In 2009, I summed up the season in London by what I learned from the new and old friends that grew as I wandered through the UK and Europe; An Early Conclusion (2009).
I’ll sum up the nine-month season in Bangkok in just the same way.
Trinh’s willingness to fly to Bangkok at least once a month made our regional relationship simpler. We shared a new city, a new season, and a few of Bangkok’s warm colourful denizens. She was a persist support for my millennial angst and affirmative sounding board for my inconsistent curiosities. She and I took a shine to Bangkok, as a city with abundance, order, and opportunities. We also travelled through Thailand, Singapore, and Viet Nam in a season that recast our relationship as a regional romance.
Hymn and I go back to Boston, 2012 and our friendship twisted and turned through the seasons in Japan and my first year in Vietnam. We were also buddies in travels in Chiang Mai, Thailand, Siem Reap, Cambodia, and Sai Gon, Vietnam. Hymn was a constant support for me while I lived in Bangkok. Not only was he the legal renter of my apartment, but he was always willing to translate things for me and deliver things I needed, but couldn’t find. Hymn is a true friend and it was great to learn about Bangkok and Thailand through his eyes.
Jonas and I met in a hostel in South Korea in 2014. Jonas inspired me to study and pursue development as a career and a cause. In a surprise move, Jonas transplanted to Bangkok in early October. In Bangkok, we had a season to become closer friends. I often went over to his area for dinner, Netflix, swimming or we went out in the city together. He and I experienced the tribulations of working in development agencies together and also travelled throughout Thailand. Jonas and I mesh well because we both see inefficiencies as learning experiences, are impromptu, and easy going with most changes.
Joao, Jonas’ former roommate in Sweden, by chance also lived to Bangkok. Joao, like Jonas, inspired me to travel, continue pursuing development and work harder. Joao (Brazilian), in his own words is “too latino” and lives and breathes his emotions. He is endearing, because he shares the full range of his human experience. Joao inspired me to travel to Sri Lanka and put Indonesia on the bucket list. I knew Joao was a curious guy, like me, when he mused aloud about the existential crisis a snake must feel when they encounter a human for the first time.
Joao, Jonas, and I formed The Jonas Brothers a triad of curious young dudes in development. It was great to combine our friendships into a stable three-legged plastic chair.
Wilson was my building mate and an open guy who shared his experiences as a young man and a young professional in development. Wilson is my senior, career-wise, yet he shared his insights with modesty. He invited me to play badminton with him and his girlfriend Amy, lent me things for my room, and occasionally went out with me on the weekend. Wilson, a medical doctor, also gave me confidence and advice when I suspected that I had Hand, Foot, and Mouth disease. Wilson and I’s friendship is just beginning and I’m certain it will grow on.
Amy is Wilson’s girlfriend, but she and I have our owns story. When UNESCO needed a student to present at a conference, I recommend that Amy, a Thai PhD, be the one. She and I spent two café sessions preparing for her presentation. The co-stress of presenting in front of 200 participants from across Asia-Pacific at a conference together made Amy and I friends.
Wichayapat and I graduated from Penn together in 2016, but didn’t know each other too well. In Bangkok, we met a few times in cafes to hang out. Wichayapat and I share an interest in writing and she inspired me to give my children’s book another and we even combined our passions for writing to make an impromptu Essay Tutoring Curriculum and website for our service. Wichayapat was also keen and patient enough to hang out with the friend groups that I assembled whenever someone came by Bangkok for a visit and I called a get-together. Seeing my friends hang out together is always a joy for me.
Danya, Don Don, my classmate from Penn and fellow UNESCO intern, and I were partners in crime during the internship. It was great to have Danya’s stoic humour, shy warmth, and millennial angst throughout the internship. Danya and I become good friends, both enjoying and tolerating each others’ company spectacularly. Danya inspired me to let the quality of my work, and my case “near-quality”, speak for itself.
During the final two months of the season, I was sitting in cafes looking for jobs online. There were certainly times when I was pacing back and forth across my hot square of a room, mindlessly waiting for the sun to set. Waiting for sun down, so I could enjoy the cooler night air and humid heat that vibrates out of the pavement and massages Bangkok after the “working day” was done. Glen, my fellow American and nearly three decades my senior, became my buddy. It was good to talk to him and learn about his life’s course and his new carpentry creations. Whether or not he was at work, he certainly has a mind at work.
Bo and I became friends through Facebook to be language exchange partners. Bo was a fascinating person for me to meet because she didn’t need a language partner at all and was already a Thai/US citizen. As professional Thai teacher, she was generously willing to teach me Thai for free. Sadly, my interest in learning Thai began to fade once it was clear I was leaving Bangkok, but I still enjoyed the conversations with Bo. I had an eye-opening experience learning about the US from her experience. She has an admirable will power and a decisive nature which helped her adapt well to the US.
I joined UNESCO’s football team, UNESCO United, and played about five friendly games with them. It was fun to play football again and they were mercifully kind to never guilt me for never scoring a single point, never stopping a single shot as the keeper, nor ever properly passing the ball. I was a serious dead weight on the team. The experience of playing football with Thais, Japanese, Nepalis, Americans, French, Australians, Britishers, Spaniards, and other nationalities opened my eyes to the equalising impact of sports and the nationalities salad that makes up the expat ingredients in Bangkok. I want to start a friendly football club in Saigon too.
It is difficult for me to express my gratitude for my UNESCO friends who helped me grow as a young professional. I learned from my seniors and the others in my age and experience bracket who were pushing through the realities of development in pursuit of a meaningful career. Thank you UNESCO and specifically to my manager for your insights and patience.
Living in Bangkok was wonderful, as a hub eventually everyone will pass through Bangkok. Each month someone from somewhere on the flight lines that tie together my stories would come to visit.
The next crop of people passed through Bangkok either at the beginning of the season or briefly in the middle. The nights out and the city tours we shared were times for me to feel in the special home that exists in the company of friends I knew from another season. Deepa and her friends in Sri Lanka were extra-regional additions. It was great to reconnect with Deepa and learn about her life in East Timor. I was blessed to be adopted by Deepa’s friends who invited me to climb Adam’s Peak and helped me transverse Sri Lanka in their van.
Visiting Chiang Mai with Brandon and travelling in ASEAN with Andreas were the kind of blessings my nostalgic heart thrives on. It was wonderful to share these seasons with my loved ones so that this time in my life will live in their memories as well and I can revisit this apartment and these hot days – long after they are gone.