Thais love their conferences and team-building exercises. For a socially anxious Laotian gal who speaks somewhat passable Thai, each of the numerous conferences I attended while interning for RakDek/TLSDF was both exhausting and nerve-racking.
Let it be known that I don’t particularly like ice breakers and introduction exercises here in the States either. I have been close to having nervous breakdowns on the first day of class more than once. It’s supposed to get better the more times you do it, but having been in school most of my life and even now teaching college, I will politely beg to differ.
And if you thought team-building exercises were rough to begin with, try making up and singing songs in a non-native language. Or describing where you live with limited descriptive vocabulary. It’s the type of thing that quickly reduces you to a blubbering, childlike idiot.
I was temporarily distracted from my anxiety only by the fantastic settings and tea breaks. I think the only thing Thais love more than ice breakers are tiny morsels served with coffee. There were at least 3 such breaks before and after lunch.
Once I accepted my fate (even though I was never totally comfortable), I began to appreciate the benefits of these exercises.
Among the attendees were community health workers, community leaders, and individuals living with HIV/AIDS. When dealing with a highly stigmatized disease such as HIV, the importance of social acceptance and understanding cannot be emphasized enough. The TLSDF staff created fun and comfortable environments that allowed the sharing of ideas, all of which contributed to improving the lives of the target population.
Knowing the significance of these meetings, I choked down my fears and sang ridiculous songs at the top of my lungs (using words I could barely pronounce), danced around in circles, drew stick figures on a brainstorming board, and looked like a complete fool.
I had the time of my life.