Rotary Peace Center at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand
One thing I have learned through my experiences traveling and working around the world is that people are more alike than they are different. Moreover we embody our expressions of joy in similar ways.
Anyone who has ever visited Thailand has likely heard the phrase same, same when trying to make a purchase from a vendor or negotiate the menu in a restaurant. Same, same is an English phrase used by Thai people, it means that two or more items are similar, or cost the same amount. A similar phrase is same, same…but different. This can mean many things from same price but different items to these items are not the same at all. This may be confusing but I find these phrases endearing and I like to think of them as an allegory for humanity – in other words we are all pretty much the same and we also have unique differences. We are same, same…but different.
Rotary International is a perfect example of how similar people are around the world; and Rotary reflects the innate human desire to help one another. The Rotary mission of placing service to others above self has drawn together more than 1.2 million members with more than 34,000 clubs in over 200 countries. Rotary is evidence that we are really same, same. I see Rotary’s presence and impact everywhere!
This image of a samlo or bicycle Rikshaw in Chiang Mai – the bike is sponsored by Rotary.
There are certainly differences between us. For example, there are many cultures and each culture has subcultures, moreover within those subcultures there are differences of opinion and many different personalities. However, if one were to make a list of the differences between people and cultures the list would be finite. That is to say there is a limit to the number of things we can identify as being different between people.
On the other hand there is a seemingly infinite list of things we can find that are similar between people. We are similar on a cellular level ; in fact there is less than 0.01% difference in the human genome between people. We all have similar needs. At our core, each human being needs a sense of security, belonging, and wants to be respected. Virtually everything else stems from efforts to satisfy these basic needs.
People laugh the same across all cultures and enjoy music and sports in similar ways. Each person wants to feel joy and embodies that feeling in similar ways (like the young girl in the picture with the camel).
Music brings people together from many cultures. Our instructor Jan Sunoo sparked an interest in playing the ukulele among a group of Peace Scholars.
We recently had the joyful opportunity in Krabi to connect with people from around the world listening to Thai musicians singing both Thai Reggae music and peace protest songs in English from the greats like Bob Dylan and John Lennon. (see pictures below). Although we could not verbally communicate when not singing we established a special connection through music and dancing.
Photographs credited to Cecilia Popa 2017
Sports diplomacy, or cultural connection through sport, is another wonderful way for people to connect across and within cultures. This approach is being used by several Class 23 Peace Scholars and is the basis of the peace work of our visiting instructors Tom Woodhouse and Sombat Topanya. Every morning and evening you can see throngs of people from all over the world in Bangkok’s Lumpini Park enjoying exercise and sports together. The scene is the same in New York City where people gather in free open public spaces to do yoga together, cycle and run. Everyone enjoying the opportunity to engage their mind and body same, same. (see pictures below)
Zoomba in Lumpini Park in Bangkok
Picture of Free Public Yoga in New York City
Really we are all same, same!
Dessa Bergen-Cico – USA
Rotary Peace Fellow – Class 23