Field Notes from an exceptional retired traveler and volunteer, Marta Kogler

Volunteering with Mundo Exchange and Laekplian Lokgatat is a great experience for children who have the opportunity to work with retired volunteers. With age, often comes an increase of understanding and empathy based on past experiences and exchanges. People like Marta offer children and young volunteers knowledge and laughter that can only come when diversity of age and cultures combine forces and explore the culturally unknown. We at Mundo Exchange and Lokgatat are thankful to have Marta as a global volunteer in Thailand and as a life long friend to so many living in Isaan Thailand.

Volunteering-Marta_Playing with kids

I am Marta from Austria, and I arrived in Thailand the 5 of January 2011. I was longing to volunteer abroad since I retired and have my Pension. Now I do volunteer in Thailand for my first time. After connecting through Mundo Exchange I met Nalinrat who is a member of the Thai Association, Laekplian Lokgatat, the group that helps volunteers once they are in Thailand. Nalinrat is one of my Thai hosts and along with two other volunteers from Ireland they met me at Udon Thani Airport.  On this day that I came to volunteer “Children’s Day” was celebrated in Thailand.  We all went straight on to two orphan homes, and what an eventful start for me!!

The next few days I spent in the Nong Khai at the Mundo Lokgatat Volunteer Center. It was a nice beginning of my Isaan life. Since then I have been living in Buengkan with Dalyn, Nalinrat, Yoon and Gyp. There were also other volunteers there too. I lived some time with Sandra who has been here 5 times and a new volunteer, Candace and an intern from Canada, Val, and Stefan from my home country.

I am teaching English, I think it is better to say we try to speak English a bit, at a primary school class where most of the young Thai children come from families that work in the fields. I volunteer and help the Thai students by team teaching with a Thai teacher and letting them hear my use of the English language.

It is so fascinating for me to volunteer and see Thai-school life, teachers and the so dear Isaan pupils. Day by day they lose their shyness and every day we get a bit closer.  I just love being with them.  About 10.30 in the morning it is already lunch time! It is so great watching them when they clean their own dishes.

As a little present for them, I brought from Austria an English-DVD-for beginners, a farming book with pictures to look at, reusable stickers.  I could see their pleasure in enjoying these gifts. Finally I go by bicycle to school every morning. It is a nice ride nearby the Mekong. Having a bike is just marvelous for me. Biking around Bueng Kan and the seeing the environment, I like very much.

In our Thai neighborhood I go to see a nice Thai lady and family members almost every day in the afternoon. She has a son in school, another son at a Thai University, and a daughter studying to be a nurse. We practice English.  I talk about Europe, the EU, about Austria etc.etc. It is for me very nice to be able to visit and get to know an Isaan family.

I went with another Isaan family on another cultural outing. Nui, my team teacher took me to her family in a little village for a whole day, it was such a great, eventful, exciting day for me. I rode on a motor bike through the rice fields, watched them catch fish in the mud and had a wonderful picnic.  I will never, never forget this time.

One evening I cooked Austrian food. I got everything at the market, also potatoes but no flour! Finally, Nalinrat my Thai host made it possible, she got the flour somewhere for me. We so enjoyed eating together and learning about each other’s ways.

Some are surprised about me being 66 years old and doing this adventure all by myself. I am happy I did it and proud being a part of Mundo Exchange and Laekplian Lokgatat. I am so pleased to have the chance to be so close to these Isaan people and their land. Thanks to Dalyn, Nalinrat, Yoon, Gip.  They are such a wonderful team.