Thursday, November 04, 2004

South Thailand... and my friend...

The current turmoil in South Thailand steers my mind to a Thai Muslim whom I befriended while at Nagoya University.

Chedi could not really blend into the Thai student community at Nagoya. The main reason was probably religion and food preferences. He was conversant neither in English nor Japanese. He was alone, and lonely.

I was fond of traveling alone. The views of rural Japan, especially the paddy fields, captivated me to no end. I was about to embark on another solo train ride across Kii Peninsula to take pleasure in the views of the ocean. A Japanese student, Kenji, asked if he and Chedi could join me. Tanya, a student from Russia also wanted to come along.

Chedi was an excellent guitar player. At one lunch stop, there was a guitar lying around. He picked it up and gave us an impromptu rendition of Moon River.

The train snaked along the rugged coast. We gasped collectively at the first glimpse of the beautiful blue ocean. Kii Peninsula was in the middle of the orange season. Everywhere we looked, it was oranges, oranges, and oranges.

At Shionomisaki, a pointed cape where typhoons frequently come ashore, we dashed to the seafront to catch the setting sun. We were not disappointed. There, in front of our eyes was a stunning sunset just about touching the horizon, almost shaped like a glowing, inverted brandy goblet.

Chedi was then staying in an apartment quite close by to where I lived. When I transferred to Takamatsu the following March, he came to assist me to load my stuff into the truck. Just before saying farewell, he offered me a bottle of Thai fish sauce as a token of our friendship.

Back at Nagoya University, on top of not being able to mingle with the Thai students, he was having a lot of trouble trying to communicate with his professor. He, like other research students on the Japanese government scholarship, aimed to pass the entrance exam to enroll in the business graduate school. The loneliness, the miscommunications with his professor, and the pressure of the entrance examination must have got the better of him.

One night, he spiraled into a terrible lapse. A Belgian student who stayed next door related that Chedi was screaming his head off in the early hours of the night. And, intermittently, laughing out aloud. I imagine it must have been quite eerie listening to the howlings in the deep of the night.

There was apparently no way to save him. Nagoya University decided to send him back to Thailand to recuperate with his family.

Poor guy, I wonder how he is doing now...