Global Service Scholar: Asal Yunusova
I am currently volunteering at the children’s home project. We have the mornings to ourselves, so on a typical day I wake up to cook breakfast or go out to eat at a nearby café. I currently live in the new volunteer house, which has 5 floors. I live on the third floor above the kitchen/living room area and share the room with two other girls. The house is conveniently located next to the Friends for Asia office as well as restaurants and markets. I interact with my roommates a lot, whether it is going out to grab some food or going to the night markets together. In addition I will usually try to do some tasks in the morning such as laundry, talk to my friends and family, as well as update my personal daily journal. Sometimes I try to plan excursions for the mornings, such as visiting a museum or a temple. For example the most recent morning trip I did was to the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary. I was able to learn about the rescued elephants there, and take part in feeding them, giving them a mud bath, as well as bathing them.
I, along with two other volunteers in the program with me, usually take a taxi to the children’s home. The ride is around 40 minutes and we arrive to the home around 4 p.m. right as the children return from school. We always greet the parents and interact with 16 of the children whose ages range from 5 to 16 years old. When they first return from school they do their homework and we help them with their English homework. If they finish their homework before dinner, we will usually play games with them, such as jump rope, soccer, cards, or art activities. We all sit down to eat dinner together and after dinner we return to playing with them. We try to help clean when we can by sweeping the floor or cleaning up after dinner. A lot of the children like to listen to American pop music so we try to look up their favorite songs on YouTube and sing along with them. The language barrier has been a great challenge but we still try to make the effort to connect and get to know each and every one of the children through small and simple conversations, observing their behavior, or communicating through hand gestures and pictures. We usually leave the children’s home around 7 p.m. and get back home in less than an hour. Next we grab dinner somewhere and then I try to contact my friends and family again before going to bed. On some nights, I’ll try to go to the night markets after work and explore the various dishes of Thai cuisine.
On a weekend my typical day is much different. The first weekend I visited the Doi Inthanon National Park and was able to walk through the highest point of Thailand. Next, I visited the King and Queen pagoda, the Wachiratharn Waterfall, and the Karen tribe village where we were able to make fresh-ground coffee. The most recent weekend I went to Pai, which is a lovely small town 3 hours away from Chiang Mai. I also did a day tour there where we bamboo rafted and walked through the Lod Cave. The tour also took us to explore the Pai Canyon and we had the chance to swim in the Pai hot springs. Every day is different, whether it is spending time with the children or exploring the rest of Thailand. I am grateful for the past three weeks I have been here, and will continue greeting new experiences with open arms.