This past week Dave and I have had a houseguest from Bangkok staying with us here in Winnipeg.
We first got to know Joop Rathlertwongse in 2007 when he was an international exchange student at the Steinbach high school where Dave and I were teachers. He was living with a host family but when they went away on a trip Joop came to stay with us for a while. During his year in Steinbach, Joop learned to love Mennonite food, got to try skiing, ice-skating and snowmobiling. He even learned how to build a quinzee. Before coming to Manitoba Joop was attending an all-boys school during the week and spending weekends at his family home in Bangkok. Joop enjoyed learning about Canadian culture during his year in Manitoba. He made lots of friends.
We next saw Joop when we made a trip to Bangkok in 2010. Joop picked us up from the airport and spent a day showing us his home city. He took us to a water market and…down to the riverfront, and out for a great Thai dinner.
Joop also took us to the Mahidol University where he was working on a social science degree. At the time he was hoping for a career in international relations and was about to go to Myanmar to do research for a paper he was writing on the elections there.
In 2011 Joop came to visit us in Hong Kong just before we moved back to Canada. I took him to visit the famous Che Kung Temple. We went out for Italian food one night and we took Joop along to our final karaoke night in Hong Kong.
Fast forward to 2019 and Joop is back in Manitoba this time to attend the wedding of the daughter of his host family in Steinbach. He decided to stay for ten days or so to meet up with old friends and that included us. We have hosted him for several nights. Last night he took us out for some great Thai food at the Sabai Thai Eatery. Lots of things have changed in Joop’s life since we saw him last. He has graduated from university and has established a successful career in procurement with a major oil and gas company. His job takes him regularly to Papua New Guinea and he works closely with colleagues in other countries. He has his own condo in Bangkok now and drives out to see his parents and two brothers on weekends. He is still looking for adventure and thinks about taking a job posting in another country or continuing his studies in Canada.