Rotary Peace Center at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand
Monday, 4th January 2016, at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport around 10:00am, I waved my wife Jess, son Eddie, my siblings Grace and Eric and my friend Sam good-bye as I embarked on my three month journey to Bangkok, Thailand and the Rotary Peace Center at Chulalongkorn University.
My flight from Kenya to Doha International Airport where I was connecting my flight to Bangkok was awesome. Tuesday the following day, 14 hours later, I land at the Suvarnabhumi International Airport. Soon after getting cleared by the Thai immigration officers, I headed to the meeting area Gate 3 to meet my host counselor Douglas Riach from the Rotary Club of Bangkok South, D3350, who was excitedly and patiently waiting for me. We chat for a while and after 4 minutes off we go.
Aboard his car we head off to what will become my residence for the next 3 months. In his car, we get to know each other a little more. He shares with me more about his Rotary club, teaches me a few Thai words, introduces me to the Thai culture, values and beliefs, Thai food, and various sightseeing areas to mention but a few. After a few minutes I arrive at my residence and Dougie, as he is commonly called by his peers, ensures that I have been issued keys to my room, that I sign relevant documents, drops me in my room on the 20th floor, introduces me to a few Rotarians, and finally gives me his business card and advises me which sim card to buy on the ground floor of my residence. He advises me on a certain sim card which is cheaper communicating with, both here in Thailand and back in Kenya. Ahah!! He also asks me to make sure I call him so that he has my phone number.
Wednesday, 6th January 2016, my orientation begins. With me is a batch of 21 intelligent, competent, creative, humorous, reliable, and collaborative wonderful Rotary Peace Fellows from Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Pacific, Europe, and North America. Taking us through the first 3 days of orientation is the ever jovial, charismatic, creative, sociable, reliable, and very industrious outgoing Deputy Director at the Rotary Peace Center at Chulalongkorn University, Jenn Weidman. After self-introductions, we are all introduced to a 3 day amazing Thai history including the political conflict, Thai culture- the Dos’ and Dont’s, and a tour of the Chulalongkorn University – the first and all-time best public university in Thailand. The orientation concludes Friday when all the Rotary Peace Fellows present an 8 minute ‘Individual Conflict Presentation’ (ICP) of their work on peacebuilding and conflict resolution. Ooh!! We rest on Saturday and Sunday we are formally dressed as orientation continues.
All the 21 Rotary Peace Fellows are seated at the Sasa International House as we are all united with our counselors and co-counselors. As we chart along and take some pictures the Host Area Coordinator Andrew McPherson ushers us all into the ‘boardroom’. One by one professor Surichai Wun’gaeo, the Director at the Rotary Peace Center at Chulalongkorn University, Past Rotary International Director Noraseth Pathmanand, and the Past Rotary International President Bhichai Rattakul join us and we all witness how greetings (wai) are done based on age and the position one holds. It’s just amazing and I am forever grateful for my first orientation classes as we, or perhaps just I, saw it all as I was seated on the front left sandwiched by my counselor Douglas and co-counselor Adrian. The three Rotarians introduced us to the history, goals, and ideas of Rotary. The remarks were incredible; hopefully I will be able to share their remarks on this platform.
My second week at the Rotary Peace Center in Bangkok introduces me to Emeritus Professor Tom Woodhouse – a Bradford University professor on peacebuilding and research and a co-author of the book Contemporary Conflict Resolution. The book is a widely recognized text in conflict resolution and peacebuilding work. With him is the amazing Irene Santiago, Chief Executive Officer of the Mindanao Commission on Women and a 2005 nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize. She is known internationally as a strong advocate of gender equality to transform society. The two are core faculty members of the Rotary Peace Center at Chulalongkorn University and introduced us to the “Concepts and Values of Peace and Conflict Studies” where we learn about the state of the art of conflict resolution, classic modules and concepts for peace, the nature and types of conflict and their root causes, Do No Harm, and gender in conflict situations. Thursday evening, the two treated us to an amazing dinner at the famous Cabbages and Condoms restaurant before saying good-bye to us over the weekend.
Need I say, this past weekend was amazing, a full day safari (tour/trip) of Bangkok with an exceptional tour guide courtesy of the Rotary Peace Center at Chulalongkorn University.
I look forward to this coming week with great anticipation as we meet Erik Melander from Uppsala University in Sweden for another extraordinary week as he takes us through the second module on “The Diagnosis and Analysis of Conflict” carefully looking at the context of conflict analysis, human security, humanitarian law, the trends in armed conflict and peacebuilding, conflict models, frameworks and tools, and how they are used in organizations.
It sounds like Erik Melander’s class is going to be full of practical lessons and I just can’t wait.
George Kimani, Kenya
Rotary Peace Fellow
January 2016 Session