Farewell from Bangkok!

Sawatdee ka!

Not much has changed since I wrote my first blog, but I will do my best to share some updates. Regrettably, I haven’t learned much more Thai. I am up to around five phrases – one of which is what I’ve learned by riding the Sky Train every day: “next stop is – Sà-taă-nee-dtòr-bpai.” Not the most useful phrase for conversation. On another note, I really enjoy living in this vibrant city. Honestly, I think I like it more every day that I am here. If I explored a new area every day, I still wouldn’t see even half of what the city has to offer. I am starting to think I will miss the craziness of the Big Mango back in the states (warning: my sources may not be accurate on this nickname of Thailand; it is supposed to play off of the Big Apple).

Well, I guess I’ll start with some extracurricular activities first this time. Since my last post, I took one trip outside of Bangkok to Hua Hin, a nearby beach town. I enjoyed a nice and relaxing long weekend there over the King’s birthday (a national holiday here in Thailand). While in Hua Hin, I explored multiple night markets, enjoyed the warm water of the Gulf of Thailand, and met some local friends to share an evening with. Getting out of Bangkok was nice, although the actual getting out was quite a task. I reserved a spot on a van that was set to leave at 8 am. However, about a fourth of Bangkok also did the same, so we didn’t actually leave the bus terminal until nearly 2 pm that day. I can’t say I wasn’t warned though. My Thai friends/colleagues and people who have lived here longer than 6 months all couldn’t believe I was braving the traffic out of Bangkok on a holiday weekend. They weren’t wrong. When the Queen’s birthday came around, I decided to stay in Bangkok for the long weekend.

At the end of this month, my time working with UNESCO Bangkok will come to an end. It is really bittersweet because I have enjoyed my time working here so much. Not to brag too much, but working in the Executive Office has been a dream. Everybody has been so welcoming since the beginning and made sure that I feel like I am an important member of the team. I really appreciate this because I know that in many internships, it is easy to feel like the intern – the one at the bottom of the totem pole, who people only believe is good at fetching coffee and taking meeting notes.  I am grateful that throughout my time here, I have grown professionally and personally from my colleagues’ and supervisor’s leadership and I look forward to staying in touch in the future J

Okay, okay, enough bragging about my team.  In terms of work, I have been focusing a lot on writing a regional report with my supervisor to highlight ‘good practices’ of implementing global citizenship education and education for sustainable development in Asia and the Pacific (which I mentioned in my first blog). I enjoy this project because I have gotten to learn so much about the Asia-Pacific region. Especially in terms of policy making, I have a much better understanding of the political, economic, social, and cultural context of the region.

Last week, the Jeju Water Academy for Youth in the Republic of Korea took place (which I also discussed in my first post). Unfortunately, there was a change of plans and I was unable to attend the event, though I still enjoyed working with my colleagues to design the curriculum and activities. My colleagues said that the children were all very enthusiastic about the hands-on activities we planned and enjoyed learning about UNESCO and how water is related to sustainability. The event was such a success that the organizers invited UNESCO Bangkok to co-organize the event twice-per-year for the next five years.  This is exciting for me personally because I may have the opportunity to continue working with the UNESCO Bangkok team (remotely) to plan the future events in JejuJ

The last update I have to share is related to the UN system as a whole. Recently, we had an office ‘retreat’ where we discussed the repositioning of the UN development system and the strategic plan for UNESCO Bangkok. In short, the UN development system is repositioning itself to help realize its 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The goal is to have better coordination between agencies, organizations, and sectors to address the gaps and overlaps within the system – a common criticism of the UN development system. It was said that there will be greater transparency and accountability and that the repositioning will “reinforce national ownership and leadership” so that country programs are no longer a “one size fits all approach.” If anybody is interested in reading more details, you can see the UN’s Report of the Secretary General from June 2017 here or the Resolution adopted by the General Assembly on 31 May 2018 here.

That is all I have for now. Thank you so much for following along! If you would like to hear more about my time working with UNESCO Bangkok or generally in Southeast Asia feel free to reach out to me!

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Courtney is a master’s degree candidate in George Washington University’s Education Policy Program. You can connect with her on LinkedIn or Twitter.

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