are now closer to the end of our time in Bangkok rather than the beginning. It has been a tremendous journey so far. I never imagined I would be part of a program such as this, in a city quite like this.
The context of this journey in Bangkok has been amazing. This is a city attempting to balance the new and the old – traditional Thai culture trying to be maintained in the face of modernity. I’ve never been to a place where you can visit a 300 year old wat and go across the way to cool off with an iced coffee in a multi-storied, ultra-contemporary coffee shop. Every time I turn my head, there seems to be something I may have never seen before – a disco tuk tuk, street-side grills searing unfamiliar foods on sticks, a family of four cruising down the street cramped on the seat of a motorbike, a crew of adolescent monks buying snacks in a 7-11, college-aged kids dancing in sync to the latest K-pop song on the sidewalk, a muay thai fight outside of a mall, kids practicing their yo-yo moves …the list goes on and on. The places I have visited and experiences within the city are numerous, but they are unmatched by the people I have met through Rotary.
Just like the city of Bangkok, my colleagues have exceeded any expectations I had for this course. I feel lucky to share a classroom with 19 amazing individuals. I have truly been humbled by their professional backgrounds and the knowledge they bring to the classroom. The willingness of others to share their perspectives and insights has helped to guide my journey through this program. We are willing to open up and share our personal ideas to promote learning and growth. This exposure to fresh ideas, different approaches to peace building, and international development has provided me with new and unique insights into this field. As I reflect on these new ideas, I find myself exploring a new path.
While turning points can be scary at times, I feel more confident knowing that I am sharing this experience with new friends and colleagues. Even though this amazing adventure in Bangkok is drawing closer to an end, I am looking forward to maintaining these friendships. I truly value the friendships and connections I have made so far and will continue to make. I am excited to continue this journey with the people I have met and the knowledge I have gained. As one journey ends, another is sure to begin.
Gururaj Kumar, USA
Rotary Peace Fellow
June 2013 Session