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Orientation week was conducted in Ubud. I stayed in a homestay with cottages, family temples and yards. The yards were the playgrounds for the children, the places for making handicrafts as well as the farmhouses for the chickens and dogs. I felt like I was living on a farm! With the cocks crowing nonstop, I got up by 6 am every day! What a countryside living style!
Our time at turtle camp was capped off by releasing two of ‘our’ turtles into the sea to begin their journey as independent turtles! Hopefully, the love and care provided at the turtle project will ensure these turtles have a greater chance of survival in the big, wide, scary ocean. Go well, little turtle!
Working in Thailand was one of the best experiences of my life. The children were so incredibly sweet and eager to learn. The younger children barely knew any English so we had to find ways to communicate with them through pictures and hand motions. After this experience, I really think anyone can learn to be a teacher!
The Ho Chi Minh Community Involvement placement starts off with four days of Culture Week, a fantastic opportunity to get to know the other volunteers we would be living with for the next three weeks. This involved language and culture classes, a tour of the city and its major historical sites, cooking class and Vietnamese towel folding class (the last two of which caused a LOT of laughter!). Then we all started work.
I learned a lot about the culture in Vietnam and was able to explore the famous places in Ho Chi Minh as well. Apart from the amazing time I had during the cultural week, I was more keen for my week of volunteering to come, as that was my main purpose of enrolling myself to this program. I’ve never been happier that I chose to work in a school as I; myself enjoy having children around me.
When the time came to say goodbye, I realized that 2 weeks were definitely not enough to explore everything that this place has to offer. I loved every minute of it – the warmness of the sun, the peacefulness of the desert and of the animals, the kindness of the people I have met, the wonderful mix of sights, tastes and sounds and all kinds of experiences that were sometimes challenging and sometimes comforting. I would like to thank Go Eco, my fellow volunteers and everyone at the reserve for making this a one in a lifetime experience for me.
Working at the wildlife center has the perfect balance of being active and relaxing, and even many of the volunteer tasks have a very noticeable rhythm and method. It was so easy for me to adapt for this reason, and my volunteer hours gave me so much time to reflect on my experiences while simultaneously helping a small ecosystem.
In the afternoon the volunteers would take the baboons down to the river and watch them play and socialize for about an hour. This also gave us time to socialize and become very close friends and family. The baboons would grab my legs and hands when they wanted me to carry them as we walked down to the river. This was my favorite part of the day.
One of my favorite aspects of my project was “baby time.” On this day, one group would be in charge of taking care of the baby monkeys. We fed them bottles, spent time in their enclosures, took the baboons to the river, prepared their night boxes, and much more. This allowed us to develop a connection with the baby monkeys, which was so unique.
I couldn’t imagine how those township kids’ childhood would be until I participated in their life. We had a totally different life with them. Finally I realized how happy and lucky I am and I’ve never felt regret to join this volunteer experience. I could deeply felt the happiness during my trip and I felt that it’s more blessed to give than to receive. I did learn a lot and also received a lot during the volunteering trip.
I sort of became the head teacher there quickly. And the kids listen to me and trust me – and I learned a little Xhosa (pronounced kosa) too. I’m such a mess right now because I love them and I feel awful leaving them. In a perfect world I would stay and make sure I saw them all graduate from high school.
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