Hi, I’m Dorian from Romania and I’m a 25 year old curious and restless Sagittarius and this is my story. I have always been fascinated by far-away, exotic places and always dreamt of emerging myself in a totally different culture from the one I have been raised in. My adventure began in June 2008, when browsing the internet looking for a way out, I stumbled upon WWF and it’s Youth Volunteer Programme. Everything started as a game for me, because I really couldn’t believe that I would actually be a part of it, but I thought to myself: What the heck? I’d rather try it than regret it later for not doing so. So the journey began: online tests, phone interviews and suddenly I was one of the six “planeteers” working on the shores of the Mozambique Channel in Madagascar. I really didn’t have the time to digest the news, that I had to make all these arrangements: plane tickets, insurances, clothing, medicine, mosquito nets, diving suits and all the necessary items for a 3 month placement in a tropical-arid area. But as it happens in life, you don’t always get what you want, you always get what is suitable for you and I was about to understand that when a social riot began at the end of January in Madagascar.
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!