I have worked as an NGO partner ever since I graduated from college. I have never looked back ever since, because wherever the assignment takes me, I’m sure I get treated to something new. I am not talking about new landscapes and locations, but new experiences that offer something to value.
My first taste of development work was with the renovation team, which was tasked to handle remodeling projects for dilapidated homes in the Southeast Asia sector. Until then, I never had much travel experience, except for a few out of state excursions.
Still, I took it upon myself to face the challenge head on, thinking that this could be the opportunity I had been waiting for. The next thing I know was that I found myself on a plane bound for Thailand.
I was a scrawny young interior designer trying to make a name for himself, in a country thousands of miles from where I was born, and the initial thought I had was “What now?” My body was beaten by jetlag and I couldn’t even walk straight to the awaiting service van that would take us to the project site.
The village was only a few miles east of Chiang Mai. It’s a small collection of shanties that looked very quaint on account of the colorful decorations that were hung on the walls. When we arrived there, I was stricken by the simplicity of the place. It looked unassuming, but maybe because it was a Sunday and not a lot of people were active.
Nonetheless, I got to see a few houses that Loveland Habitat for Humanity was building, but I didn’t come there for that. I had a job to do and that involves giving the Anusorn household a new kitchen.
The team acted immediately, assessing the kitchen like excited schoolboys. I spent time trying to get a good feel of the place and toyed with a few design possibilities that take into account the needs of the Anusorns. The patriarch, Mr. Gamon Anusorn, was very warm. He served us a kind of tea that was slightly acidic for my taste, but it was a refreshing beverage no doubt, what with the weather.
It was my first doing actual interior design work, and I have never worked with kitchens before! But what consoled me was the conversations I had with Mr. Gamon during breaks where he narrated humorous stories in broken English that, somehow, I was able to understand. These are the kinds of connections you build as you work with other people and discover different characters you came to remember fondly.
That is why I felt sad when the project had finished. Mr. Gamon told me he’ll visit me in Oregon someday, so I’m counting on him to make that happen.