One of Time Magazine’s biggest summer movies is “Wine Country”. The story is about six women who question their friendship and futures when they travel to Napa Valley, California, to celebrate a 50th birthday. I found the uproarious comedy to be warm and genuine, probably because the actresses are real-friends who have taken vacations together. After watching the film, I contemplated on some of the friendship stories I came across. “How a 30 years friendship can flip over a short span of time?” or “Why a 2 year friendship can feel like a 20 years of bonding at times?” Luckily, I had the opportunity to embark on another exciting girls’ trip to “Wonderful Indonesia”. It gave me plenty of occasions to pick the brains of some powerful women, to answer my question on “How to build long-lasting friendships?”
Sequel to the fun girls’ trip
In 2018, ladies from The International Women’s Club of Thailand (IWC) embarked on an educational trip to Bali and Yogyakarta, Indonesia. The group which was led by Madame Anita Rusdi, spouse of H.E. Ambassador Rusdi from The Embassy of the Republic of Indonesia to the Kingdom of Thailand. This time, as a sequel to our last memorable trip, we visited West Sumatra with the Hong Kong Ladies’ Group in Thailand, comprising of members and friends of HKLG from the Thai, Indonesian and international communities.
Heartwarming friendship stories
Kathleen Pokrud and Winnie Poon
How do two hyperactive and seemingly Type A personality get along without being competitive and stabbing each other’s back? The case between Winnie and I is simple. We find a common goal together to work seamlessly to promote the Hong Kong Ladies’ Group and Chinese culture in Bangkok. In truth, it is more than this. I believe it is “true respect for each other.” “Winnie is the most generous person I know,” echoed my husband, and I totally seconded this. “When I took over the presidency of HKLG five years ago, Kat was the first one to volunteer,” Winnie recalled. “She is a very service-minded person without any hidden agenda. I know she always have my back. Every year she plans my surprise birthday party, even before I think about it myself. In return of her friendship, when my little sister asks me for help or support, my first response is always ‘When and how, not what?’”
Madame Anita Rusdi and Eka Rumanitha
Madame Anita Rusdi is the spouse of H.E. Ambassador Rusdi, who has served many Indonesian Presidents. With her experience in the Presidential Palace, Madame Anita is an expert on protocol and performances for Indonesian diplomat spouses. Eka shared that she is so happy to be with Madame Anita in their posting for Indonesian Embassy in Bangkok, “She is my mentor for building friendships and hosting. As this is my fourth posting overseas, our experiences blend instantly. She is willing to listen to ideas when it is good for promotion. Our support to each other makes the Indonesian Embassy very active for international and local Thai friends.”
Eka emphasised that the soft diplomacy, with elegance and matching style, that Madame Anita always presents is something she has learned and benefitted from tremendously.
Noreerat Noparatanaraporn and Darat Pitaksit
These two wonderful Christian ladies are long time volunteers to YWCA of Bangkok. Their true friendship has spun well over 2 decades. During our trip, these two ladies were like two peas in a pod, watching over each other the whole day. When I threw the first question on how to maintain such a genuine friendship, both answered simultaneously, “Two heads are like one head, we found a common goal to work together”.
Aporn Pornpiriyakulchai and Ammaralak Prompoj
This pair were always elegantly dressed and well-mannered ladies throughout the entire trip. Their history started when their husbands were work colleagues in the Thai government over 20 years ago, whilst on foreign postings in Tokyo. Throughout the two decades, they have kept in contact despite the different timing and country postings. Aporn explained, “We have common interests and enjoy the same things.” Ammaralak agreed, “We have the same attitude in life, and share a good sense of humour.” Aporn added, “Like sisters, we have a similar style, we are never jealous of and support each other at all times.”
Amonwan Ruangattawat and Apipapha Jankaew
This impressive pair are two beauty queens; Amonwan as Mrs. Madame International Ambassador and Apipapha is Mrs. Tourism Thailand. The two ladies met five years ago through work. Apipapha recalled her first impression on Amonwan was, “She was very open, always smiling.” It was then, Amonwan’s turn to recount her experience with Amonwan. “Apple is cute, caring and active with work. I have found her very responsible with a service-mind and impeccable manners.” The two admitted that although their friendship is only over a few years, they have enjoyed each others company every day like sisters.
Manjit Walia and Franza Hong
These two generous ladies have known each other for almost 30 years. As both of them are Singaporean citizens, their friendship started when Manjit was first introduced to the Singapore Club of Thailand. Manjit shared her feelings on Franza, “She is like a family member, and Franza can come to my house at any time without prior permission. I treat her like my big sister in Bangkok. I just cannot imagine life in Bangkok without her. We don’t really talk to each other everyday but we know we can rely on each other for anything we need at any time.” Their friendship has evolved into true sisterly love.
My take on friendship
At times, with cultural difference or religious backgrounds, these factors often cause misunderstandings and misguided notions among friends. Let me give an example. Asian tradition is more reserved in greetings as contrast to the open-armed hugging in Western context. For years, many of my close, non-Asian pals commented that I dislike hugging. To set the record straight, it is entirely untrue! The fact of the matter is that as a person with light makeup touches, I was always conscious to avoid smudging the makeup of my “well-groomed” friends with unblemished makeup. Adding to the new record, I am now a comfortable hugger, as I no longer conscientiously concern about blotting my friends unintentionally. To me, friendship is more important! Not to be a fool to admit that it is always easy to lose an argument. As a devout Christian, I frankly admit on certain difficult occasions, I pray for spiritual guidance and listen to the ‘still small voice’ nudging to do the right thing rather than having our manipulative ego cause any unpleasantness.
Hong Kong Ladies’ Group would like to thank the Embassy of The Republic of Indonesia for arranging an “amazing” educational visit to West Sumatra in August 2019. Madame Anita Rusdi, spouse of H.E. Ambassador Ahmad Rusdi offered the upmost support by leading our group of members and international friends of HKLG. Everyone had an exceptional and wonderful experience with this trip. Since our first arrival at the airport with an extravagant welcome by Mrs. Nevi Zuarina Irwan Prayitno, spouse of the West Sumatra Governor to numerous hosted VIP receptions, in particular by the family of Mrs. Mufida Jusuf Kalla, the Current Vice President of Indonesia and other provincial mayors. HKLG greatly appreciated the genuine friendship and warm hospitality that they have been shown throughout the journey.