Arriving in Ranong in August was a bit of a culture shock, as we had spent the past six months in the UK and Europe, working and travelling.
The biggest challenges were the heat, especially for Andrew who would literally drip in sweat! And not having a shower seemed inconceivable, but one learned to wash quite adequately with a bucket and cold water!
The students, at first seemed very shy and reluctant to communicate, so we wondered how on earth we’d be able to teach them anything, as our kiwi accents seemed to confuse them!
But slowly they responded, and this was the most rewarding aspect of our volunteering, developing relationships with the students, laughing and joking with them, seeing them grow in confidence, and the small hope that they may actually retain some of the information we endeavoured to teach them!
I am hoping that the Year 4 students are still experts on natural disasters! Another difficulty was the fact that as an English speaker, you assume you can teach it, but hey, it was in fact not that easy, but we both found our own methods and it was great to see the students pass their English exam!
We soon got into a routine for day to day life in Ranong, enjoying the smallness of the place, loved getting around by scooter, sightseeing with our students, the delicious shared meals at the Marist house, the simplicity of life, where all that mattered was school, Internet, gym, shopping, cooking and eating!
We have learnt about two cultures, Burmese and Thai, have learnt kindness and gentleness from the Marist community, have learnt gratitude and appreciation for what we have. In fact it’s probable that we learnt more than we taught!
One of our most memorable moments is still on our first meeting with the ACU online students, as they introduced themselves, one boy spoke of how lucky they were to live in Ranong, where there was electricity 24/7, and running water. And this only a day after we despaired of no shower or hot water!
We certainly have a different perspective on life and wish to thank Marist Asia Foundation for this amazing, life changing opportunity.