Sofia, volunteered in Withee Tai

My name is Sofia, I’m 21 and I’m from Portugal.

I volunteered for 2 months in the South of Thailand, in the province of Nakhon Si Thammarat. I was living with a self-sustained Buddhist community and helping in the daily-life activities, learning how to cook and plant and a new way of teaching and learning by doing.

In my volunteering I learned that my Occidental lifestyle and way of thinking is way different than Thailand’s, for example. Life is very simple, and there are no extra worries. Thai people are very nice, funny and uncomplicated. I tend to think a lot about a lot of things, for a very long period of time, and I am very impatient. I learned that about myself while living there: because I didn’t really have much to do, I had to reinvent it by myself, without any stimuli. That’s when I realized that when you’re closer to nature and yourself, you tend to be more and more creative, and be curious and handy. Some things I found unpleasing on other people, such as their calmness or slow way of doing things; it only made me realize how I was a rushed person, both physically and mentally. It was a wonderful exercise to get to know myself and my surroundings.

Regarding my challenges, I have a swelling chronic condition that became worse in Thailand, because of the heat and humidity. It was a little bit hard to handle, which sometimes led to tears and frustration. But I tried to pull myself up every single day because I knew I was living a once-in-a-lifetime experience and even after all those ups and downs, I realized a lot of things internally that I want to see changing.

One of my brightest memories was from one day when I was very bored and decided to take off a neighbours’ bicycle for a 3-hour ride around the village. I walked through places with beautiful and nice people working and resting, kids playing with what the nature gives them, dogs, huge spiders on their nets on the lightning points… Until I reached a pathway near a river by our house with plants all over from different species. And I felt so free that day, so enchanted, so… alive! That I just thanked every living being, and whoever created it, for being so perfect. This volunteering was very different from what I was expecting, but it was so raw, so natural… It was the best decision I ever made.