Monica in Thailand

It’s funny - in an absurd, interesting way - where I’ll be going to placement is such a mix of the familiar and unknown.

Hi - I’m Monica, and starting August I will be going to Thailand to work as a Monitoring and Evaluation Intern at RECOFTC, the Centre for People and Forests. I am beyond excited to be working there for 11 months, whilst doing primary research on community forestry, land rights and the compatibility of poverty reduction and environmental concerns. RECOFTC works closely with forestry resource management under the mission of fairer benefits, stronger rights and more inclusive governance.

Personally, I spent a good part of my life growing up in Asia, but I’ve never been to Southeast Asia! And now for the possibly confusing part - I was born in Taiwan and spent some years in elementary, middle and high school there; now, I’m going to Thailand for placement. I’m pretty sure people have erroneously believed I was from Thailand for many years, mistaking my island country (south of Japan and East of China) for the country of Thailand (South of China, situated between Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia).

In determining placement, I was actually shy of accepting this placement for many reasons. It was always my top choice, but I had different concerns and priorities, and also hesitated for the seeming familiarity of Thailand. I wanted to venture to entire continents I’d never step foot in, such as Africa and South America. I desired to learn from a culture and history situated in places unknown beyond the textbook to me. But ultimately, I chose to go to Thailand because of my captivation by the job and organization. The organization of RECOFTC looked unbelievably fitting in its mission and my position. I don’t think I could fully describe my excitement for this position - it is a job that fits like a glove in ideology and practices.

In the end, what will be “different” and mind broadening for me is, I think, beyond what I can grasp. Perhaps no matter where I go, it will be a somewhat similar pattern. On one hand, the different language, style of greeting, traditions (of holidays, dress), etiquette, and so on will certainly be an interesting slap to comforts of the familiar Canadian and East Asian scene. I will learn to allow space for culture shock, from a society assuredly distinct from anything I’ve grown up in before. But on the other hand, the people, the relationships, and the desires overlap; regardless of where we go, people are the same. We yearn for purpose, love, and significance in knotted combination. I believe connecting with that will be the most interesting part of placement, and seeing how justice, rights and humanity fits into all of that to create work that is conclusively “meaningful”.

I hope I can enter in with a spirit of quiet observance, thoughtful contribution, and flexible adaptability to hereafter make a wonderful experience for those who are now strangers, but will soon be my placement coworkers, my research partners and participants, and trusted friends.