ATMA SEVA – A look back

Despite my disbelief, I’m into my last week in Thailand and final week of my internship with ATMA SEVA. I’m not sure where the time went, but looking back at my photographs helps remind me of the some of the amazing things I saw and did over the past four months.

Jamie in CNX airport

Me arriving to Chiang Mai!

In my short time here, I’ve seen ATMA SEVA grow leaps and bounds. When I arrived, there were two interns on the scene. Over the next month or two, we had five new interns joining our family! I’ve seen several volunteers come and go, each bringing new perspective to our work. It’s a strange feeling to think that in a week, I’ll be another memory, still connected but from across the ocean.

Between the meetings and countless café work sessions, I also managed to have a lot of fun here. I spent two weeks in Cambodia and Vietnam, was able to visit the village of Pa Pae several times and even made it to a Thai National Park.

The best part, however, was the merging of work and pleasure. Most people go to work forty hours a week, working the standard 9-5 Monday through Friday. That schedule can wear on you after awhile. One of the pros and cons of work with a growing NGO is that the hours on the clock or days of the week on a calendar mean very little.  This means that sometimes you’ll end up spending a Saturday afternoon working to prepare for a new volunteer or out in a remote district helping move someone into their new home. This also means that sometimes you’ll find yourself enjoying a Thai massage on a Wednesday afternoon if things aren’t busy! It’s an ebb and flow type of job and once you learn to embrace the variability, it can be quite enjoyable- the lack of routine keeps things interesting! It also helps when your coworkers are fun-loving people who make even work meetings entertaining. We work hard, but we also have fun doing it. There’s none of that pressure that you find in many corporate world jobs back home.

There’s a lot that I’ll miss about Thailand. In no particular order, some of the things that I’ll miss most are:

The people – my fellow ATMA SEVA team, all the random friends I’ve picked up along the way, Kru Noom (the yoga teacher I’ve been taking classes with for the past two months) and the friendly owner of Mono Café next door!

Me, volunteers, and the ATMA SEVA team in a neighboring Karen village

Me, volunteers, and the ATMA SEVA team in a neighboring Karen village

The food – need I say more? Thai food is amazing and the fact that you can get a full, delicious, fresh meal for a mere dollar or two is a wonderful thing.

The pace of life – things move on “Thai time” here, which means they happen slowly, if at all. This has been a source of frustration at times, but I do enjoy the unhurried “no worries” attitude that permeates Thai life. Stressed out westerners could learn a thing or two on how to enjoy life over here.

How inexpensive things are – I doubt I’ll be able to ever find a taxi in the states that will take me to the other side of town for a dollar. Or enjoy an amazing plate of pad thai for the same price.

Tuk tuks – I don’t know what it is about those quirky little Mario Kart-esque taxis, but I have yet to find a vehicle that I enjoy traveling in more than a tuk tuk. Can’t find those in Connecticut!

Me with my students in the Lawa village.

Me with my students in the Lawa village.

Needless to say, it’s been a great four months and I’m going to miss Thailand a lot. I hope to come back to visit someday soon and look forward to watching ATMA SEVA continue to grow in the future!

Jamie Shannon