The situation was pretty serious as our placement was postponed until it was decided that it should be canceled for safety reasons. I was pretty devastated and disappointed that my dream was ruined. I'd already quit my corporate job, I didn’t have a place to stay anymore, and I was running out on my finances. But I didn’t gave up, no riot is going keep me away from “my journey”. So, the unexpected happened:
In April 2009, WWF International announced they'd found me a 3-month placement in Bangkok, Thailand working for the WWF Greater Mekong Programme, helping them convene a major regional workshop on climate change adaptation, to identify vulnerabilities and develop adaptation strategies for six of WWF's priority conservation sites across the Greater Mekong Landscape using a scenarios based approach. I have a background in Communications and Public Relations and I have a real passion for communication practices which is why I was appointed to help the WWF team there coordinate this event. After just 3 weeks I landed at Suvarnabhumi International Aiport in Bangkok with two pieces of luggage and an excitement that words can barely describe it.
So what did I learn there?This is not a very easy question, as it may seem at a first glance. Sometimes you have the feeling you know everything, while knowing nothing at the same time. Weird huh? First of all I learned that is very difficult living with yourself and by yourself. But if you manage to get along with you and make peace with yourself everything comes naturally afterwards. Living far away from home is not easy, far from friends, your family, your loved ones, basicly living far away from the person you knew were, it’s quite a shock when you realized it. Change is a stress factor that is not easily overcome, but in the same time it allows you to penetrate that dark haze that you didn’t allow to surface while living in “normal” conditions.
I learned that we are not that different as we THINK we are. We are all humans, living on the same planet. We are like a regular family, with different ways of seeing things, but under the same roof, we speak the same language, even though it’s Thai, English or Romanian. I learned that good things come to those who wait. Patience is one attribute that I didn’t quite master before I came to Thailand, I can’t say I’m very patient now, but I realized why it’s sometimes important to have it.
I learned that open dialogue and good will make things happen. It’s remarkable how an apparent bad situation can turn it’s way around once you are willing to accept the other’s point of view and seeing things from his/her perspective. I learned that things don’t happen overnight, over a week, a month or maybe a year, working in conservation and sustainable development. This is about strategic thinking and how you fit the whole puzzle.
I learned that you need to work hard and have determination in order to achieve good results and why not add a little more on the top of it.
I learned that bringing together six countries to the same table and agree on the same thing (conservation of a natural area of 600,000 km2) is an extremely difficult task, but not impossible. It takes time, diplomacy, willingness and persistence.
I learned that being open-minded, lowering your prejudices, being culturally sensitive and tolerant is the trigger for any social development. And finally I learned more about a beautiful country, with humble and very polite people, with astonishing landscapes and very tasty food. I really miss Tom Yam soup and that delicious fried rice with shrimps!
Open dialogue and good will make things happen.
After my assignment...
When you feel suffocated by a situation, by a person or by any circumstances, take a deep breath and do something that you really enjoy. For example, I remember one day in Bangkok when I just felt quite miserable and went out for a walk in beautiful park downtown and started doing some aerobics with the local people. Doing some exercise, listening to music outdoors, really lifted my spirit and recharged my batteries.
Try not to take it so seriously sometimes, and by this I don’t mean not taking your job seriously, but daunting situations that may occur. They came into your life, only to show you something about you. Try to examine them and make the most of it.
Experience as much as you can the local culture. Go out, make friends, eat local food, try not to be so fancy if they serve some dish you never heard of. Manage your time in order to see as many things as you want. Manage your finances. It’s pretty hard when you are on a low budget and have all these things you really want to do. In the end it’s all about setting priorities and to see what’s really important for you and your future.
In the end, but not the least, think of this experience as an investment for yourself. You might want to save the world, but the world starts with you.
Think of this experience as an investment for yourself. You might want to save the world, but the world starts with you.