With a background in social work, I have always loved working with children. After a strong urge to travel and having completed my TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) course, I set off for Thailand with the help of the Volunteer Bay, managed by Pedro and Vida.
Besides being some of the most kind-hearted people I've met, Pedro and Vida were also extremely helpful in navigating a new country as a single female. I also learned their insider tips on great eats and the best beaches in Phuket, although it was admittedly difficult to find any beach that wasn't breathtaking. Once I began teaching English at a Thai government school, I fell in love with the Thai children. They were very well mannered and respectful with a cute sense of humor.
Having played soccer since I was five years old, I found a "Football League" and also made some friends for life on the "pitch." Phuket has a huge ex-patriot community, so it was easy to make English-speaking friends. Thais are some of the most friendly and happy people I have ever met, so it was easy to make connections with them too. It was much easier to make friends with Thais who spoke English for me, as my Thai was not the best, despite my attempts.
I was able to work on my Thai most with the children during my volunteering time in a local orphanage, since I was able to volunteer there, thanks to the The Volunteer Bay. The children were younger than the ones I taught, and they also spoke very limited English, so it was an entirely new experience with friendly, adorable, smiling faces. I spent time with them coloring, playing musical chairs, playing with clay, and eating dinner. The women who worked here also spoke limited English, but they were always so welcoming, offering me a drink every time I arrived.
Overall, this was the experience of a lifetime and I have friends from all over the world now. It did help that I'm extroverted and sociable in making friends, but you can find your group anywhere. I loved that it was such a cultural experience too; not only did I learn some Thai, but I also picked up their customs and occasionally go to wai (slight bow with prayer-like hands in front) someone in greeting and thanks. Lastly, I can't forget to mention that I experienced one of my new favorite holidays - Loy Krathong. Songkran, the world's largest waterfight, was also an unforgettable festival in Chiang Mai. You'll have to see for yourself!
Next stop... Ecuador with The Volunteer Bay.