This morning I got a distress call about a young man from overseas who is here in Thailand accused of setting fire to a government office not far from our house. [Pictures accompanying this blog-essay are from that site.] According to the acquaintance who called me, the young man had been exhibiting bizarre behavior and his parents overseas had contacted their embassy in Bangkok to have the young man helped. They suggested he be admitted to a psychiatric care facility before being deported back home. It appears that the police who received the embassy letter last Thursday were unable to do anything because the young man had broken no laws. Well, a day later it is clear that he went on to set fire to a government office that handles “standards” (weights and measures). The fire caused extensive damage. Police are working on the case and will present him for arraignment later this week. A lawyer has been contacted to assist.
This reminded me of a previous case about 15 years ago. A brilliant young man from an Ivy League school came to work in Thailand. For a while he was great, but then he began to have “spells.” His family contacted us to have him sent back home to the USA. It was a very complicated process. At last colleagues found him residing in a temple compound, unshaven, wearing only a wrap-around cloth, barely able to speak coherently. His condition was sufficient to convince the police to assist the embassy to send him back to his parents. After a couple of years he managed to return to Thailand and has completely disappeared.
35 years ago my lunch was interrupted by a call from the hospital where a young man was in distress. His wife had committed suicide. It was her third attempt, and this time she succeeded. Her husband was devastated. For the next three days I stayed close by to help him get in contact with family back in California, to get documents from the US Consulate and Thai agencies, and then to handle a cremation and get on the plane going back to the USA clutching an urn of ashes.
I wonder if life abroad inevitably contributes to stress for people. At the moment I think the stress level for me here in Chiang Mai is a tiny fraction of what it would be back in the USA. I know that crises experienced by people abroad contribute to stress for their loved ones who must remain far away.
Rev. Dr. Kenneth Dobson posts his weekly reflections on this blog.