Rotary Peace Center at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand
Arriving was hectic. Late evening into CU iHouse, language barriers with night shift staff, trying to sleep while being excited about the next 3 months (adrenalin), who would be my new class mates and will we get on, will I be able to cope with the class content, wi-fi to communicate with family and obtaining a Thai sim card were some of the myriad of thoughts rushing through my mind as I lay awake on the first night.
Then I found MBK. It is like shopping on steroids. I soon discovered MBK has everything anybody ever needed. I had one full day before commencing study at the Rotary Peace Centre and exploring Bangkok was exhilarating on the Sunday with new sounds, new smells, noise, signs in Thai (and English), people wearing face masks, tuk tuks, motor cycle taxis (no thanks) and traffic jams.
Perhaps the greatest accomplishment on that first day was getting to the other side of the road on the pedestrian crossing. While traffic may slow down, I very quickly learnt that nobody stops for pedestrians and I needed to be watchful. After a day or two I quickly made the necessary adjustments and I’m a lot more confident crossing the road than I was on that Sunday, although I am still watchful.
Settling into life at the Rotary Peace Centre and Bangkok was made easier by the fantastic office staff at the centre. They made everyone feel very welcome. Twenty two new Peace Fellows from 15 different nations would be a challenge for any office team but Vitoon, Oy, Cartoon, Krit and others handled all issues like true professionals. If Thailand is known as the land of 1,000 smiles then the RPC office team took ‘friendliness’ to a new level. No challenge was too great or small and all Peace Fellows settled in very quickly.
Without doubt, my fondest memory of the first two weeks was the presentation by each Peace Fellow of their individual conflict analysis. The work being done around the world by my new colleagues is inspiring. The topics included; (i) the trajectory of Boko Haram insurgency; (ii) conflict in the Highlands of PNG; (iii) exploring a new direction in Myanmar’s peace process; (iv) conflict in South Sudan; (v) deforestation in Pakistan; (vi) Kurdish Muslims in Turkey and Syria; (vii) LGBTI challenges in Zimbabwe; (viii) deforestation of the Amazon jungle in Peru; (ix) the contribution of religious fundamentalism and religious extremism to the conflict in Palestine; and (x) the blocking of humanitarian aid in Myanmar. I quickly realised my new colleagues are amazing people who do incredible work around the world.
Every conversation became a learning opportunity. The environment created by presenters in the classroom, sharing meals and socialising in the evenings all provided an opportunity to delve into the work of my colleagues. The depth of learning is powerful, wonderful and rich.
These first two weeks have been brilliant and I am excited about the challenges that await for the remainder of the program. Can’t wait!
Martin Thomas Allison – Australia
Rotary Peace Fellow – Class 26