For this month, Enrica and I decided to have some fun… Our friends and families has been asking us lots of questions about Thailand, our project, what volunteering is… And we thought that, if we could speak directly with you, dear reader, you might ask us the very same questions! So here it is: we copied the questions on little piece of paper, folded them, mixed them and finally picked them up randomly.
In order to be more spontaneous, we decided to register orally our answers and then copy them on this article. So please, enjoy, and if you have any questions do not hesitate to write them in a comment, we will be sure to answer it next month! (We already have a few that we kept in reserve; otherwise this article would be wayyyy too long!)
Q.1. How was it to live some special events in another country (Christmas, New Year Eve, birthday…)?
Enrica: Sooo, it was cool! I’ll start with my birthday because it was a really long wish of mine to celebrate or, let’s say, just live the day of my birthday without anyone around me knowing that it was my birthday. (Maïlys: I knew! But I didn’t say anything on your birthday; I waited January 1st, midnight 2017 to wish you a happy birthday…). So like a normal day, even if this year it was for sure different: my birthday is at the end of December and in my country I’m used to be on vacation, while here I was at school and it was cool because, anyway I received some presents. In fqct, here the tradition is not to exchange gifts on Christmas day but on New Year. And this year, the 1st of January was on Sunday, so New Year’s party at school was on Friday…the day of my birthday! And there was this exchange of gifts at school between children and teacher also. I received a wonderful wake-up alarm, which is also very useful even if I have to buy the battery to make it work (Maïlys: and me it was a mug!).
Our New Year was a soft one, very relaxing. I think in Thaland people are not used to celebrate, let’s say “hard”, until early in the morning, like in Italy, because we were at the beach, and there were many bars, but people were just relaxing, enjoying the evening, listening to music and making some lanterns flying to the sky. It was really… romantic, a romantic New Year!
And Christmas, it was great! I didn’t received any present and usually yeah, I prefer not to receive any presents on this day, as in the last years I’ve started living it more like a really spiritual day, instead of a gift day. Sooo, this year, it was simply perfect. (Enrica looked at Maïlys who was frowning) Ok, the first part of the day I felt really bad, but then I took some medicines and everything was fine: we cooked together some Italian pasta and it was simply amazing, also because I ate Pandoro (Enrica look away dreamily), such a really a nice day!!!
Maïlys: So for me… I felt really lucky to have my birthday too, in Thailand. Actually we are the only two of the Happy group to have our birthdays here. Mine was the first week, we arrived in Thailand, in October, and I kind of wanted to not let the others know, to have a normal day too… but they knew! (Enrica: Superpower!) No actually it was on facebook. (Enrica: no it was not!) It was not? Oh? Good! So I spent a normal day but, at the end of the day, we kind of meet all on the field – I wasn’t expecting anything at this time! Just a normal meeting to speak about following day and maybe listen some music, but… – It was a really nice evening with some live music and I’m sure I was kind of beet red, when I received my happy birthday song and a present, and I really love the book with the postcards where everybody wrote me a word and… yeah, it was amazing.
Christmas was really different, cause actually it was the birthday of our little Thai sister, Ploy, who just celebrated her 18th birthday, so an exceptional birthday! And we cooked an Italian-Thai dinner and everybody, well, all the European volunteers (we were 4 that day) were amazed to have some occidental food (thank you Enrica’s mom and dad for sending her a box full of Italian food!). And at the end, we had a really special dessert, it was a jelly cake… kind of strange (Enrica nodded firmly), but not too bad… but really strange (Enrica: for sure really colorful!) Yes, yes really colorful and beautiful to see.
For New Year’s Eve, I really really loved it, because it was on the beach, in Koh Lanta, relaxing, it was like a normal day but with some fireworks. We were just really really happy, yes it was really an amazing night and at the same time it was beautiful: I was with really great friends and I didn’t, I couldn’t have a better New Year’s Eve.
Q.2. How does it feel to live with someone from another country, what are your differences and your similarities?
Enrica: Let’s start with the local people… Living with the locals is cool on one side because they are really nice and smiling and welcoming and if we need anything – and during my first month I honestly needed a lot (as I felt sick and had many problems, which never happened to my life before). So our hosting family was very nice, helping me, bringing me at the hospital wherever I needed. Obviously, on the other side, you’re suppose to adapt to some habits that are not yours, like having dinner at 5-5:30pm and maybe starving at 10pm and not having anything to eat… So simply you go to bed, trying not to pay attention to your stomach and wait for breakfast the following morning (M.: for me it is ok, as when I was an au-pair girl in Canada I had a similar timetable). At the beginning, it was also difficult to eat rice three times in a day, but now I really love it and also on weekend, when we explore the surroundings and we can choose to eat something different, it’s not a problem for me to keep going on buying rice, sooo… it’s good! Of course, the problem – not with this host family, but with the previous ones, is mainly the linguistic barrier, because not all of them were able to speak English. And of course, you can use other ways of communication – hands, body language… - but it’s anyway kind of limit, because it’s something perceived by both the sides, and maybe you would really like to talk, and have a real conversation but simply you cannot because you don’t have the tools or, in this case, the language knowledge. And similarities and differences (Interrupt to chase a mosquitoe) Ah! Yes! Mosquitoes here are really… Argh! Oh gosh… Anyway… what else? Ok, about the other volunteers, let’s say all of us are European so there are not such big differences among us but, for example, what I‘ve noticed, I don’t know if it’s because she is French or because simply it’s part of her behavior, but the French volunteer I’ve been living with so far (literally every day, 24h per day, same host family, same school, same toilets, same room, same everything), well, she is really very nice and polite (Maïlys goes pink…red!) that’s not exactly how I am (M.: Hey! Yes, you are too!). I mean usually when I’m disappointed or I disagree with someone or on something, it’s not a problem for me to show my disappointment or even when I have to reply “no” I’m really spontaneous. Basically, it’s quite difficult for me to answer “no” in a nice way, but… she’s able to! (Maïlys… here goes the red again!) So it’s great: when I have to refuse something, I call her to refuse it by my side, and what else… oh! Differences…I don’t think it’s related to a country, simply her, she prefers to sleep in the night while I prefer to sleep in the morning but it’s fine anyway, and… yeah, both of us, love coconut shake.
Maïlys: I would say that we are different but similar, in fact, we are well balanced, our reactions are different but there is no difference as in country, and… actually, I took the resolution to be more spontaneous… (laugh… E.: Ooooh! M.: Hem…Yeah… What was I saying…?) Oh! I meant more self-confident than spontaneous… I will work on it! It will take a year, at least, but…. As Enrica is naturally a leader, it helps… And… That’s it for our differences and similarities. For the country, we had to adapt, on both sides, but, the family we’re living with is really amazing, they have a good English level and, as we have a very bad Thai level, it naturally balances! And, they’re use to receive lots of volunteers, if I remember well, it’s been 4- 5 years now. So they know how to deal with us, the strangers. And … I didn’t have any difficulties to adapt for the rice, it’s less filling than pasta so (E: and the spicy level?) And I love spicy food! Yes the food is spicier here than what I would cook, but it’s still ok. The mosquitoes… Usually, in France, they leave me alone, as they prefer the rest of my family, so I’m pretty lucky, but here… They are really greedy. (E: and the cucarachas?) Oh yes, I hate bugs like the cucarachas (Spanish name for cockroaches, we don’t really know why, but both Enrica and me use the Spanish name) in our bedroom, So… not…. healthy! So, others than the bugs, not really welcome, it’s really an amazing country! Always smiling, they have what I call the Thai smile, just a big-wide-mouth-open-showing-teeth-eyes-shutted-down-smile. When they smile like that… well, it’s amazing. Then there’s the “sabaï-sabaï” who took some… adaptation (E. nodded “oh yes!”), but I think we adapted pretty well (E: sometimes even too much!). Yes, sometimes too much, but we still have work to do on it. It’s really another way of life, we cannot really describe it, we have to live it to understand.
Q.3. What do you like about Thailand that does not exist in your country?
M.: The first thing that comes to my mind… It’s the food! Like coconut shake, fresh papaya, pad-thai, the drinks, the different sauces for the rice, the desserts… Well, sometimes there is too much sugar or salt for my taste, but really the food is amazing, and the temperature is different. And, as you saw in my other article, I really enjoyed meeting elephants, well, I saw elephants already in the zoo, but it’s not the same when you touch them, feed them, play with them… I also like the Thai smile!
E.: Rubber plantations, because they’re so nice… Aside from collecting the rubber (it was a few months ago), the paths we do every morning to go to school is surrounded by rubber plantations and palm trees, beside the road and, simply having a look at the sun, simply going or coming back from school, passing threw them, it’s beautiful. (M.: Just that, no food?! E.: That was the first thing I thought about!).
Q.4. Stuff you like the best and the least?
E.: So the best coconut shake, the least spiders (shudders…), big spiders.
M.: For me yes, the best is also coconut shakes, and more generally the Thai food… It’s too amazing! And the least, the bugs in general: spiders, cockroaches, mosquitoes…
Q.5. What do you miss the most from your places?
M.: Maybe… as strange as it might be… I miss the winter. In my family’s home, we have a fireplace, and I do enjoy having a quiet afternoon, with the rain pouring and fire cracking in the fireplace, while you wear fluffy comfortable jacket and socks… Yes, maybe this… And the chocolate too! I speak about real good chocolate… But as I’m really enjoying my time here, I don’t really have time to miss everything…
E.: For me, there are 2 things: one of them is about food and it’s my mom’s tiramisù, as all the volunteers know (Maïlys nodded), because I keep going on repeating “Oh I miss so much, I want a big slice of my mother’s tiramisù!” (M.: There’s been lasagna too… E.: Yes… but not as much as the tiramisù!). And the second one, in my case, like Maïlys, it’s the cold. I don’t know if it is because I was born in December or other stuff, but I really need a country to live in where there’s a kind of seasons cycle and change of temperatures over the year…
Q.6. What’s your favorite food in Thailand?
E.: At the beginning, I would have said, without hesitating, that it was Pad-thai, while now, it’s sticky rice with fried chicken. (M.: Laugh… So basically our breakfast! E.: Yeah!)
M.: Me, it’s not really food but I really love coconut shakes – in case I didn’t mention it before… – and fresh fruits in general, and… any kind of Thai dessert is amazing… Soooo… yeah, I can’t say that I have a favorite one, they’re all my favorite!
And… That’s it for this month folks! Hope we answered a few of your questions… Next month… Some tips about Thailand, why we wanted to volunteer in this project…. Stay tuned!