It’s ten minutes to two on a grey afternoon in September 2011. From my seat in the little old fashioned café on Sukhumvit, I spot my appointment entering the main door to the establishment. As so often, ten minutes early, composed and relaxed – typical Kristian Bø.
One single word can of course not describe or characterize a person, but nevertheless: STEADY is what he is and what he is known to be – also as an engineer, as an ‘honorary’ golfer, chairman of a Church Council and as, now retired, editor.
Let’s start on the golf course: “Why golf then Kristian, why not chess or tennis or diving”. “A coincidence really, I like sports like bicycling and running, sports that make your pulse beat really fast and make you sweaty. I regarded golf as a luxuries lazy man’s sport (‘latmanssport’ – a good Norwegian expression). But then I was invited to play a nine hole round and became really fascinated by the challenges; using the club the right way and sending the ball in the best possible direction for the hole. Then I also really like the social life in The Society’s golf section and would really recommend more members of the society to give it a try and play a round. They will be welcomed”.
How it worked out
Laziness was never a part of life for Kristian Bø. He was born in 1933 on a farm in Randaberg near Stavanger in Norway. Randaberg is a cape situated farthest out on the Western Fjords, meeting the North Sea. Today a municipality with around 9.000 inhabitants; living in a quite rough part of the world, where hard manual work, at least in the time of Kristians childhood, was necessary for the existence.
During the Second World War Norway couldn’t import foodstuff enough and the country cannot grow sufficient crop to feed the population. Because of the strategic location as the gate to the fjords, war reached Randaberg from day one, and in periods the family had to share their house with German soldiers and officers. What Kristian also remembers clearly is how landless members of the family and relatives came asking for help in the form of foodstuff from the farm, undoubtedly difficult in many ways sometimes, with most limited supply.
15 years old Kristian left school and started work as telegraph messenger. There was no tradition and no money for keeping him in school any longer. Meanwhile, the Public Telegraph Company offered courses and via free-time studying, grants and courses paid for, he after some years graduated as low-current engineer from a technical school. Working at the same time all the way of course, climbing up the telephone poles, now installing automated telephone exchanges and other sophisticated inventions. In order to further his studies, where an academic background was a must, he joined a correspondence course for his artium (studentereksamen) and graduated in 1962 as a private. Then he could study for Civil Engineer and finally became Dr.of Engineering in 1971.
This combination of work and studies was quite common in more Nordic countries after the war. The short listing above does not give a fair impression of the hardships involved. I know that from my own father who tried the same. But it was the chance for those with will, talent and skills but without any academic background – a chance and an extreme load of hard work to be put into it. Kristian did it and reached the final step of the telecommunication ladder of expertice.
In 1986 a consultant company called and offered the then 53 years old Kristian Bø, executive telecommunication engineer, a four month expert job for a telecommunication company in Thailand. At that time he lived alone. The three now grown up children were married and his mother had passed away a few months earlier. “First I said no, I have a good life and challenges here, so why, but then: not so many strong bonds and obligations at home anymore. Four month I can stand and the conditions were favorable” -now he has been here for 25 years! In 2003 he married a Thai lady; she, by no means, wanted to live in urban Bangkok, so the couple bought a house between Rangsit and Nakhon Nayok. It doesn’t seem to bother the 77 years old to drive to Bangkok himself very frequently.
“Coming here in 1986, I immediately was very attracted by the friendliness of ordinary people and of the land, the climate and the economy and still am, although not idealizing things. I admit that I like Thailand more than Norway and will not move back, although always being a guest here”.
“But of course I have my roots in Norway and my wife and I visit every year. There are seven grandchildren and three great grandchildren now, so, of course”.
Meanwhile Kristian Bø stayed in the telecom business and worked for four years in TOT (Telecom Organization of Thailand). After that he got a very good position in CP-Telecom, later to be Telecom Asia and finally True Company. He ended the career as senior Vice President for Network Planning and retired in 2006.
But in retirement still no laziness or ‘just’ golfing; also some principles and commitments to the community are involved here: “If people trust me to do something, carry something out, I will do it. In 1910 the general meeting of Scandinavian Society Siam appointed me as editor of ‘The Bulletin’, this although I was not present but in Norway; then okay, a new challenge”. After more years on the steering committee of the Golf section of SSS, where he was the Golf Captain, Kristian stepped down but was recently appointed honorary member. Furthermore he is appointed as senior advisor to the Thai-Norwegian Chamber of Commerce.
Another important request came in 2008 when the Norwegian Seamen’s Church in Pattaya wanted Kristian as chairman of the Church Advisory Council. He accepted and still drive all the kilometers, chairs the meetings, join in for the service and for the famous evening meals. In this position a lot is learned also about social down trips and problems.
Our talks ended with the question of getting old but keep fit and alert as foreigner in this country. Partly as a joke Kristian started to quote Nordahl Griegs long poem ‘Water’ (vand). We must drink water, be modest, live in a modest way and keep steady!
Nordahl Grieg stayed in Shanghai as a war correspondent a short period around 1929. He obviously didn’t like The Far East and he couldn’t drink the water, plentiful of Gin and Tonic was offered. In the poem he describes the emptiness of the bar life compared to life in nature. I will quote only one verse, in Norwegian, impossible to translate:
Vand i Norge, vand af renhet, –
Hvor en lægger sig og drikker,
Det er det jeg tænker paa.
Kanske regner det saa sakte.
Lyden siver ned i bækken,
Mellem bjerkene og lyngen.
Kanske ligger skodden graa.
(From the collection of poems “Norge i våre Hjerter”)