My plan was to reflect at 6 months, a milestone of sorts, a quarter of the way through, but I was busy and in the states, so we have 1 year in country. This actually gives me 15 months until close of service (cos). Seems incredibly fast when I think in terms of months, but frequently seems incredibly slow day to day.
So why did I come? Why do I stay? What am I learning? Am I finding what I was looking for? Just what is my current reality? Hmmmm…
A rut! That is why I came. I was in a big one and needed something radically different to shake things up a bit. I was also probably still depressed from losing Dougie which exasperated my rut and gave me the feeling of no way out. With Thom graduating, it seemed like the ideal time to make a change, get out of my dole drums and maybe have a bit of a challenge and an adventure. Hence the Peace Corps.
I stay because I made a commitment to myself, to the Peace Corps, and to my village. To myself that I could really do this and that I follow through with what I start; to the PC, well because it costs money to send us volunteers out hither and yon and I think (at least in Thailand) the staff works diligently to support our work; and to my village which was fine when I got here and will be fine when I leave, but I can’t imagine how I would leave early and they would not take personal offense and I do feel that I have a job to do and if I leave early it would be derailed. The Thai people I work and live with are incredibly supportive and helpful, although not always easy to live with. You could call PC Thailand my Brick Wall (reference to The Last Lecture) – put up not to keep me out, but to give me the chance to show how badly I want something…which I suppose is to find value and meaning for myself.
A year is a long time and stuff happens, I missed a lot. My Dad dying under any circumstances was such a hard thing to accept. He was so healthy with big plans. Coming back after that was a tough decision. Knowing my mom would be OK and that she had lots of support allowed me to return. Tiney’s wedding was another. I made the wedding, but missed the showers and the reception and well just being there for planning. She of course did a great job; she could be a wedding planner, just a personal miss. And most recently losing Kabi Jo. She came into our family at just the time we needed her and helped my mom when dad died. She was such a loyal companion. Minnie was still dealing with breast cancer when I left and I was sorry to miss supporting her in any way she needed it. I felt that she too, had our great family surrounding her with love and care.
What have I learned, am I learning? I have learned to appreciate what I have, big time!! Nothing like losing that day to day life to realize how great it is (was). I know, you may be thinking, she had to travel half way around the world to learn that? Yes I did. I miss my family and my friends more that I could have imagined. Every night, I think about that and every morning first thing I think about who I am missing. Thank goodness for the internet – without Skype and email and facebook this gig would be so much more difficult. Even 5 years ago it would have been so much more challenging. I have also learned I can live with less, I don’t necessarily want to give up my lifestyle, but I know I can live more simply and be happy and fulfilled (kind of). Although all bets off when I go on vacation! I have learned I can in fact learn new things, although not necessarily the language (one of the most difficult parts of my service). I never expected to open a library or teach English to kindergarteners or adults – I did know I could tell a story! I have learned to appreciate a different culture and how difficult it is to live in one that is so very different than mine. I am learning not to be so quick to judge (though this is really hard sometimes, I mean really Thailand, is that phone call so very important you have to answer AND talk in the middle of a big meeting – while you are leading the meeting!)
The part of service that really keeps me going is my friends I serve with and the connection with home. PCV Thailand -what a great group of people. As long as I occasionally get to visit and play with them I can do this. Long emails with details, cards, packages go along way. Visits home have also helped as has the anticipation of visits from family and friends from home and yes this is all a shameless plug!
I have also learned:
That you may move to another country, but really you take all your shortcomings with you. I still have no patience, am in too big a hurry, and can’t sit still. Dougie called it futzing – can’t you just sit still and do nothing – NO!
That in Thailand, every single individual piece of See’s Candy is amazing!
That living in another culture is really, really hard – whether or not you have electricity – that is not the issue. The issue is every day having to deal with things that you should just know and don’t. Is the water off because it is off today, or did the cows break the line (either just as likely)? Will my shower be hot, warm, or cold today (or will I have a shower?)? What is my neighbor so excited about? Should I know what they are talking about over the loud speakers this morning? Is that ant eggs in my omelet? Does that bug bite?
And…When am I happy?
Skyping/talking with someone from home or a fellow PCV.
Reading an email from same.
Getting cards or packages (another plug!).
When I’m busy.
When I feel useful and/or successful.
When I’m on vacation!
When I can have a glass of wine!
When I anticipate a visit (now!).
What have I accomplished?
46 flannel board stories and poems
2 ½ scarves knitted and ½ a hat
23 lessons to kindergarten
19 lessons to adults at the office
65 new PCV friends
Learned a little bit of Thai
Opened a LIBRARY!
Learned to ride a bike hands free
Taught 6 friends to knit
Learned how to make wedding pillows for a Thai Water Ceremony
Lost 20 pounds
Found my place in a Thai village
Another year, more adventures, thanks for following. My blog is like my journal…a bit of a release!
(Sorry this is so long!)