Cultural Exchange Programs
Exploring the vast, ancient city of Jeresh on our first day was an incredible introduction – the city of a thousand pillars didn’t disappoint! You wouldn’t expect an ancient, Roman city quite like it, so far east and so well preserved; but it certainly was impressive, sticking out like a sore thumb against the backdrop of the modern, Middle Eastern apartments only a stone’s throw away.
My favourite part was definitely interacting with the amazing, young monks. The children were incredibly sweet and funny and they always put a smile on my face. At the same time, though, they were dedicated and focused during our lessons. Our classes were the perfect combination of smiles, laughter and learning.
The first day of the plain count I remember looking over the list of the 30 or so wild animals. I thought, “Yea right, like we are really going to see all these? I doubt it!” Then I thought, “How am I supposed to count something I have never heard of before in my entire life?” Each creature was pointed out and explained in vivid detail to us. I had seen more beautiful creatures on that day than I had ever seen in any zoo anywhere. And I have been to quite a lot of zoos in my life. I was shocked, excited and ready for more.
I have been here on the Perhentian Islands for about one month and I’m still excited for the beautiful landscape, the warm people and of course the amazing turtles we are working with daily. On the 10th my teammate Joel, Kinsey and Elliot and me saw the first turtle nesting at Tiga Ruang during our night patrol. It was so amazing seeing the turtle laying her eggs in the sand, measuring her carapace and taking photos of her for photo identification!
We planted vegetation to help stop erosion, prepared plantings in our homestay, went on a six hour trek, visited a number of historical and Buddhist sites and experienced the culture with the Akha people almost continually throughout the week. The Akha are the most tolerant and accepting of others of any group I have ever met. As far as an immersion learning experience goes, it would be hard to match.
I do not have enough words to describe the depth of the experience. I only know that the people I’ve met have influenced my life and I strongly recommend volunteering in this village. They need lots of help in establishing educational center and the overall experience for the volunteers is one of a kind and very rewarding… I recommend it to all those interested.
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