I’m having a lifetime experience crammed into two weeks, on the island of Koh Samui, Thailand, working as a volunteer teacher in a local public elementary school.
From now on, I’ve decided to take volunteer vacations rather than regular vacations, as a way to immerse myself in a new culture, meet interesting people from different continents, and remain “young” in spirit.
I share a house with six volunteers. There are 3 rooms and 2 bathrooms and fortunately, I’ve managed to tag the downstairs shower as my own. There is only cold water, and a handle that keeps falling off, but who cares; I’m used to both now.
My Czech friend, Veronika, and I were initially shocked by the lack of hot water in the shower, and now we accept it, as the weather is so damn hot and humid in Thailand.
What I love about my experience, is the interaction with people from Australia, Zimbabwe, New Zealand, Hungary, Switzerland, and the Czech Republic. English is our common language, and the more time I spend with others, the more I realize we are all the same.
Arm, our local Thai advisor, picks us up on in the Bamboo jeep on the main road each morning at 7:30 a.m. We stop at 7/11 for water bottles, and we discovered a French Cafe across the street with chocolate croissants and strong coffee. I enjoy speaking French with the local expat community. We have a routine on our way to the Boh Phut elementary school.
When we arrive at the school, the students are impeccably dressed in school uniform, saying their early morning prayers, while facing Buddha. We wait for them to finish, then head over to our first class. We teach Kindergarten to fifth grade. One of us is the main teacher, and the other volunteers assist, since most of our classes have 40 students.
At first we were shocked by how the kids are, and how we have to “shout” and make them repeat everything, mainly by shouting louder and louder each time. I was not comfortable with this, but then I realized this is the way the student are taught.
The kids like repetition and copying from the board. I realize that each country has their own way of teaching students, and next week I shall be in a U.S. Kindergarten volunteering with an American teacher, so that will be completely different, and interesting to analyze.
I wonder what it will be like to teach in Lesotho, when I join the Peace Corps in October. Another new experience, which I look forward to.