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Volunthai’s Travel Diary

Monday, 07 Feb 2011

Location: Thailand

MapYvonne, Holland, yvonne.blokland@gmail.com

Volunthai has given me the opportunity to teach English as a volunteer at Matthayom Trakan Phuetphon School for just a little under four weeks. For me it has been a very interesting and educating experience and I hope my visit has been useful for the students and the school as well.
Literally everyone in the English department has really gone out of his or her way to give me the best time as possible. All this kindness and attention was heartwarming and made my time at the school very, very enjoyable. However, maybe due to people’s enthusiasm, there sometimes was a lack of communication and it was unclear for me where to go or what to do. This should however not be considered too big an issue; I think that this also comes down to a cultural difference. Western people tend to be very rigid and stressful when it comes to appointments, in a country like Thailand people are much more relaxed. To be honest, I prefer the latter. I am just not used to it, hence my occasional confusion.
The students in Matthayom Trakan Phuetphon are eager to learn, but most are insecure about their capabilities. It is the speaking that is the problem; students are shy and afraid to make mistakes. Also, they are not used to hearing English with a foreign rather than a Thai accent. I am aware that this problem is well-known to the teachers and noticed that they are trying to overcome this in many different ways. Despite their insecurity students are very enthusiastic. Clearly, the most successful interactions I have had with students were outside rather than inside the classroom. In more informal settings students were a lot less shy. They would come up to me in the hallways and ask me some questions or tell something about themselves.
The countryside of Ubon Ratchathani Province and around is literally breathtaking and I really enjoyed all the sightseeing trips people have taken me on. Pae Taem National Park, rice fields, a silk farm, and many, many temples: I had already seen so much of Thailand in those four weeks even though my actual travels would only just start after this volunteering period. Every day I was presented with another type of Thai fruit or dish that I had never seen before and in most cases there was only one possible conclusion: ‘Arroy mahk mahk!’ (Delicious!)
I appreciate Volunthai’s friendly and personal approach. It was lovely to meet the family and they absolutely take good care. It has been a very interesting experience to see so much of Thai culture and habits and to get to know something about Thai education. I realize I have probably learned a lot more myself than I have been able to teach the students…