An Asian experience at Asian University
“A great experience!”
Visiting students were
able to show off some of the traditions from their home countries during
All the visiting students
enjoyed their experience.
Dr Astrid Kainzbauer, Netikan Roopngarm,
and Sue. K of PMTV
In July 2006, Asian University welcomed seventy-three students from
thirteen different countries to its Summer University three-week course
on business practices and cultures in Asia. They were based at the
Welcome Jomtien Beach Hotel Pattaya.
Many of them were students of business and some of them already had many
years of work experience.
The visitors were able to
learn a little bit about Thai dancing.
At the opening ceremony on Monday July 10 at Asian
University, the students were greeted by the non-academic staff dressed
in traditional costumes along with children from a local school, who
danced and sang, and placed garlands around the necks of the visitors.
Many of the European visitors have never been to Asia before, and were
impressed by everyone’s friendliness, as were the others who are from
countries as diverse as Mongolia, Bhutan and Sri Lanka.
Asian University had put together an exciting program including topics
such as Economic Growth in Asia, an Asian perspective in International
Marketing, and Cross-cultural Management in Asia. On top of these
academic subjects, taught by professors of the Business faculty, a
series of talks about Oriental Culture and Philosophy introduced aspects
of Japanese, Indian and Thai religion and philosophy. For these talks,
Asian University managed to attract some famous specialists in those
Apart from the academic program, students were given a chance to
experiment with activities such as Thai boxing, yoga and meditation,
Thai dancing, Thai cooking, Thai massage and of course survival Thai
language! Highlight of the program for many students was a talk with the
Head Abbot at Wat Yan, who kindly offered the students some insights
into Buddhism and the daily life of a monk in Thailand.
Field trips to experience the actual business environments included a
company visit to Nestle Thailand, and the Bangkok-Pattaya Hospital,
where students had a chance to discuss practical business issues with
members of the management team.
Local sightseeing excursions took the students to Wat Yannasangwararam,
Buddha Mountain, Nong Nooch Tropical Garden, and Koh Samet.
Two days in Bangkok offered the group the possibility to visit the Royal
Grand Palace, some temples and markets, and to have dinner at the Royal
Bangkok Sports Club. And a long weekend provided the opportunity for
more distant trips: Phuket, Chiang Mai or Cambodia.
Learning Thai boxing was
part of the experience of being here.
Back in Pattaya, international nights were organized, and students
presented their own country and culture to the audience. This included
demonstrations of traditional songs and dances, and the audience warmly
welcomed the Mozart chocolates and schnubs brought out for them, among
other souvenir items.
The Italian presentation also drew big laughter, with the students
insisting that they were the right representatives for their country as
from the very beginning their presentation tools didn’t work and all was
unorganized. They of course proudly reminded all that Italy is the World
Cup Champion, that is before showing slides about Italian chaotic habits
in road traffic as compared to other EU member countries. All was in
good fun and sharing of understanding and laughter.
The fun and laughter lasted until the final day, when all realized how
quickly three weeks had passed and suddenly it was time to say goodbye.
Tears rolled down international cheeks, while pledges were made to keep
in touch with each other, and most of all to cherish the memories of the
time in Thailand they shared together.
From the reactions of both participants and lecturers, it was certainly
concluded that this was a wonderful experience, and that Asian
University can definitely plan to repeat it in the future. One
participant sums up his feelings as follows: “I really enjoy this Asian
experience, and remember: always smile.” (Catia Luis, Portugal)
It was a fond, although
somewhat sad farewell on the final night.
Bingo evening at Bangkok Pattaya Hospital benefits the street kids of Mercy Center
Bangkok Pattaya Hospital was the venue on July 28 for a bingo evening
organized to benefit the children of the Mercy Center Foundation.
and Dianne Doell, international directors of the Mercy Center, describe
the activities undertaken to help street children.
Tony Malhotra greeted the many guests in English and Thai, and Monika
Rottmann, an employee of the hospital, added greetings and translations
in German. Fred and Dianne Doell, international directors of the Mercy
Center, then took the microphone to describe the activities undertaken
to help street children.
The proceeds of the bingo evening will be used to build an urgently
required house for the Mercy Center, which opened in Pattaya in 2000.
The street children of Pattaya are at great risk, said Fred and Dianne.
They are vulnerable to criminal exploitation, drugs, and sexual abuse.
They have very few people they can turn to for help or comfort, and
their whole life is about simply surviving.
To begin the evening a number of children from the Center sang for the
guests, drawing a huge round of applause. Following this was a buffet
dinner, along with a performance from cast members of Tiffany’s, the
exotic beauties dancing to exciting music.
After this it was eyes down for the bingo. The drawing of the numbers
took place on the stage. Prizes included many hotel and restaurant
vouchers, a steamer, a DVD player, a television and a refrigerator. Top
prize was an iPod from the limited edition produced in commemoration of
His Majesty the King’s 60th anniversary.
During the evening, Bangkok Pattaya Hospital eye surgeon Dr Somchai
Trakoolshokesatian presented the Mercy Center with a check for 100,000
To begin the evening a
number of children from the Center sang for the guests, drawing a huge
round of applause.
Cast members of Tiffany’s
dance to exciting music.
Neil Maniquez (center) and
Tony Malhotra present a lucky winner with her prize.
Tony Malhotra (left)
greeted the many guests in English and Thai, whilst Monika Rottmann
(right) added greetings and translations in German.
Bangkok Pattaya Hospital
eye surgeon Dr Somchai Trakoolshokesatian (center) presents the Mercy
Center with a check for 100,000 baht.
Bingo? Well not quite yet,
In the Zone
Andrew Watson in Nahariya, Northern Israel
You might very well be wondering what on earth I’m doing in a war zone.
Well I can tell you, on more than one occasion during the past three
weeks, I’ve wondered the same thing myself. I seem to have almost
involuntarily exchanged the peace and tranquillity of Thailand for a
front line seat in the most serious Middle East conflict since the Gulf
Zeharia, “You can’t live under Katyusha rockets all the time.”
Everywhere I go, the impact of current and recent hostilities on
ordinary civilians could not be more obvious. It seems to me bitterly
ironic that the real picture of the devastation of civilian lives can be
subordinated by the self-interested ‘big picture’ rhetoric of
protagonists who purport to have their citizens’ interests uppermost in
their minds; a position unsustainable considering the degree of human
suffering for which they bear and must take responsibility. Seldom is a
simple picture painted of what it’s really like for real people on both
The morning stillness is punctured with unerring regularity by the sound
of Katyusha rockets coming in and artillery shells going out. The booms
reverberate around Nahariya, where I’ve taken shelter, and the Western
Galilee, creating a sense of uncertainty and unease. Around me, there is
a surreal calm to this usually bustling seaside town. There are hardly
any cars on the streets. Outside the normally crowded apartment blocks
there is deafening silence. Only the ‘boom, boom’ remains pervasive,
sometimes distant, sometimes obviously closer. No children are on the
street, or in the playgrounds. I half expect the child-snatcher from
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang to roll around the corner.
Me’er Amichai, outside
his house in Nahariya, above a crater courtesy of a Katyusha.
At midday in midweek, midsummer, the beach is
deserted. I turn back from the Mediterranean, the sea naturally
oblivious to the ritual of human farce going on around it and I head
back into town. I pass a few pedestrians, mostly elderly, taking
advantage of a lull in the shelling, to snatch some provisions to take
them through the next barrage. I pass through an area where the houses
and apartment blocks have no windows, where the stone walls are pot
marked by shrapnel wounds. There’s a man picking through the mess. He’s
called Me’er Amichai. He’s one of the few residents of the town who
haven’t taken flight south. There’s a crater about two metres wide and
one metre deep blown out of the concrete in front of his house. Glass is
everywhere. His house was hit by a Katyusha a week ago, at three o’clock
in the afternoon, I’m told. Nobody was hurt.
Apparently there’s a kind of routine to the shelling. Early in the
morning (the ‘wake up’ call), then a few salvoes after lunch, followed
by another barrage at bedtime, to rock you to sleep, presumably. Almost
civilised. Unlike what’s going on just a few kilometres across the
border, or so I’m led to believe…
Watching the coverage from CNN, BBC, Sky and Channel 4, it’s a seemingly
unending, unrelenting, nightmarish and deadly experience for the south
Lebanese. It appears that there is just no chance of escape. Whereas I
am able to walk with relative freedom around a town, listening for a
siren, eyes peeled for the nearest bunker, I am cognisant that in these
conditions of war, this is a luxury of life that is effectively denied
to my fellow humans in villages over the next hill.
In south Lebanon, the infrastructure has been severely damaged; roads
and bridges which might otherwise have brought respite, relief or a
route to relative safety, have been obliterated. From the pictures, I’d
say that the bunkers in which the Lebanese have been incarcerated for
four interminable weeks are little more than the basements of buildings,
providing as much protection, in many cases, as a lace curtain to a
bullet. Such is the overwhelming capacity of Israeli fire power and the
persistence of it, that I am surprised neither by the level of the
suffering nor the scale of the destruction. Worse still, I feel like
I’ve seen it all before.
Speaking with fellow journalists upon their return from Lebanon, they
are emotional, shell-shocked and angry. Even veterans of conflicts from
Bosnia to Kosovo to Somalia have been reduced to spitting (off the
record) anti-Israeli venom at anyone who can bear to listen. They see a
pariah state, acting with a deliberate disregard for human life, a
hypocritical regime which on one hand demands a United Nations
resolution and a multinational force in south Lebanon, whilst on the
other, it targets (allegedly accidentally) and kills four UN personnel.
There’s an unmistakeable note of despair in their voices. The
repetitious nature of this conflict is repugnant; nobody seems able to
visualize a long term solution, let alone a future characterised by
Nobody defends Hezbollah. There is a general recognition amongst almost
everybody I’ve met here and in Palestine; Arabs, Jews, Europeans and
Persians alike, that the self-proclaimed ‘Party of God’ (what would HE
think?) represents an example of all that is malevolent in the world
today. Many regard them as a cynical group, bent on the destruction of
another people based on their bigoted prejudice toward it, at the behest
of Syria and Iran. Their sponsors’ denial of direct involvement, I am
reliably informed, is provably preposterous. Hezbollah’s facetious talk
of ‘resistance’ I am told, is an insult to the dead and the families of
the dead, many of whom were either lured by false promises of safety, or
coerced or threatened into staying put in their apartments and houses,
turned into human shields until their homes became their tombs, at which
point Hezbollah could cry ‘foul!’ In turn, the Israelis are derided for
their wholesale onslaught in pursuit of their espoused objectives which
remain elusive; to recover two kidnapped soldiers, taken during a
deliberately provocative Hezbollah raid on July 12 and to extinguish the
threat from myriad rockets. So far, their tactics have proved
ineffective in preventing the one hundred or so Katyushas which explode
into northern Israel every day, from being fired. So the cycle
continues, punctuated by horrifying massacres (deliberate or not they’re
still massacres) like the one at Qana.
I have close friends both sides of the border. In Lebanon, there is
despair. Having rid themselves of the silent oppressor, the Syrians,
only last year, the “Cedar revolution” was bearing fruit. No longer did
the population have to exist in “survival mode” as they had learned to
do through thirty years of despicable confrontations. Then came a
unilateral act by Hezbollah.
I managed to get through to my friend Aline, in Beirut. She was
understandably angry. Her fiancée is in the US and their wedding,
planned for September, is now unexpectedly shrouded in uncertainty.
What, I wondered, did she think of Hezbollah? “I think they need to be
disarmed and should function like any other political party in the
country - under the laws of the constitution. Normally I don’t like them
and I fear their power. However, under these circumstances I find myself
rooting for them. It’s like having to choose the better of two evils, so
I choose the one that has done the least harm to other people.”
What about the ordinary Israeli? Newspaper polls show an astonishing 92%
support the military action, despite the loss of civilian life in
Lebanon. Ohad Zeharia is a student in real life. In wartime, he becomes
a Sergeant in an IDF (Israel Defence Force) tank unit. In Israel,
everyone is essentially in the army, notwithstanding the twenty percent
of the population that is Arab and the Haredim (religious Jews), both of
whom are exempt from military service. The idea of being part of the
army is entrenched in the fabric of society in Israel, just as, I put to
Ohad, Hezbollah is very much part of the culture in south Lebanon. They
are a Shia political movement (and militia) which on its benign side,
provides health and education to the population. So what’s the
difference between them? “Hezbollah is a political army. It’s an army
which belongs only to a small group of people. There is no agreement in
Lebanon between everybody about this army. When we were there between
1982 and 2000, most of the people of south Lebanon were with us.” [South
Lebanese Christian Militia]
Ohad continued, “It’s quite hard to understand Lebanon. Someone once
said, ‘The problem is that the Shias fight with the Sunnis, the Sunnis
fight with the Christians and all of them are fighting Israel.’” What’s
it like living here in Nahariya? “You can’t live under Katyusha rockets
all the time. Everyday, three times a day, fifty rockets a day. Five
hundred thousand people from across the north have moved south. There is
no life around here. All the people that have to work, work and the rest
are not here. Sometimes they close the road. There are no buses from
Haifa to the north. But psychologically, people support the war. They
have had enough of this; the shootings and rockets from across the
How does Aline feel about the horror of Qana? “I’m filled with hate. Not
in an angry, agitated way but in a cool, calm way. I’ll have to pray
against it. I don’t know how I’m going to pass an Israeli without
spitting on them. Will Israeli TV show the footage of men, women and
many children lying dead after the air raid? They’ll probably give the
excuse that the people of Qana were forewarned. Do they know that these
were poor people who had no means of escaping?”
What does Ohad think of all those Lebanese civilians who are being
killed? “I feel sorry for them. Maybe they thought that Hezbollah was
good for them but I guess they’re not. You can’t live in peace when they
are there. For us, war has always been about our survival so I don’t
celebrate when a Lebanese citizen dies, not even when a Hezbollah dies.
I don’t even think their citizens are happy when Israelis die. I think
that the media are responsible for giving that impression.”
What if Ohad were called up tomorrow and asked to go into Lebanon? “I
would not have any problem with that. When you go to the army, you
change your way of thinking. I would go in, do my job and hopefully come
home alive.” How will it end? “The same way it started, just like that.
The United States will say, ‘Stop’ and we’ll sit and talk about the
people they took and we’ll exchange prisoners.” Will Hezbollah still be
a threat? “I hope not.”
I am left with an overwhelmingly sad sense that the whole terrible
business is tragically unnecessary. As ever in military conflicts, it’s
the civilian, the individual whose main purpose in life is to work his
way through one day in safety and happiness until the next, who is the
victim. If the perpetrators of their misery truly cared about those they
claim to represent, it wouldn’t happen. Their excuses are empty, dying
claims in a graveyard of a thousand people.
The sun, by now a red ball of fire, slips quietly into the
Mediterranean. Tomorrow, I hope, will bring better news.