KHT volunteers live in the communities they will be working with and live with a host family. Read about Jing’s first impressions and settling into life in Khun Yuam!
When I first arrived, there was an initial wariness about living with strangers but as time continued, it gradually wore off as my Thai host family always welcomed me with unmatched warmth and friendliness. Despite the language barrier with non-English speaking family members, they’re keen to accommodate you, to help you feel at home and feel comfortable in a foreign country. We exchange phrases in English and Thai and I am learning about Thai and Karen culture, which is very gratifying. I usually eat my meals with at least one member of the family, or I prefer to eat out with a KHT staff, teachers or another volunteer.
About living in Khun Yuam:
When I first got to Khun Yuam, I found that it was very different from the UK, and we are still expected to wear our masks outside of the KHT office and homes due to Covid-19 safety regulations. It can be uncomfortable. especially as it is so hot! I love that wherever you are in Thailand a 7Seven-Eleven will be just around the corner. These shops are worlds superior to convenience stores in the UK. They usually include a variety of quick-cook foods and daily commodities. I recommend trying the microwavable gyoza, which can be done in store. If you come to Thailand, you have to go to a 7Seven-Eleven!
There are many different types of toilets here, so far I’ve seen squatting toilets, manual flush toilets and regular toilets. Many toilets in Khun Yuam homes are flushed manually, which isn’t that different from regular toilets as you ladle water into the toilet from a bucket or nearby tap. Another difference between living in Khun Yuam and the UK is that Thai people will always take off their shoes at the front door before they enter a building, though they’d have clean indoor shoes. They’ll always keep outdoor shoes outside the house as it helps with cleanliness. Unlike in the UK, tap water in Khun Yuam isn’t drinkable, we usually gather water in an inexpensive clean water machine. Though the tap water can be used to brush your teeth and wash up.
Showing respect in Thailand:
In Thailand as a sign of respect you ‘wai’, which is a movement with your hands together either thumbs resting on your chest, your nose or between your eyes. Whilst doing this you bow your head, the higher your hands the more respect you have for the person you are bowing to (or the older they are). The hands by your forehead are only for Buddhists when they are praying. This took some getting used to as often people will ‘wai’ instead of waving to say hello.
About Thai foods:
Thai food is famous for the huge variety and spiciness they include in their wonderfully crafted dishes. The cooking emphasises lightly prepared dishes with strong aromatics, though there are plain alternatives if you’re not fond of spice. I was invited to a Thai dinner at one of the English teacher’s homes. They cooked traditional papaya salad (Som Tam) which was lightly pounded tomatoes, chillies, green beans and papaya in a large pestle and mortar. As well as a coconut chicken soup (Tom Kha Kai), which was made by adding chicken, root vegetables, onions and chilis into a coconut milk-based soup. In Khun Yuam, a large range of fresh vegetables are sold as they’re usually also grown here, you can buy fruits and vegetables in regular small market stands, but there’s a bigger Saturday market in the middle of town that sells seasonal fruit and vegetables as well as street food such as sticky mango rice.