It’s been a few months now since my volunteering days in Laos concluded and quite often I find myself thinking back to the days of teaching English in Laos. Often those volunteer memories come flooding back as I reflect on what I enjoyed most when assisting in helping others have the basic understanding of the tricky English language (even myself I find it tricky!!!).
I think back to the memories that were created and as to be expected there were a number of special memories that always stick in the mind. Lasting memories from the experience of teaching English to the monks and learning how human and downright cheeky they really are. To teaching the primary students and the challenge of keeping the young minds interested, while frantically making a dill out of myself.
All fantastic experiences I will admit.
I can tell you now that it wasn’t the repetitive food we had at the Green Lion Organisation, or dorm style setup that didn’t provide any air-conditioning just a fan or two and made a good night sleep near on impossible. But heck, that was what we signed up for, to live in 3rd world kind of conditions, so we could really appreciate the gimmicks and comforts that were left back home.
So, what volunteer memories really sticks out the most?
The single memory that does come to the memory bank often, amongst a lot of cherished memories, was the time spent with the fellow volunteers. A bunch of men and women of all ages who were in the country for the very same purpose as everyone else, which was to give back to the world, where the help was needed most.
It is the greatest unknown when entering a volunteer house for the first time, what kind of people will I be volunteering with? It is one thing you can’t control, especially if going into the journey on your own, which I did on this occassion.
The questions run through your head, what nationality will they be? Will I get along with them? Do they have a sense of humour? What if I room with someone who annoys me or worse snores? Most times the thoughts are negative, that is human nature to have a little fear when entering the unknow, and to be honest those feelings should be quite the opposite as for any worry I had leading into my trip to Laos was unfounded.
Remember this little fact, each volunteer you meet has paid good money for the experience, it is not cheap. Whether is it teaching English or roughing it outdoors while constructing a building, they are all there for the common cause, to lend a helping hand. Therefore, each volunteer who you come across are honest, good folk who just want to assist in whatever way is required at the time.
It was the same for my own experience in Laos, people came to the Green Lion Volunteer organisation from all over the world, there were people from France, Malaysia, Denmark, Holland, England and Canada. I was the sole Australian.
Whatever the nationalities and personality differences there may have been, it didn’t matter, I got along with each volunteer. We participated in sport, played cards, drank beer and sang karaoke. The whole time was a blast, even if there was a few boring down times, that just meant we had to pick each other up and get through the dull periods by saying something stupid to create a little laughter.
What blew me away the most was the age difference, I got there expecting volunteers of all ages and that I heard is generally the case. Except not during my time in Laos, at the tender age of 35 (which I still find quite youthful), I was the oldest volunteer in my tenure by at least ten years with most other volunteers being college students and under the age of twenty-two.
At first it concerned me. I mean my own kids were not that much younger, thankfully the fears were put to rest quite early, because I quickly learnt that age was no barrier, we all got along and acted as youthful as one another, sure they partied longer than myself in Vang Vieng on the weekend, but that suited me just fine to have a little me time.
Anyway, I marvel at the fellow volunteers I had the honour of meeting during my time in Laos with a lot of respect to them. To meet people so young but performing an honest deed and paying good money for the experience, including flights, was a real credit to them and for that there was a lot of respect.
When the program came to an end in Laos, you came to the sad realisation that it would probably be the last time you see any of them again, except for on Facebook, where everyone befriended each other. At the end of the day one common thing will always stick around, there were lasting volunteer memories that will always stay in the mind of the good and wild times that were had in Laos.
check out other articles from my volunteering experience in Laos.