Rotary Peace Center at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand
I deal with stories – it’s been my bread and butter for well over a decade but coming to Bangkok to take part in this course, I’ve come to realise that while it’s important to be someone who observes and reports on the world; the role of the storyteller is one that’s ever more crucial in this world of fake facts, alternative truths and damaging agendas.
The classes here at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok are intense but once in a while, there’s a moment to look up from taking notes and observe my fellow fellows – the 24-strong global cohort – who now make up my surrogate family when school is let out at the end of the day, When I do take a glance at my classmates, I see a melting pot of amazing ingredients who together are creating the most wonderful fiery dish. Since we’re in Thailand, I’ll say it’s Peace Fellow Pad Thai. These inspiring people – from 17 different countries – including Solomon Islands, South Sudan via Zimbabwe and Kenya respectively, China, Australia, Macedonia, Ireland, Bosnia-Herzegovina and elsewhere – are full of fire.
Their passion inspires me to be a better person as well as better at the job I do back in London, UK, in terms of telling the stories of those who are trying to change things.
I applied for this course because I wanted to learn more about how others see, understand and work in the fields of peace and conflict – two incredibly complicated subjects which underpin storytelling, especially in this current climate. It’s been an amazing experience so far and for someone who dives in and out of a variety of subjects and is, admittedly, given privileges by others to experience their world, I feel as though an entire treasure chest has been opened for me.
Of course, so much of this learning comes from the world outside of an air-conditioned classroom in a lecture setting. It comes from learning to navigate Thailand’s roads – the second most lethal in the world after Libya according to World Health Organisation rankings; it comes from taking time to go for coffee and beers with new friends with first-hand experience dealing with warlords, fighters, tribal leaders, refugees, women peacemakers, young people at the cusp of deciding the path they want to follow, and farming communities; it comes from field trips out to see the Mekong River and talking to the shop keepers who have lived in Bangkok and Chiang Mai all their lives and finding out what drives them.
Everyday new stories emerge allowing us to understand each other further through our experiences, but also we’re creating new histories and packing in as much as we can.
We’re all teaching each other so much. My new friends have taught me a wide variety of skills I had no idea I would encounter before I headed out to ‘the Land of Smiles’. From learning how to rock climb in Laos to finding out why Korean make up is considered by many to be a game changer and the role witchcraft has in different cultures; it all plays a part in helping me, at least, to understand the world around me and hopefully use that knowledge to shape my storytelling.
Dhruti Shah – UK
Rotary Peace Fellow – Class 22