“My father grew up in Dalian in China under Japanese occupation. My grandfather was a dentist who treated the Chinese people with respect. When the war ended, other Japanese people found it hard, but the local people helped our family with a safe passage out. My father took inspiration from his own father and became a well-respected dentist who always supported the community. Growing up in a small town in Japan, I saw the deeds of my family. After junior high, I went to study in Switzerland. There, I worked with the refugees of the former Yugoslavia and travelled to Romania often to help at the local orphanages for children living with HIV. I grew up in post-war Japan, in times of great prosperity – poverty was something I never really saw. During a visit, I took my father’s used tennis balls and realized that the children there had never seen anything that bounced. I knew my path was set – I’d work for the UN one day.

I went to college in the US, and for my third year, I went to study in Senegal, Africa. Water and hygiene were big issues – there was no internet or WhatsApp like today. The telephone lines were bad and I grew extremely homesick. When my father visited me, my joy knew no limits- I also became deeply aware of my privileges and comforts in life. Returning to the States, I went to graduate school and then started working in the UNDP.

My first posting was in Malawi. In some cultures, hierarchy was very important, and women had difficulty gaining trust. As a small petite woman, I was also the youngest in every position I held. I was mindful of the need to work harder to prove myself – perhaps people were always assessing if I could do the job well or not.
The next few years were a series of postings and project visits across many countries in Africa. Although it was always safe inside the UN offices, once someone threw rocks at me for being an Asian in the street. However, I knew I had signed up for the hardships; In the end, it was the work that mattered. I continued to visit the communities and got to know their problems.

I learned about Bhutan from a former resident representative to Bhutan in the 90s’. Also, walking past Bhutan’s mission to the UN office in New York, I always wondered about the uniqueness of this country.
After years of service, I finally became a resident representative and got posted in Bhutan. Flying into Paro, every scene was breathtaking. My work took me to a lot of places here, and the most beautiful for me has been Merak. Many people outside may think that Bhutan is a homogenous country but I realized that it is equally diverse – in terms of its culture, food, and language. Every place reminds one of spirituality and compassion.
After nearing 4 years here, I’m finally leaving with rich memories.”

#HumansofThimphu #HumanStories #Thimphu

 

Author: Dechen Wangdi

About the Author

(He/They) is one of the founding members of Humans of Thimphu and currently serves as the editor and content writer on the platform. Enthusiastic writer and photographer, his works mainly surrounds human interest story and advocacy on LGBTQIA+ and Youth empowerment. He also harbours an interest in photojournalism.

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