A Culture Shocked Wendy

After spending a couple of weeks on one of our projects, no volunteer wants to go home. I know I would rather wake up with a baby elephant in my back garden, playing with children who appreciate your love more than anything or helping those who are much less fortunate than myself, than spending 9-5 in a stuffy office worrying about staplers, invoices and work politics.

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Mr Incredible, certainly has a hard time adjusting to office life

Heading home is never easy when you have been having the time of your life for the past few weeks. In the same way that volunteers have to adjust to the customs and everyday life of Thailand, they also have to re-adjust to their lives back in their home countries. This is otherwise known as;

Reverse Culture Shock

I know that I had a really hard time when I first went back to England after being in Thailand. I found Thailand to really fit my personality and the way that I think that people should treat each other. Being back in England with a culture I am not fond of, weather that is bad to say the least and people who don’t treat each other as nicely as they do here, made me genuinely sad.

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When I visit Suvarnabhumi Airport I see a lot of people not looking forward to going home

I found it difficult to merge myself back with the routines and expectations of a Western county. For some people, they manage to slip back into their lives very easily, being only enriched with their time as a volunteer but some people however, myself included, find life lacking.

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Reverse Culture Shock can manifest itself in many forms from;

– Boredom

– Reverse homesickness

– Misunderstanding of your behaviour from others

– Feelings of alienation

– Negative feelings towards Westerners and

– Restlessness and being irritable

There isn’t anything wrong with feeling like this, but it can be very hard to adjust to going to back to your previous life after having such a life changing experience. The best ways I found to deal with Reverse Culture Shock was to just leave the country as soon as possible. I understand however that this is incredibly impractical for most people though so if you aren’t able to just up sticks and move then you can always try some of the following ideas;

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Talk About Your Experience

When you first get home, everyone you know will be desperate to hear all about your experiences and the adventures you have been getting up to. Embrace this time. Use it as a means to relive some of your most incredible, hilarious and meaningful memories. Sometimes just talking about what you miss will be enough to stop you missing it for a while; just be careful not to turn into the person that is always saying ‘When I was in Thailand…..’, ‘In Thailand…’, ‘That reminds me of when I did_____ in Thailand…..’. Your stories can become boring for people when you constantly tell them 😀

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Skype to the rescue; as always

Stay In Touch

Make sure to keep in touch with all of the people you met on your journey that mean something to you. Who knows when you might be able to meet them again. Losing connections with people that were involved in an important part of your life is terrible and something I hope never to do. Talking and keeping in touch with the people you met along the way is also a great way of reliving your experiences together so that you don’t ever feel too far away from your adventure.

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Scrapbooks or Photo Albums

I know this is definitely more of a girly thing to do but I can assure you, that if you pick up lots of small trinkets during your trip, like napkins from restaurants, cards from hotels, postcards or even something simple like leaves and keep hold of them, then you will be able to create something that you can look back on in years to come and smile at. I keep everything, so I have a lot of scrapbook type things, but if you aren’t the hoarding kind like me then photos, quotes or even written notes can have the same effect. Writing down hilarious things in the moment will ensure that you don’t forget them and when you look back on it in a year, five years or even fifteen years, you will remember that ridiculous moment.

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Stimulate Your Senses

A great way to get over Reverse Culture Shock is to eat your favourite foods from your trip. For me that would be any of the food I eat at Gois everyday, she has the best Goi Djab, Salads, Pad Thai and dishes I don’t think even have a name. If I went back to England and managed to find somewhere that could make those dishes I know that I would feel like I was back in Thailand; something that would definitely make me happy!

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Be a tortoise for a bit 🙂

Take It Slow

If you really are struggling to integrate back into your Western life then take it slowly. I know it can be terribly overwhelming to visit something as normal as a Walmart or an ASDA, when you have been used to living in the Elephant Village, or spending time with children who will never even hope to have access to such a large amount of food. I found it difficult to adjust to how much the Western world wastes in comparison to Thailand, here people make a living from recycling, where as in England people don’t really care too much about what happens to their trash. Don’t try to push yourself to adjust quicker than you feel you can and let people know that you are having some trouble so that they can help you as well.

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Plan Another Trip

This doesn’t always have to be back to the same place, for some, travelling itself it the thing that they miss. By having something to work towards that you know will make you happy will provide you with a distraction and also motivation; two things that will really help you with dealing with Reverse Culture Shock.

If you are wanting to experience our life changing volunteering projects for yourself then just take a look at the Starfish Website and the Starfish – Volunteer Thailand Facebook page, there you will find everything you need!

After that you can always relive your Thailand experience or get excited about your impending one by following my own TwitterTumblr and Instagram pages.

Build. Protect.Teach. Care. – The Starfish Motto

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Wendys Top Ten Thai Dishes

After the last post about the amazing food you can get everyday here in Surin I was thinking about what the top ten dishes might be, so I posted up on my Facebook, Twitter and Instagram about what dishes people loved and needless to say I got more than 10 different dishes!!

Everyone knows what my favourite is but I know that other people like different things like the super spicy papaya salad or any of the fish dishes. So after looking at what everyone has told me and my own knowledge of Thai food I have finally put together this list of the Top Ten Thai Dishes, hopefully your favourite dish made the list!!

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10 – Khao Soi

This dish was suggested by our own member of staff Dan, who works on our Koh Samui, Teach and Beach Project. Khao Soi is a Burmese influenced dish that has two variations to it. The first is the Lao version which is a soup with noodles, pork, lots of veg, chilies and lime, the second is the Northern Thai version which is made with coconut milk, lots of lime, egg and noodles. Both are super tasty and can be made to the spice levels of your choosing.

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Always a hit with volunteers

9 – Kai Pad Med Ma Muang – Chicken with Cashew Nuts

Lots of volunteers eat this dish on a regular basis due to it not being hot. Newcomers to Thailand find that they can’t always deal with the level of heat found in Thai food so this is a great beginners meal that can have the spice level increased as you become more accustomed. The dish itself is made from stir fried chicken that is sweet and salty as is normally accompanied with mushrooms, carrot, soy sauce and a serving of rice; my tummy is already rumbling.

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A Thai staple

8 – Pak Boong – Morning Glory

No it isn’t what you first thought; cheeky!! Morning Glory is a green vegetable that is found and enjoyed throughout Thailand. It is normally cooked with lots of garlic, birds eye chili and oyster sauce. Now I can’t take any heat, at all, and I can manage to eat this; the chili adds a flavour not heat to this side dish.

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The famous Red Thai Curry

7 – Kaeng Matsaman – Massaman Curry

Massaman is a red Thai curry dish that is Muslim in its origin, this means that it is normally served with beef, duck or chicken, you can add pork to this dish but this is not what it was originally intended for as pork is not allowed to be consumed by Muslims. This curry dish is made with coconut milk, bay leaves, cinnamon and the massaman paste, it is normally accompanied by a serving of rice. If you are on the Elephant Project then Worn will cook you a beautiful chicken version of this at some point during your stay.

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Can you handle the heat?

6 – Som Tom – Papaya Salad

A dish that is originally from the North East of Thailand, Papaya Salad is not the feint hearted. It is the Thai version of Marmite, you either love it or you hate it. This is because of the incredible heat that the mountains of chilies used in this dish generate, it is also cooked with tomatoes, garlic and a little soy sauce. Believe me when I say that even Thai sweat when they eat this, I would recommend you try it if you think you can take the heat but make sure you have a bottle or seven of water on hand to try and cool your mouth down!!

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The authentic Thai flavour

5 – Tom Yum Goong – Spicy Shrimp Soup

This is one of the most popular dishes in Thailand as is available all over the world due to its distinctive aroma and taste. It is made from lemon grass, chili, lime, mushrooms and shrimp; it is spicy so just prepare yourself for that haha It is most commonly eaten with rice but can be made with noodles as well, it is a very famous Thai dish and something you have to try at least once. The flavour is quintessentially Thai and something that will always remind you of your time in the Land of Smiles.

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One of the most famous dishes to come from Thailand

4 – Pad Thai

Pad Thai is a Vietnamese in origin and was renamed Pad Thai when the 1930’s Thai Prime Minister,  Luang Phibunsongkhram, re branded it in order to promote Thai nationalism and centralization, it was also pushed as a meal in order to reduce the heavy reliance on rice; Thailand’s number one export. Pad Thai is one of Thailand’s oldest meals and is eaten by everyone, it is stir fried noodles, traditionally served with egg, fish sauce, bean sprouts, coriander and either chicken, shrimp or pork. It is found all over Thailand from the street vendors on Khao San Road to some of the most expensive restaurants in Bangkok.

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Omelette and rice, a traditional Thai meal

3 – Kai Geo – Omelette

Thai omelette is one of the most amazing things I have ever eaten, it is so far and beyond omelette in the Western world. I don’t know whether it is the inclusion of tomatoes, onion, garlic, coriander and whatever meat you want or if it is just some Thai magic, but Kai Geo has quickly become a staple of volunteers, who often eat it as a meal in itself. It is a great option for vegetarians as well as it contains lots of veg and spices but not always meat. I always get an omelette on top of rice dishes as I think it makes the dish more substantial and fills me up for the whole day.

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One my favourite Thai dishes

2 – Goi Djab

I have mentioned Goi Djab in previous posts and I always try to take each volunteer to try this amazing dish which is originally Chinese. It is a thick noodle soup dish with large flat noodles, lots of garlic, beansprouts, fish sauce, egg and normally eaten with chicken sausage and pork on the bone. It is also great if you add crushed up, dried, chicken skin; I know this sounds gross but trust me, it is really good! Goi Djab is known as the hardest noodle dish to cook, which is why not many street vendors cook it, restaurants will sometimes have it on their menu but not always, so when you find somewhere that offers it, you should definitely snap it up.

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One of the most simple but delicious Thai meals

1 – Khao Pad – Fried Rice

Now I know that fried rice isn’t the most imaginative choice for number one but after looking at what everyone on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram were saying it would seem that everyones favourite meal tended to have a base of fried rice, whether it be with shrimp, pork, chicken, beef or fish. This very simple and traditional Thai dish can be made into the King of all meals depending on what you put into it, you can add fruits, vegetables, meats and a whole array of spices and chilis and it will always fill your tummy and leave you feeling happy. As everyone knows, I eat Pineapple Rice everyday, it is beautiful and has such a wonderful blend of sweet pineapple with salty chicken and sour lime, you just can’t go wrong in my opinion.

But whatever your favourite Thai dish is, just make sure that you try lots of different dishes and open yourself up to things you might not normally try, you might be very surprised indeed 🙂

To get the oppertunity to try all of these beautiful dishes and more, then you need to get yourself over to Thailand! One of the best and most life changing ways of doing this is with volunteering, so take a second to check out the Starfish Website and the Starfish – Volunteer Thailand for what you can do, take a look at the Tumblr for a little inspiration.

And as usual, check out my TwitterTumblr and Instagram pages in order to see what I am up to, eating and all the adventures I seem to get myself into 😀

Build. Protect.Teach. Care. – The Starfish Motto

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