Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Nong Bua Lamphu: A place appreciated by few

When I first came to Thailand and spent about half a year studying Thai in Bangkok, people often asked me about where I would work after I finished my language studies, I told them Nong Bua Lamphu. Oftentimes, the question I received immediately after that was, “Where’s that?” And it’s not necessarily the foreigners who asked me this question. Thai people asked as well.

Eventually, I found out the reason why so many people asked me this question was because Nong Bua Lamphu was a rather unknown province, even for Thai people. And amongst the ones who knew, many asked me why I would want to go there since for them, NBL had few things that would attract them. I had to explain to them that there were work already in place in NBL that I wanted to collaborate.

You can’t blame the people for not knowing about NBL or thinking highly of it. NBL is one of the youngest, smallest, and poorest provinces in Thailand, nestled in the middle of Udon Thani, Leuy, and Khon Kaen provinces in the northeast region of the country. NBL means “Lamphu Lotus Pond”, which is a rather attractive name.  It has a half a million population, the majority of whom live in rural villages that make up the 6 districts. The central district has parts that are more developed, but it’s not yet ready to be a city.

Nong Bua Lamphu is not a tourist spot, even if there are a few tourist destinations. The activity that attracts the most people is the weekly Tuesday afternoon market where all sorts of goods are sold cheaply.  In the center of town is a lake where both swimming and fishing are prohibited. Next to the lake are sports grounds where people come to play football, basketball, and do outdoor aerobics in the afternoon. These grounds also serve as the place for festival events that take place in town.

Many people from NBL make it a point to leave it when they have a chance. Young people leave to find education or work opportunities. Adults also leave to find jobs. In the villages, many old people are left living alone or to raise grandchildren whose parents have already left to find jobs in Bangkok or other big cities.  Usually, they work in factories, restaurants, or construction work. Many end up working in bars and even the sex industry, which makes them susceptible to getting infected with HIV among other problems.

Even though NBL is not a highly developed province, but the youth of this province also have access to the internet to know what’s going on in the outside world. Even though they benefit from the new technology, the good comes with the bad. Many youth are addicted to computer games and internet. Because they don’t live in an environment where there are many social and cultural programs are afforded to them, they end up spending more time chatting on the internet than they do reading books or engaging in other beneficial activities. Even if they are ambitious and work hard in their studies, it would be difficult for them to obtain quality education in Nong Bua Lamphu since the local government is limited in its means.

The Life Ruamkan Program aims to contribute to the governmental and private efforts being made to address some of the issues prevalent in this province. We hope our model of coming together as a community of people from diverse backgrounds and social status to study, work, and play together and to support each other, it will inspire each of us and others in the community to continue to expand this model further in other life situations that they are in, contributing to a more peaceful and compassionate society.

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