Rotary Peace Center at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand
Thinking about life and the road it leads us on. There is always one battle to fight, one goal to achieve and at least one more moment to adore or relish. For years this Rotary Peace Fellowship was all I ever wanted and needed.
To be quite honest, I have never been so strategic applying for any opportunity in life the way I prepared and applied for this Peace Fellowship. For more than 30 months I read everything about Rotary and the Fellowship. I asked questions from people (there were so many- from Rotarians to past fellows and people I know who have won important global fellowships). Among the people I spoke with about the fellowship was Steve Killelea, the founder of Institute for Economics and Peace. It was on 15 June 2016 in Washington, D.C. at the future of peace summit, that I asked Steve about the fellowship. His response was, ‘Wale go for it, it’s an experience you will not regret. Moreso, Rotary is our long term partner. If there anything we could do at IEP let Michelle know and we would do it’. From that point, I knew there was no going back on my application for the fellowship.
An interesting part of my fellowship application preparation was my decision to step back joining the Rotary because I read somewhere that being an active member disqualifies you from being sponsored by the organization to the fellowship.
Despite all of the information I received, I only submitted my application in 2018 for the 2019 class. As I often do after submitting any application, I switched off on it. But Alas, then came the moment, exactly 19:03 on 15 October 2018 an email dropped… Congratulations! You have been selected as a 2019 Rotary Peace Fellow! I have received many positive emails like this before, but my feelings were different this time. My eyes were filled with tears. Tears of joy I presume. The thoughts of Thailand flooded my heart. Finally I am getting that one global opportunity to live abroad. Dreams are becoming real. Now, I have a big chance to step out and re-think what it means to be a peacebuilder. A vocation I have come to love so much.
From that memorable Monday evening email, the many preparations for Bangkok began (trust me, the process was long and involves paying attention to details). Thanks to Laura, Cartoon, Oy and Ajarn Vitoon, amazing people with special skills that enable you not to miss a document or deadline.
On getting all my documentation, securing my Thailand visa from Nigeria was perhaps the most difficult curve of my Rotary Peace Fellowship journey. That is a story for another day. I eventually got my Visa a few days before 2018 Christmas. Then comes another reality. That feeling of leaving my wife and daughter behind for 3-months. Absolute 3 months!!! Unbelievable! Momentarily, the joy and excitement of going to Thailand were watered down. The countdown started but with mixed feelings.
The January 10, 2019 traveling d-day eventually arrived. It was an emotional day. Looking at my nearly 6-year old daughter at the airport, knowing she had no clue how long I was going this time, I held back my tears. She was used to daddy traveling but certainly not for a 3 month stretch. My wife also kept smiling but behind the smiles I saw a strong woman trying hard not to break down. Her sacrifice for me and the family cannot be measured or quantified.
My flight from Lagos-Doha-Bangkok went so well and I landed in Bangkok at around 17:55 as scheduled. From the airport, I immediately understood what makes Thailand Amazing. The crowd of tourists I saw checking in that day further raised my curiosity about Thailand. The though of visiting everywhere possible permeates my heart. For one moment I totally forgot I was in Thailand to study and not for holiday.
On checking out around 19:30. Yes, almost 2 hours wait to pass through immigration. Massive crowd! I searched for and met my host counselor Chairat at our agreed position. Chairat, a past Rotary Governor is a perfect gentleman. Seeing how tired and famished I was rather than just taking me to my accommodation, he drove me straight to Siam Paragon Food Hall in the heart of Bangkok. The eating experience that first night practically inducted me into Bangkok food life an important part of surviving the Rotary Peace Fellowship here in Thailand. From Siam Paragon we went to Chulalongkorn i-house, a 26 storey accommodation beauty to behold. My first contact with a fellow Rotary Fellow was with Deb, an effervescence fellow from the US. She is such fun to be with.
Afterwards, I was happy to hit the bed for a well deserved sleep. It was such a good decision for me to arrive three days before the commencement of class activities. There was enough time to rest and think through the days ahead.
With some past fellows and my class 26 colleagues haven shared their classroom experiences. There is very little to add on that as my experience was not totally different.
This trip is indeed my unbeatable journey of life. I am not sure I will ever need to strategize this much for anything I would need in life again. This Rotary fellowship platform is so big that I can be anything I want to be. It is so wide that I can reach any limit I want to reach. It is so high that I can see and meet anyone or an objective that I want. I am happy I made this choice. I am happy Rotary Foundation and Chulalongkorn University made me one of their choices for this year.
This fellowship means you stand shoulder high among the top ten in your career
This fellowship means you are going higher
This fellowship means you are the best
I am blessed! I feel it right now.
I am simply irrepressible!!!
Wale Adeboye – Nigeria
Rotary Peace Fellow – Class 26