Arrived at last 

Thailand is a really beautiful country. That's why I couldn't blame my fellow volunteerswhen they boarded a plane to Bangkok at the beginning of October to discover other corners of the country from there. 

I stayed at the school where we volunteers were housed and experienced the first hours of an unfamiliar loneliness, which fortunately didn't last long. The same evening that my friends left, I was asked by a teacher and friend what I would think about staying with his family for a few days. In return I should give his nephews and nieces a little English tutoring.

Of course I immediately agreed. In my opinion, a host family is the best way to get in touch with the culture and way of life of the host country.

Thus, the next day I packed my bag and drove together with the teacher towards Chiang Kham, where he and his relatives live.

As soon as I entered the property, I was warmly welcomed. The children, who were between five and eight years old, ran to me excitedly, even though they were at first too shy to speak to me directly.

I honestly felt a little out of place in the first few minutes, since there was practically no English spoken in the family and my Thai wasn't really outstanding after two months of living in Thailand. But these negative thoughts vanished as quickly as they appeared. By the time my temporary host mother and the children drove with me to a café near their house, I was full of excitement about spending time with these people.

The lessons were structured in a simple way, as I had no real experience before. We repeated the alphabet together and practiced pronunciation. However, the children had the most fun drawing animals and spelling the corresponding animal names. I remember being very impressed with the children's English skills. The seven-year-old girl stood out especially because no matter what animal I sketched, she could call out the English name as quickly as if shot out of a pistol.

I only spent six days with the family, but it was an incredibly valuable time, packed with new impressions and experiences.

The children, who were shy at first, took me by the hand towards the end of my visit towatch cartoons on TV with them, excitedly told me in English and Thai about their favorite

princesses and heroes, and hugged me when it was time to say goodbye. I have grown very fond of them.

On the last day of my stay, we went on a small bike tour together and had a lot of fun holding small races. What surprised me in a positive way was that despite my lack of Thai knowledge, I understood a lot of what they wanted to tell me. Thanks to miming master performances and broken Thai, I never felt left out.

Overall, the time was incredibly nice and I will certainly look back on it with a smile years from now. It felt good to be welcomed and accepted by strangers as part of their group, despite the differences between us.

Finally, I would like to list a few experiences that I would never have thought would happen to me 10 months ago.

First, there was getting up at a little before six, getting ready, and then riding the motorcycle to the morning market while anxiously clinging to my host mother's shirt. (Side note: This was the first time I've ever ridden on a motorcycle. It's quite fun after you survive the first scare).

For the second, it should be mentioned that the family I stayed with owns a crab farm. The sunsets behind the mountains at the end of the huge fields were beautiful to see. But of course, what was even more exciting than the sight was the inside of the fields: the crabs.

I confess, I'm not a fan of these little animals. They scare me a bit with their funny walk and snapping claws. Nevertheless, I got over myself and waded into the field one night in the dark with my host mother's eight-year-old daughter and her father. We were in full gear (including rubber boots and headlamp) and out to hunt some crabs. Unfortunately, I couldn't really contribute anything to the harvest, as I had had enough of these animals after the first crab wriggled between my fingers. Instead, I preferred to hold the bucket and light the way. We got our fill anyway, thanks to the young girl's talent. And it tasted great.

The last experience that really moved me was when my host mother laughingly told me that several people at the morning market had asked her if I was her daughter, saying that we looked alike.

It is really unbelievable that despite our different origins, we were considered by outsiders to be mother and daughter going shopping for vegetables together.

I really felt like I had arrived at that moment. Arrived in this family and especially arrived here in Thailand.

Thank you for these experiences. I will never ever forget them.

- Alena