OUR COMMUNITY
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

New Zonta president Dr. Laura Godtfredsen talks with the Chiang Mai Mail

An opportunity to share ideas and thoughts with the city’s Mayor

Traveller Sid returns to make music

Thailand Friends Community holds party in Dusseldorf

Foundation for the Education of Rural Children to Award 97 Scholarships

New Zonta president Dr. Laura Godtfredsen talks with the Chiang Mai Mail

Bongkod Nitthayu, Suwannee Roncoroni, Daranee Sophanasook
(former president), Dr. Laura Godtfredsen (president), Dr. Khemthong Sirisanglert and Chatnapa Yuprapat (l/r).

Last week, Dr. Laura Godtfredsen took time to tell the Mail some details about fascinating life, her achievements, her interests and her life here in Chiang Mai, as well as giving details about Zonta, whose new president she has just become.
Good morning, Dr Laura, and thank you so much for giving us this interview. You are well known around the academic and arts world of Chiang Mai for being a ‘larger than life’ character - how do you feel about that?
Life is awfully big to be larger than. I frankly have never given that any thought. I enjoy what I do immensely and maybe that makes it noteworthy. I don’t know. I choose to live by myself way out in a small village west of Mae Rim, so I am not one to socialize a lot. It’s pretty relative.
How long have you been in Chiang Mai, how long have you taught at the CMU and what is your present position?
This is my second stint at CMU. I was here doing research at the Grad. School of Business in 2003 - I think. I came here first in 2001 as a Fulbright Scholar teaching entrepreneurship at Yonok College. What I did was very well received and led to a well publicized workshop for academics wanting to know about entrepreneurship in conjunction with Thammasat University. I founded a workshop called the International Colloquium for Entrepreneurship Educators and ran it for almost 10 years, mostly in Slovenia and at Babson College where I taught. We had educators from over 25 countries. We taught them how to teach entrepreneurship Babson style. I got the only awards I ever got in my life doing that. In Thailand, after Yonok, I taught business at Payap for three years and then several months ago took the position of advising doctoral students at the College of Art, Media and Technology at CMU. So now I listen to doctoral student presentations, critique them, and make a few presentations of my own.
After your recent success with That Takes Ovaries, what other theater projects are you involved in?
Two years ago three other women and I presented the Vagina Monologues to a packed house. Women loved it and wanted us to do it again. One of the women who promoted the idea, Elayne Clift, is coming back in a month and will be at CAMT. I suggested we do it again. Keely Robinson, who was in TTO, did it with us at that time. I am rehearsing for the role of Fonsia in The Gin Game. I hope at some point we can present it as a fund raiser too. And, of course, to continue the support for grandmas taking care of their orphaned children. There is so much suffering and so much to do to combat it.
You have just taken over as Zonta President. What is Zonta, how many members have you got in Chiang Mai and what is the motto of Zonta?
Zonta is an international women’s organization that through service and advocacy supports the cause of women world wide. Zonta, the big Z, is a Lahkota Indian word of the Sioux, adopted in 1919 in Buffalo New York. The organization now has chapters in 66 countries. Zonta means honor and being trustworthy, from the Lahkota word for ray of light or inspiration. Here in Chiang Mai, we have committed ourselves to helping aged grandmothers in their efforts to raise their grandchildren whose parents have died of AIDS. We also raise money to help the children with books, and school expenses. We have home care programs, fund raising for indigent women to go to college. Some of that money has come from my friends in the States. Our membership at the moment is around 14 and we are going to embark on finding more professional women, both Thai and non-Thai, who want to make a difference in the lives of women here and be part of Zonta’s mission. Most of our members right now are Thai. Thailand has Zonta chapters in Chiang Rai too, and 7 clubs in Bangkok, among others. We want to be more than just a club to raise money. My view is that the great value of non-Thais, (I don’t like the word ‘farang’, because none of us are foreigners here), and Thais together works best in a mutually supportive organization. I am proud that Zonta can bring together women of many nationalities. We will soon be sponsoring lunches and events to learn more about each other and share our cultures. In my view, having lived in over 8 countries and speaking several languages, I have found that human connection is far more powerful than culture. That is not to say we ignore culture, we celebrate it. This past week I have been in three Damhua ceremonies in Bangkok and here. So Zonta is really universal. I also insist that whatever we do we place the how in as important a position as the what. How we work together, how we ensure transparency, how we arrive at mutual decisions in which each woman has an equal voice, and how we work to appreciate each other. In my view, these attributes are in short supply everywhere.
Why did you choose to become President of Zonta? Of course, you were offered the position, but why did you feel like doing it as you are a very busy lady? How long is your term of office and what are your goals?
I joined Zonta several years ago because I believed in its mission and enjoyed associating with its members. Last year the members put me up for election. It is not a position you take for ego satisfaction, I can assure you. Daranee Sophanasuk, the former president, can tell you how much work it is. I thought long and hard about accepting this as a non-Thai and whether I could carry on the programs my predecessors have done so well. My goals are primarily to expand the number of grandmas into our program. We estimate that there are 75 more grandmas who are living hand to mouth. As it is they are getting support of only 300 baht a month.
Then we want to continue our efforts to help the grandchildren of these grandmas get help for their education. My focus will be on communicating the value of what we do to other women, both Thai and expats, and create an enjoyable context for working together. That means having more activities to enjoy together as we work on the projects. I hope also to focus on theater as a valuable avenue to raise money, raise consciousness, and encourage working together. Theater is an incredible resource for good. Stephan Turner, the director of Gate Theater here, suggested that we can present The Gin Game at some point as a fund raiser. Fund raising and having fun. I cannot imagine a Creator who put us all on this planet not encouraging us to help each other and enjoy each other at the same time. It just wouldn’t make any sense to me. The position of president is two years. I would say that in my view Zonta should continue its work to reduce suffering. In that sense it brings Buddhist values together with that of the Lahkota people. A ray of light is enlightenment, yes?
You are known as a ‘home bird’ having a beautiful home just outside Mae Rim - what is your greatest pleasure in your home?
For reasons that I am still not clear about I designed a house that is way too big for me. And, maybe unconsciously, I wanted it to be an oasis for people I know to come sing, do scenes, swim in the pool, gaze at the mountains, listening to the chanting from several temples day and night. And by being big it is a place where we can all come together. It is well known to my friends and acquaintances that while they are singing, swimming in the pool or dancing, I just fade away to my bedroom and go to sleep and leave the house to them to enjoy as long as they want. I love to witness people enjoying themselves even when I am asleep or trying to sleep.
What would you consider the best and worst things of Chiang Mai?
The good first, yes? This is one of the most amazing places I have ever experienced in my life. I have lived in Germany, Denmark, Slovenia, Croatia, France, Estonia and Mexico and have never encountered the creativity I have seen here; art, ceramics, sculpture, music, writing and now, with Gate Theater company, another artistic venture. I am a member of the Writers Group that meets every Thursday where there is no dearth of talent. The group encourages members to follow their inclinations to write prose, poetry, fiction and non-fiction. We are now in the process of assembling our stories for an anthology to be published with the title Lost in Thailand. So this has become a community of exceptional people who have gravitated here. And now fortunately new restaurants have blossomed. Then of course is the access to nature. I am an elephant lover and got training as a mahout. And I am in awe of waterfalls. Where else can you find all this in such close proximity? The choice of people, no, better the Yiddish word “mensch” is better, real caring human beings are amazing. When Thais and expats clash, there is amazing energy.
The downside? That’s easy, the traffic and the pollution. Seven years ago this was a quiet town that was not noisy and jammed with cars and motorbikes. I can’t imagine, at the pace this city is growing, how it will cope with more traffic.

 

An opportunity to share ideas and thoughts with the city’s Mayor

Monthly meeting to involve residents and officials

The Mayor of Chiang Mai, Dr. Duentemduang na Chiengmai,
 pictured with Alan Hall, Tom Krasaesuk, Duenpen Chaladlam
and Dr. Tarradon Piamphongsant, the Deputy Mayor.

Last week, an idea first mooted by the city’s Mayor, Dr. Duentemduang na Chiengmai, became reality when she and her team held the first of what will become monthly meetings with residents of Chiang Mai, who are invited to share their ideas and thoughts about the city with her on a regular basis at the Art Museum, behind the Three Kings’ Monument. The aim of the meetings is, in the Mayor’s own words, “To bring the council officials out of their offices to answer residents’ questions”. In talks and interviews given recently, the Mayor has stressed that she wants to actively promote the involvement and ideas of Chiang Mai residents, both foreign and Thai, in her plans to make the city an enjoyable place to live. Everyone is welcome at the meetings; the only requirement is that questions, comments and confirmation of attendance should be sent in advance by email via the Chiang Mai Friends Group to [email protected], in order that a topic or topics may be chosen in advance for each meeting, and to enable seating arrangements to be made. Each speaker will have the opportunity to talk for 5-7 minutes. Suggestions in writing can also be given at the meeting to officials of the city administration. The next talk will be held on May 28; those who would like to attend should let Boong at the Chiang Mai Friends Group know by email by May 25.


Traveller Sid returns to make music

Sid and Yo, happily lounging around on Santa Monica Pier.

A well known face on the Chiang Mai musical scene, Sid Richardson, the musical director and pianist at the CM Choral Society, timed his return from his recent USA trip to coincide with preparations for the Choral Society’s upcoming June concert at the newly refurbished Payap University Media Centre. Sid and his friend Yo’s three week trip included a visit to his home town of Augusta, Georgia, time spent in Southern California and South Carolina, and a very enjoyable stay with a frequent visitor to Chiang Mai, Bob Reigel, in Santa Monica. Plus, of course, the obligatory Disneyland visit! Welcome home, Sid, it’s good to have you back making music.


Thailand Friends Community holds party in Dusseldorf

H.H. Princess Maja von Hohenzollern presented with award

The Thailand Friends Community in Germany, (Thailandfreunde e. V.), held a party on April 26 to honour the continuing commitment of the Princess Maja von Hohenzollern to both the School for Life in Chiang Mai and poor and handicapped people.

H.H. Princess Maja von Hohenzollern, seen here with Dirk Weeber-Arayatumsopom, left, and Rainer Reiss, is presented with the Thai-Kinnari sculpture.

The party, held at the newly-opened Maritim Airport Hotel in the city of Dusseldorf, was attended and enjoyed by 75 invited guests. As part of the festivities, and in appreciation of all her efforts, H.H. Princess Maja was presented with a “Thai-Kinnari” sculpture, designed and made by a Bangkok artisan. She also received an award named as “Thailand Friend of the year 2008, both National and International”.
Speeches were given by Thailandfreunde e. V.’s president, Dirk Weeber-Arayatumsopon, who will be coming to Chiang Mai at the end of May, and by the vice-president Rainer Reiss, the Mayor of the town of Birkenheide, home of the headquarters of Thailandfreunde. The second vice-president, Thai citizen Wuttipong Arayatumsopon, presented a Thai traditional dancer group entitled “Fathai”, which translated as “ocean of flowers”.
H.H. Princess Maja said that she will continue to be active in Thailand, and that she is looking forward to inaugurating a branch of the Thailandfreunde community in the Kingdom, which she hopes to be able to direct, together with Dirk Weeber- Arayatumsopon and two young writer colleagues, Carolin Lupberger and Tim Wiebelskircher. Donations given during the party totalled more than 30,000 baht.


Foundation for the Education of Rural Children to Award 97 Scholarships

5 recommended students awarded Gary Dilley Scholarships

Members of the Foundation for the Education of Rural Children and friends will travel to the Region IV offices of the Department of Education in San Patong at 10 am on May 16 to award scholarships to 97 happy students. Ninety-two of the scholarships will provide emergency or supplementary funds designed to top up the money that the students and their families are able to contribute for the school year and also to enrich their educations. These funds will assist with the purchase of uniforms and school supplies, and will also go to pay for extra educational opportunities such as computer studies, art, music and sports.
Five students, however, will have the opportunity to attend high school at levels matayom 4-6. At the request of the FERC Scholarship Committee, teachers and administrators at Region IV recommended students who were eager to continue their educations but needed financial assistance to do so. FERC scholarship committee members J. David Geddes and Glynn Morgan screened each student, and five were recommended as recipients of Gary Dilley Scholarship Awards.
Chadarot Kuenkum of Sarapee, Sirawit Jerchokchai of Mae Wang, Wimala Saelee of Mae Wang, and Yuttapong Inkae of San Patong are all students in Chiang Mai Province who will continue to pursue their educations with assistance from FERC. Sarocha Yotmanisakun of Pobpra in Tak Province will continue her schooling in Tak Province. Students and their teachers and families will join FERC Board members at the awards ceremony. Friends and interested members of the public are also invited to attend. Please contact FERC via its website, www.thai-rural-education.org, for directions or further information.