My name is Adla Sieno, I am a 20 year-old AFS volunteer from Germany, whose passion is to get to know new cultures and a different point of view of the world. To satisfy my curiosity and need to know about cultural understanding, I decided to apply myself as an AFS participant to Malaysia. I already knew that Malaysia is a multi-cultural country, with the unity of races – Malays, Chinese and Indians. So during my stay , I had the opportunity to get to know three different cultures at the same time. I am staying in an Indian children’s home, which is located in Taiping, Perak.
Together with Sarah, another volunteer from Germany, we are involved in tuition classes as well as in office work. However, regarding the children, I think we are more like big sisters, who try to help whenever we can. It was a completely new experience for me to be surrounded by 40 children, different in age, attitude and background. At the same time we had to get used to the Indian culture, which is totally unlike German culture. So I had to keep justifying to myself that how I see certain things through my cultural eyes must be tempered by the new cultural milieu I was in now. This is sometimes very challenging because you have to revise your action or the way you are communicating, so that the person you are talking to, is not judging you.
Though it was not very easy for me at the beginning, yet after completing the year, I see the Indian culture as a part of me which is mixed with my western point of cultural understanding. I am really grateful to be able to get to know the Indian culture because otherwise I would not experience its big festivals like Deepavali, Ponggal or Thaipusam. In fact Thaipusam was one of my favorite moments during my year in Malaysia. The pulsating atmosphere and the colour and passion of the devotees as they fulfilled their vows will always stay with me.
All in all Malaysia is a place for people who want to get to know foreign cultures with all its celebrations and traditions. If you want to get to know them, you have to immerse yourself in the culture and experience it yourself.
This article was originally published in Budaya Beat E-magazine.