Rain falls down heavily in Ranong. I am living here, 12 thousands kilometers away from home, and I am experiencing tropical rain for the first time in my life. I look around and see only foreign faces, and I think that I don’t wish to be in any other place in the world in this moment.
This is quite funny if I think of myself few months ago, still at home, frightened by the idea of taking my flight for Thailand. I just followed my mother’s advice: “You have only one opportunity to see the world, so why are you afraid? Prepare your luggage and go!”
My name is Enrica and I am a 26-years old young woman from Italy. I am an English teacher at Marist Mission Ranong and, at the same time, I collaborate with the Health Team visiting and supporting some HIV patients.
I am a young professional in international affairs and since I was a teenager I have been passionate about international relations and human rights. I wanted to see the world and discover other cultures. Indeed, if I could pick up an adjective for describing myself, I would say “curious”. Then, I decided to study international relations and during my university years I developed a special interest for Myanmar. Its traditions, culture, language and history fascinate me a lot.
After some job experiences in Italy, I decided that it was time for me to leave my country and live my dream. This is the reason why I decided to come in Thailand and to volunteer within the Marist Mission Ranong for the Myanmar migrant community.
This experience has turned out to be very intense. I have not only the opportunity to discover the Myanmar culture and to learn the language, but I get to see the smiling faces of my students which inspire me to be a better teacher every day.
I teach social studies to a group of bright, clever young women with which I can speak about sensitive matters, e.g. civil rights, gender equality and death penalty. I also teach English to two grade-1 classes. It is not an easy job, they are teenagers and sometimes very loud and undisciplined.
But they are kids, I think, and frequently our lectures turn out to be very funny! They also gave me a Myanmar name since my Italian one is too difficult for them to pronounce. They call me teacher “Cherry Hnin” since I am sweet as a berry and white as snow (hnin in Myanmar language).
At the same time, I join the Health Team once a week. We visit the houses of several patients affected by HIV/AIDS. Everyone is very kind with us; they open their doors and let us enter into the intimacy of their houses. They offer us snacks and drinks since hospitality is a holy duty for them.
Even if I speak poor Myanmar, I try to talk with them even if most of the time I make pronunciation mistakes. For them it does not matter; they answer me with big laughs, filling my heart with joy. On the other hand, some patients sometimes are sad or depressed; indeed, it is very hard for them to get through the discrimination and stigma caused by being HIV-positive. So, in these cases the job of the Health Team is to support them and, thanks to the help of my Myanmar colleagues, I am able to say few words of consolation.
I am glad to be part of the Marist Mission Ranong! I am glad not only because my dream of seeing the world has come true or because I am discovering the Myanmar culture. I am grateful because I am surrounded by a lot of extraordinary people who are teaching me so much. They are making a difference in my life, and I can only think that my mother was right: there was nothing to be scared of.