Cultural exchange and immersion is a huge part of our volunteer program and way of working. The following was written by one of our volunteers and interns, Kelly, who visited us in 2009. She writes ahout her arrival and experience with Mundo Exchange and our Isaan community.
My Isaan Cultural Exchange
After many hours of travelling deep into the wilderness on the sleeper train from Bangkok, I arrived in Isaan. After a delicious home cooked dinner made by volunteers helping my Thai host, I found myself unexpectedly in a traditional Isaan welcoming ceremony. All members of Mundo took turns to tie colored ribbons round my wrist whilst wishing me happiness and sending off my worries and stresses. It is called Bai Sii Su Kwun. What a lovely way to welcome me!
We had an outing to the local Wat or temple, where I was able to go and meet the nuns and monks. I helped the nuns prepare food, and also got to eat the vegetarian feast when we had finished! The monks and nuns were all great fun, and made me feel very at ease. They seemed to enjoy having a visitor and practicing their English with a volunteer to Thailand.
My idyllic experience continued as we ventured out into a local resort in the middle of a rubber plantation. It was very peaceful and beautiful and as we sat by the lake and ate our delicious fruit picnic. We (the falong) attempted to understand Thai jokes. I am still none the wiser! Something about a bee sting?! Still hilarious none the less.
The cross cultural project I came to help with is in full swing with a great team of locals and falang working hard to open a cultural centre for the local community. They were keen for me to enjoy what I was doing, whilst helping, and gave me freedom to choose what to do. We decided I would paint a large map of South East-Asia and create an educational game to teach the locals some geography. It was great fun, and I got to learn some geography too as I did it!
Bueng Kan is in a beautiful location, and remains almost untouched by falang influences. The locals are curious and welcoming of strangers and it’s a great way to meet the real people of Thailand, and be part of every day life. Oh and if you eat too much food whilst you’re here (which you will, as the Thais never seem to stop!) you can work it off at a free outdoor gym overlooking the Mekong river. You can’t argue with that!
Written by volunteer Kelly