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Day 1: Arrival   (published in Thailand)

January 31, 2018 by   Comments(4)


Before I got on the plane I was quite anxious, but the moment it took of I became relaxed. The first few hours flew away ;) but after that I couldn't really sleep anymore and got bored as a result, even with the fantastic entertainment. 

Singapore was massive, with carpeted floors and buses between terminals. I spent my time window shopping, exploring, eating, and taking it all in. 

The flight to Krabi was short, warm, and full of turbulence, only to arrive in a small airport and very warm weather. I quickly went through security, grabbed my bags, and met with Project Abroad personnel, there to take me to the resort.

After exchanging money and a 40 minute drive in the open back of a car we arrived and I was able to relax after unpacking, eating, and meeting the other volunteers

A very tired, but happy




Voordat ik het vliegtuig in kon was ik best nerveus, maar toen ik zat kon ik eigenlijk alleen maar relaxen.the eerste paar uur vlogen voorbij ;) maar daarna kon ik niet meer goed slapen en het zorgde ervoor dat ik me verveelde, zelfs met de geweldige entertainment.

Singapore was enorm, met bekleden vloeren n bussen die tussen de terminals rijden. Mijn tijd besteedde ik aan window shopping, ontdekken, eten en genieten van de beleving.

De vlucht naar Krabi was kort, warm en er was vooral veel turbulentie, waarna we aankwamen op een klein vliegveld waar het heel warm was. Ik ging snel door de douane en pakte mijn ruimbagage, toen liep ik naar buiten om het personeel van Projects Abroad te ontmoeten, dat er was om mij naar het resort te brengen.

Nadat ik mijn geld had omgeruild en 40 minuten achterin de open, maar bedekte achtebak had gezeten kwamen we aan en kon ik eindelijk rusten, maar wel pas nadat ik had uitgepakt, gegeten en de andere vrijwilligers had ontmoet.

Een hele vermoeide, maar blije


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Day 1: Arrival
Day 1: Arrival

Arrving in Vietnam   (published in Vietnam)

October 13, 2014 by   Comments(1)

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By Maria Thaller, UK - physiotherapy volunteer

I stumbled exhausted off the plane to be greeted by a friendly face with a Projects Abroad t-shirt. Taking in my surroundings, everything seemed just so foreign; from the terrifying traffic to the incomprehensible language, the distinct aromas and the fact that I was so sweaty that it felt like I had been working out! It was, therefore, nice to know that I was safe and that my driver knew where he was going.

On arrival at my homestay, fortunately one of the daughters spoke English and the family prepared a special first meal for me. I was keen to make a good impression and not to offend, but this was made difficult by having been unwell on the journey, being concerned about what was safe to eat and not being able to use chopsticks. I think that this was when my host mother decided that I needed feeding up! I felt spoilt when I arrived, having my own room, a Western-style toilet and life-saving air-conditioning. I soon settled in very quickly and I think that it helped that I just threw myself into the Vietnamese culture and lived as my homestay family did.

I was welcomed into my neighbourhood by being invited to a party and drinking rice wine for breakfast with some elders. Being the first Westerner in my area, people were not shy about staring at my beautiful white skin and laughing at how big my nose is (normal by Western standards if I may add).  Visiting my host family’s hometown, I was made to feel as one of the family in their homely and love-filled typical Vietnamese abode.

I was terrified when taking my first motorbike taxi along Hanoi’s roads. I had my eyes shut tight and was holding onto my driver for dear life. I found out later that only boyfriends and girlfriends hold onto each other so this explains why the driver was so happy!

Six weeks later               

It is a funny feeling as it seems I have been here ages because I feel at home, and yet my time is just flying by! Despite questioning myself when I initially arrived as to why I had signed up for so long, I can now not imagine leaving. My chopstick skills have improved drastically (a local even commended me on them!) and I am confident sitting on the motorbike. I feel like I have gained two sisters at my homestay and, despite struggling with the language, I am able to communicate with the locals. Vietnam is etching a place in my heart and I feel like I now have a Vietnamese family. I’m just living in the moment as I do not want to think about having to say goodbye.


Maria’s arrival advice:

  • I live by this saying: ‘Have no expectations and you will never be disappointed’. Just remember you are on an adventure so treat it as such.
  • We are in a different and developing country so, of course, things are going to be different – enjoy these unique qualities and immerse yourself in the culture.
  • I would recommend not getting in touch with home too often as this is likely to make anyone’s homesickness worse. (Obviously, let your family know that you’ve arrived safely though!)
  • Plan your time in Vietnam to make the most of everything – it flies by! Planning weekends away will also give you something to look forward to.
  • Try and learn some basic Vietnamese (greetings, apologies and numbers are the key)
  • It can feel lonely sometimes being in a host family away from other volunteers but this gave me a much more rustic Vietnamese experience and I would do it again. It would be good to see if you can visit the volunteer accommodation when you arrive, to meet other volunteers and find travel buddies.
  • Download a translator app on your phone. It’s not always right but can be very useful!
  • Have an amazing time! ☺
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Arrving in Vietnam
Arrving in Vietnam

Dag 1: de aankomst   (published in Ghana)

May 27, 2014 by   Comments(0)


Alleen deze eerste dag was al onvergetelijk. Overdag was het natuurlijk spannend op Schiphol, door alle poortjes door, maar eenmaal in het vliegtuig was alles rustig. Tijd om weer even op adem te komen. Dat zou achteraf bijzonder nuttig blijken. Na een heerlijke KLM-maaltijd verdween de zon vrij plotseling en glee dons vliegtuig rustig door de duisternis. Om 8:05 PM, precies volgens schema, kwamen we aan. Hier nam ik direct (en behoorlijk ruw) afscheid van het Nederlandse tijdsgevoel. Na eerst een hele poos bij de Immigration Checks, de bagageband en de douane te hebben gestaan (gelukkig waren er ook wat Britten), kwam ik in de Arrival Hall, waar ik op z’n Afrikaans heb leren wachten. Hier kon ik direct even bijkomen, want vlak daarvoor heb ik mij voor het eerst in mijn leven schuldig gemaakt aan corruptiepraktijken. Het strak geuniformeerde douanepersoneel liet mij pas door na een paar dollar in de handen gedrukt te hebben gekregen. Daarna vond ik Nyame in de aankomsthal. Hij was ontzettend vrolijk en vriendelijk, maar ook direct weer verdwenen. Meer dan anderhalf uur heb ik daar (nog steeds bijna 30 graden) in die hal gezeten met een andere vrijwilligster. Heel raar om zo allemaal mensen te ontmoeten die je nooit van je leven meer ziet. Tegen kwart voor elf loodste een taxi ons door nachtelijk Accra naar onze hotels. Mijn hotel was er eentje waar ik weinig van heb meegekregen. De taxi chauffeur (een ‘charlie’) zei me dat ik om 6:00 AM moest klaarstaan de volgende dag en reed toen door. Na een formulier ingevuld te hebben bij de balie (met bureaucratie krijg je de dagen wel gevuld) liep ik naar mijn kamer. Nouja, ‘mijn’ kamer, ik moest hem delen met vier anderen. Eentje sliep er al, die heb ik uberhaupt nooit wakker gezien, eentje (een Italiaan) was in een keer verschenen terwijl ik op de douche was (ja die was er!) en een andere (Afrikaan) kwam binnen terwijl ik half lag te slapen. Een bijzondere dag kwam ten einde. De eerste indrukken waren prachtig. En best wat beangstigend, gezien de rijstijl van onze chauffeur. Dit was echter nog niks vergeleken met wat ik bij daglicht zou gaan meemaken de volgende dag...

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Dag 1: de aankomst
Dag 1: de aankomst

Day #0   (published in Nepal)

March 14, 2013 by   Comments(0)

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So, I leave (tonight/tomorrow 2am) for my 10 week placement in Kathmandu! I've finally finished packing and I'm both excited and nervous... this is the longest I have ever been away from home and from my family, and despite all the research I've done I know that there is a lot I still don't know about Nepal and I will be faced with many challenges over the next couple of months. Nevertheless I am very much looking forward to arriving tomorrow. Will update soon!

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Day #0
Day #0

Well I've landed…Amen to that!   (published in China)

February 25, 2013 by   Comments(0)

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After an 11 hour+ flight Shanghai is where I'm at for the next month or so, living in a semi-plush apartment on the 7th floor of a 25ft storey block, the organisation wanted me to "live as the locals do" which is why I didn't get dropped to 'People's Square' (equivalent to Leicester Square) and check into a 5* hotel once I landed. 

 Arriving at such an easy time of day; 2pm, meant only one thing- seen as I was jet lagged- chill -out, rest and prepare for my first day of work at Time Out Shanghai. However, this was not on the itinerary nor was it going to happen any time soon. My organisation rep Danny literally dropped my bags off at my apartment then we were both out the door for a tour of the neighbourhood, local shops, restaurants, banks, metro station etc. It was an overwhelming sight seeing nothing but Chinese people out on the streets of Pudong. Very rarely do I go to China town in London but if you can just imagine Wardour Street W1, during let's say Chinese New Year - which was only a week or so ago, packed with thousands of young & old, couples & singles happy, loud, throat-clearing Chinese people- I hope you're able to visualise my description of my local area out here in Shanghai!  

Despite the London-like weather Shanghai has been AMAZZINNN already, I'm loving the stare's, the even longer stare's, the peeping, and most important of them all- the camera phones held upright in my direction turn't on silent to avoid me knowing that my picture is being taken! Love it…

 Follow me @misshanl

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Well I've landed…Amen to that!
Well I've landed…Amen to that!

Breakfast in UB   (published in Mongolia)

May 23, 2012 by   Comments(1)


I made it to Ulaan Baatar just fine...if not a little late. Fortunately, I very little jet lag as I arrived in the evening, so I was just able to go to bed and adjust for the time difference. It was hard to sleep on some of my flight...especially the last one as there was a rather verbose Japanese woman sitting next to me who was eager to talk about her vacation to Mongolia. I watched my first Korean drama on the plane...and I can't say that I quite get them.

I've met with my host family and had breakfast with them (bread with eggs, and some kind of bean-paste,I think), now I am receiving a tour of the city and the Projects Abroad office. The weather here is a little colder than home, but it's less humid, so I can really appreciate that.

My host family only speaks a little bit of English (yes, no, thank you and coffee, so far [versus my Mongolian prowess "How are you?" "Fine" "Bye!"] but we make it work out alright. Worse comes to worse, my host mother has called her sister who speaks English.

My first impressions while being here this morning is that Mongolians more or less do what they want. Very nice people, but traffic here is crazy (crazier than China, I'll bet...literally, no rules), and everyone bumps into each other constantly. I'm really glad to be out here, but still can't believe that I am. I can't wait to learn more of the language...I can read a little bit, mostly just sounding out the words in my head, but the pronouciation is quite tricky...a lot of the language uses really soft, subtle sounds that contrast with harsh consonants. I do have to say though, it's cool the literal translation of "hotel" in Mongolian is "Visitor's Dismounting Place."

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Breakfast in UB
Breakfast in UB

Getting to Bolivia Nightmare Edition

January 9, 2012 by   Comments(1)

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Well,  as of today I'm safe and sound in Cochabamba. While I would love to talk about the city, I think there's a lot more interesting story in actually getting there. Trust me, future volunteers, you're in for one hell of a ride.

Things started out smoothly as I woke up on the 7th of January. It was a day like any other, I ate breakfast, played a bit on the Xbox, and just regular guy stuff. Until it became noon, and we were ready to go to Schiphol because it was time to go. The ride there was uneventful, I was saying goodbye to the billboards and cows who won't grace my vision until May. When I arrived, I checked myself in, had the standard emotional moment with my family (and even some friends who decided to come), and that would be the last I would ever see them

Afterwards, I went to the plane on my way to Madrid. I had prepared myself by buying a few magazines. When I arrived in Madrid, something really astonished me, IT WAS VERY EMPTHY. I had to walk about 5 minutes to get to my luggage, and during that time I saw very few people. While it is pretty, its emptiness unnerved me, and that continued when I didn't find Santa Cruz on the departure list. About to shit myself out of terror, I asked why it wasn't there and it turned out I needed to go to a different Terminal. So I took the bus and went to Terminal 1...

Which turned out to be a nightmare, it was crowded, not very clean, and also unnecessarily long. When it was my turn to leave my luggage, I was worried that my suitcase full of stuff wouldn't go to Cochabamba, despite the lady at the desk saying everything would be fine.

After some waiting, it was time to board the plane that would take me to Bolivia. Unlike the first plane, which was pretty empthy, this one was as full as can be. I sat right between 2 Bolivians who could only speak Spanish, and as expected, I didn't understand a goddamn thing. There was a TV screen which didn't work so I was once again stuck with my magazines, that and my 3DS, IPhone, and sleep. After getting bored, I decided to sleep, which took a while because I drank 2 glasses of Cola. Afterwards, I had arrived in Santa Cruz, and was ready for the final test.

After a ridiculously long wait full of crying children and my annoyed feet, I was checked in for the next flight, but had to wait for another 3-4 hours of so till I could board the plane. In that time, I mainly chatted with my parents via Skype. Not much changed in the 20 hours I was gone apperantly. It was nice speaking to them, and hopefully it'll happen more often.

FINALLY, we come to the final flight, the one that will take me to Cochabamba, it was a old, tiny plane that felt like it could fall apart at any minute. Luckily, it survived the 45 minute onslaught and I entered safe and sound in Cochabamba.


Despite my worries, my bag and I were reunited. It came out safe and sound and nothing seemed to have been stolen (thank you Sealing company which I'm unable to name). After about 10 minutes, I found the person who would bring me to my host family.

And that was my trip from Amsterdam to Cochabamba. It was rough, but it'll get worse, my trip to Mexico will most likely be even more hellish. Well, still have 3 months of preparation 

Next time, I'll actually talk about Cochabamba, I'll promise that

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Getting to Bolivia Nightmare Edition
Getting to Bolivia Nightmare Edition

Akwaaba - Welcome to Ghana!   (published in Ghana)

August 19, 2011 by   Comments(0)

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So here we are! Ghana... the gateway to Africa! I know this is a bit late on in the week for my first blog but I've been busy working half days and enjoying the rest of my time!


So where to start...


14th August - Travel Day:


As I was busy filling with apprehension and excitement, Dad asked me for the twentieth time that morning if I'd got my passport... Mum then asked me another twenty times... and Nan too just for good measure! Overall, however, it was a fairly uneventful trip… the plane took off at 2.40pm and landed at 9pm GMT. Ghana is one hour behind so it was 8, which gave me more than enough time to collect my bags and get to my host family’s house.


The flight itself consisted of chicken paella, a chicken sandwich and a broken television screen; therefore, after I’d been moved, “The Adjustment Bureau” was added to this otherwise plain-looking list. As always, the experience reminded me of the airport-themed Lee Evans jokes my sister and I laugh about every holiday, particularly:


“Stewardess, my kidneys have gone down that hole…that’s not right… that’s not natural… my spleen’s in there… wait a moment… I’ll put it in my pocket for later.”

And: “Oh I see you’ve got a lot of luggage there… GATE 95!”


Upon arriving at Accra airport the first sight I was greeted with was a baby literally hanging off of a woman’s back supported solely by a stretchy boob-tube-esque wrap. As the baby continued to swing from side-to-side I continued through to the exit, via customs and baggage reclaim etc. It was at this point at which I was greeted by a giant amongst men; this six-foot-something security guard had purposefully moved from his post so that he could come over to me to personally welcome me to Ghana whilst clasping my hand in a sandwich of a handshake.


At the front of the airport I met Nyame, a Projects Abroad representative, who couldn’t have been happier to be meeting us. From his welcome speech he recommended that we “stay in Ghana forever… just don’t go breaking your mother’s heart!”. He then assigned us traditional Ghanaian names based on the day of the week on which we were born; I’m Saturday born and therefore Kwame!


The taxi ride was hair-raising to say the least! There were no working seat belts, the driver had a propensity to overtake against oncoming traffic, there was LOTS of swerving and to top it off the car’s speedometer vibrated over a range of 20kmph when going at any steady rate! We briefly stopped at the Projects Abroad HQ to drop off a volunteer before continuing to the Teshie-Nungua region and to Mrs. Afrifa’s house.


The house was lovely! However, tiredness has set in so after meeting my roommates Reid (17, Canada) and Ed (19, Newcastle) as well as Kofi and Kojo, two of Mrs Afrifa’s relatives, I hit the hay (a top bunk, leaving the bottom for storage of my things) but was greeted with little sleep given the heat! But I was there and that was all that mattered!


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Akwaaba - Welcome to Ghana!
Akwaaba - Welcome to Ghana!