Every volunteer has a unique experience depending on the location, religion, and traditions of their site. Each month we will explore a new volunteer’s site through the eyes of a visiting volunteer to show how similar yet different serving in Thailand can be.
Alex Cotrufello, 129 YinD
Hannah Steffe, 130 YinD
Why did you visit?
I went to visit Hannah for Mother’s Day weekend. But mostly just to hang.
What did you do in the community while visiting?
We went to a big SAO party with her family and co-workers, in which we were subsequently forced to sing Hotel California on stage. Her family took us to a market on the river and we ate about 1000 baht worth of fresh grilled shrimp. The last day, in our matching blue polo shirts, the whole family went to what was supposed to be a fancy Mother’s Day dinner at an American style restaurant. Turns out it was more American than we had expected and half the food didn’t come out because the restaurant was so packed. Every part of the weekend was a truly great time.
Describe the community.
Hannah’s site is at first glance, a huge metropolis. Only an hour from Bangkok this shouldn’t be a surprise, but I was still shocked at how drastically different her home is from mine. After getting off the main highway and entering her actual community, though, I was taken with how serine and charming it is. All the things I love about central Thailand are there: the vast expanse of fields, lakes filled with shrimp and fish and men with nets fishing them, even the excruciating heat. It’s beautiful in its details.
Describe where Hannah lives and her host family.
Hannah lives in a gorgeous house surrounded by shrimp bogs with her host sister, Pii Muay, and her sister’s husband, along with one outrageously funny 10 year old and her adorable baby sister. Hannah is so clearly an essential part of their family; Pii Muay shows her love by treating her like a typical Thai daughter, force feeding her and trying to control all the little details of her life, while the girls cling to her, make fun of her, and look up to her like their cool older sister. It was very sweet to see their family dynamics at play and to be brought into that family, if just for the weekend.
Describe Hannah’s school, teachers, and students.
I unfortunately didn’t get to meet many of Hannah’s students or co-teachers since it was a holiday weekend but I did get to meet her counterpart, Pii Ang. She is endearingly sweet and funny, and always the MC at events. She’s the one that recruited us to sing karaoke in front of a hundred strangers. I hated it at the time but am glad to have the memory.
What were some highlights from your trip?
There were many highlights on this trip but one that sticks out in my memory is when Pii Muay went out and bought me a blue polo so I could match with the rest of the family during Mother’s Day dinner. Not being able to live with my host family after the first month at site, I’ve sometimes felt like I’ve missed out on that unique family experience many volunteers have. But in that moment, I felt loved and included, a temporary member of their family. That was very special for me.
What surprised you about Hannah’s community?
The heat. Central Thailand is so freakin’ hot.
Explain the similarities and differences between your site and Hannah’s site.
The main differences between our sites are the size and geography. My site is an extremely small farming community tucked into the northern mountains. Hers, like I said before, is large, bustling, and surrounded by sprawling fields and bogs.
The main similarity between our sites is the people. Her community was so generous to me and continuously went out of their way to give me a good time while I was there. This is the same experience I had with my community when I first arrived, and subsequently, every time I’ve brought friends or family to meet my people. I’ve realized that no matter where I go in Thailand, I will always be met with a kindness and hospitality that is unique to this country.
Experience more site’s here!
Wonderfully written. Enjoy your service.
Chog Dee, John
I loved the hospitality of central Thailand when I visited with Alex in February, but I’m glad I missed the heat. Good luck to you Hannah! Sounds like you are in a good spot…