Sunday, January 30, 2011


We took a different bike route with less traffic today, bumpy and dusty, but more direct and safer. I now wear a mask to minimize the dust. We were expecting to be on our own, but still had escorts, very sweet for our families to be concerned. My family actually ate dinner with me tonight, something I had been unsuccessful accomplishing previously. I felt bad, because we ate at the table for my benefit and they usually eat on the floor. Heart, the little boy, left the table pretty quickly and sat in front of the TV to finish dinner.
My job description is CBOD (Community Based Organizational Development). It is starting to make sense as we are looking at tools and hearing about past projects. CBODs job is to integrate into a community and help them assess issues, look at options to address those issues, and develop and implement a plan. The Thai government’s focus is local sustainability so there is a lot of local leadership surveying the village population and developing action plans to increase local economic viability. The 2008 economic crash we are all too familiar with hit Thailand very hard. The local emphasis is one tool to combat those types of global issues. It would be like a CA city experiencing budget cuts would engage the local population to start providing some services government could no longer afford. Very communal and very Thai. Our PC group is # 123, the next group will be the last with our job descriptions (the other being TCCO – the teacher training project). No one seems to know the future direction of PC Thailand

Friday, January 28, 2011


First day riding to the hub which is the main area we gather. It is at a school. It wasn’t too long (maybe 5 – 7 miles, but the traffic is worrisome and it is dusty and smoggy.  I have a constant sore throat.  We compared notes on home stay. PCTs have very diverse housing from pretty western (including internet and hot water) to more traditional Thai (squat toilets, bucket showers, Thai eating etiquette). All the PCTs are asked what Americans would consider personal questions, the most common is age. Thai society is very communal and hierarchical. Age and social standing are the 2 primary factors. How you wai (bow), the order in which you eat, your household chores, eye contact are all determined by where you land on the Thai continuum.

Photos: My house, my laundry hanging across the street from my house, the river across the street where my family catches fish everyday, the water station, public meeting spot and rice mill next door. A start!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Lots of activity at my house. The mother, Khan Si Sue Knee (spelling my interpretation), seems to be at the center of everything. I meet many people, continuing English – Thai lessons for all. For the first time tonight she let me help in the kitchen, an indoor/outdoor concoction, stir frying beef, pork and veggies. I am eating everything and am not always sure what it is but it is always delicious. They catch the fish in the canal across the street with nets and grow a lot of what they eat and sell. They also have 2 large plastic fish tubs to grow their own. No knives at the table. A spoon goes in the right hand and a fork in the left to scoop the food onto the spoon. Vendors on bikes and motorcycles are always stopping with food and household items for sale. I gave my family a book on California and we looked at the pictures together. I do miss my beautiful state and everyone I love in it! Spf-50

I apologize for no photos...working on it!

First Impressions – Week 1

The Bangkok airport is only about 5 years old and very modern. We were greeted by the PC staff and given beautiful leis. I checked my emotions as I did not want to be overly emotional which is about how I was feeling. Thai’s do not show their emotions.  My adrenalin was pumping, I think from excitement and anxiety.  I was surprised as we stepped outside to a pleasant breeze. It was about 70 degrees and felt wonderful – it is winter. The province we are in has a big city with lots of traffic. I am glad PCTs do not drive! The air quality is pretty poor with a smoggy haze. I imagine the rainy season will help in about 8 weeks. The rural areas have very diverse housing from older more traditional to new and very modern and many beautiful Wats, Thai temples. Wats are an active part of the community. Bike riding is fun but challenging, giving the opportunity to explore off the highways. People are friendly and mostly laugh at my Thai. They are very curious where we are from.
PC training is very intense and the Thai and American teachers excellent. The pace is a killer with no time to incorporate new learning before the next topic starts or study on our own.  I think too much is expected too quickly.  I am impressed with the trainees also. There is no stereotypical Peace Corps Trainee (PCT). The commonality seems to be a sense of adventure, commitment to international service and the feeling that something was missing in their life back home. Many have already traveled extensively. Other than that, there is a wide variety of ages, races, personalities and abilities. It is a great group I am happy to be a part.

Home Visit


Started the day with language class and then Cross Cultural training. We rotated through 4 stations covering living in a Thai home: laundry, eating, bathroom, and bed time. One more language class and our host families arrived! I was excited and very nervous. My family consists of a grandmother and grandfather and grandson, Khun Si Sue Knee, Sa Kon, and Heart – spelling mine. She called me her little sister because I am older! I was introduced to many of her neighbors who all wanted an English lesson so I taught them English and they taught me Thai.
My home has a restaurant in the front. They have electricity and more TVs than I have in my home in the States. They have a kitty that the street dogs constantly harass. They have 2 pigs and a guinea pig also. The home is a combination of Thai and western ways, so the training today did not totally apply, for instance they have a western toilet and a spray shower. I will not miss living with a squat toilet or bucket showers and I am getting used to cold showers (sort of).  Dogs are everywhere. At night it is constant barking and growling. They seem to rule the night.
I think my dismal Thai frustrates my host and she is not sure what to do with me! Me neither! 

Friday, January 14, 2011

End of the First Week

The furious pace continues. Yesterday we learned bike maintenance and got to ride through some very interesting and beautiful country. We rode through rice paddies, by a Wat (a Thai temple), and through diverse housing from very nice to slum conditions. Rivers and canals everywhere with people fishing. One woman in a dug out canoe was picking Buddha lotus for her spirit house. After biking (the biking was fun and so interesting but the maintenance was very hard). we returned to the hotel to figure out cell phones, a confusing process, have a health interview, and get our photo taken.

Today we met the governor, had our biking core competency test (most everyone passed), our first official language lesson, a cross cultural lesson, and 2 vaccinations. Biking safety is a big emphasis as we all will be riding bikes everywhere we go. Traffic in Thailand is a bit chaotic and the rule seems to be the biggest wins, which means the bike always looses. It is the biggest cause of injuries to PCVs. Not wearing your helmet will get you sent back to the states. The language lesson was hard but so interesting. The philosophy is to learn in context, not through translation. Lots of props and repetition.

Dr. Williams informed us about the 20/20 show airing tonight. I haven't seen it, but it apparently has a very negative bias against PC. If you would like to hear PC's response, check out the website, I think when you join the PC you put yourself out there in a developing country and that there are risks. I also believe that PC has a strong emphasis in the safety and security of their volunteers. Because we are working in diverse locations at a grassroots level, the training focus is on how we can best do our job and be safe by taking personal responsibility. There is also a plan for emergencies. Risks are everywhere and Thailand is a very safe place to volunteer.

Tomorrow we move in with our host families for 8 weeks as training continues. I will most likely loose Internet.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Staging and First Day

Staging took place in Philly last Saturday. It was amazing. Kate, our leader, was a master at creating a community from 66 diverse individuals from around the country, representing many ethnicities and ages. We examined our commitment to PC and got to know each other through skits and working together on our thoughts for this new adventure that found us all the sudden friends about to embark on a journey of 27 months.

We didn't arrive in Thailand until Wednesday. Flight delays resulted in 12 hours at JFK in NY, an unexpected overnight in Japan (which was a bit of a blessing - for sleep and a very small Japanese experience). We arrived at midnight, took a bus for an hour and settled in about 3:30 in the morning. Training started 8 a.m. the next morning in a bit of a lack of sleep induced haze. It was a very productive day. PC Country Director and his staff filled the time with information about PC in Thailand, our core competencies we need to master to be sworn in, banking, phones, safety and security, health (including a rabies vaccine), and biking. A bit of overload in the morning, but biking and a fun language lesson revived the group. Ended the day with a lovely Bai Sri ceremony and a welcome dinner complete with karioke!

Photos soon!

Friday, January 7, 2011

She's Off!

In Philly with my new Peace Corps buddy Pat. We stage tomorrow and meet all 68 trainees leaving for Thailand this weekend. The journey has started, although a bit convoluted. From Philly we take a bus to New York at 4:30 a.m. Sunday morning, board the plane at 12:30 in the afternoon, fly to Tokyo, and then to Thailand and arrive midnight Monday night. We take a bus for an hour north of Bangkok, settle into a hotel and start training Tuesday morning at 8! We're in the army now....

Training will be an intense 10 weeks and blogging may be infrequent, but will keep you posted. Feeling pretty good about this with a mix of excitement, anxiety, and a bit homesick...