It’s been nearly two months since my last confession. So much has gone down in such a short period of time and I find myself in flux yet again. Such is the international life, I suppose. In mid-February I was hired as a Project Manager for Children’s Organization of Southeast Asia (COSA) – an NGO in Mae Rim, Thailand that runs a shelter for ethnic minority hill tribe girls who have been trafficked or run the risk of being trafficked. I really thought it was a dream come true. Something I’d been holding out for for months. I was ecstatic and grateful and ready to be back in the game. On the surface it all looked so fantastic just as the country of Thailand itself does. And just like the country of Thailand itself, underneath that beautiful, shiny veneer lies dysfunction and toxicity. So it turns out that this dream job was really a total fucking nightmare and I’m not really at liberty to say all the reasons why just yet.
Fundamentally, our values were misaligned and strategically the organization was a cluster at best. You can’t fly before you can walk, nor should you try. It’s probably not a good idea to hire people to run your organization who have very limited in-country experience, little understanding of Thai culture, and no background in the non-governmental sector or human trafficking while simultaneously rejecting others who have doctorate degrees and decades of international experience. It’s probably not a good idea to be an unregistered entity. In some countries we call this fraud. It’s probably not a good idea to quadruple your capacity within a year’s time without implementing a strategy to do this in a way that is sustainable and manageable. That is very dangerous proposition but who the fuck am I, right?
Word to the wise: You must keep your eyes on those you are striving to help. Their well-being should be your highest priority – not how cool you are perceived to be; and how you want to be the biggest badass in the world. To truly do humanitarian work you really have to put your ego aside. It’s not about you. This experience has been extremely stressful and painful but many lessons have been learned. First and foremost: Never trust a person who tells you they can be trusted. Lesson number two: Thai men in power are impossible. My time working for and with them ends here.
I walk away with disappointment and disillusionment, having been stabbed in the back once again. I walk away unable to do a damn thing about it. No protection. No jurisdiction. No avenue for recourse. I walk away knowing I will be misrepresented. I walk away knowing things about the inner workings of that organization that all shareholders should also know. I walk away knowing I run risks in saying what I have said here. I walk away knowing things I wish I didn’t know. I walk away believing wholeheartedly that everyone’s karma is their own. I can only try to respond intelligently to unintelligent behavior.
So on this day of 25 April sitting in my studio apartment in Tambon Chang Puak in this city of Chiang Mai that I have called home for almost a year in this country of Thailand I have resided in for nearly two-and-a-half years, I wax sentimental. What am I supposed to take from all of this? Is this work really futile? The more I learn the more convoluted it gets. I cannot think that any part of this path has been a waste of time or money. We all learn what we are supposed to learn. We all experience what we are supposed to experience. Each step in life takes us further on our journey as the path reveals itself. As Robin Sharma once said, “Challenge, conflict, confusion and uncertainty are beautifully orchestrated vehicles for growth.” We are pushed beyond our limits. We are forced to move forward.
I refuse to paint you a false portrait of reward and sacrifice and goodwill. This field is laden with over-sensationalism, misinformation and self-interest. Anyone who tells you otherwise is delusional. Look, no one expects perfection, but we can do better. You may accuse me of many things – I am certainly not perfect, far from it – but I am honest, real and raw and that’s the only way I know how to be. In a country of conformity, superficiality and corruption, being this way does not bode well for me.
What I know for sure is my heart is broken for the second time in this country. What I also know is that I refuse to give up on my dreams for anyone. Right now everything is hanging in the balance. I am without work; back to the drawing board and with a visa that expires on 9 May. Anything is possible now. I defer to the unfolding.