This will likely be the last time I write a blog in the United States of America until April of 2013. It will also likely be the last blog I’m able to write for at least a couple of weeks, possibly months.
Basic information: I’ve joined the Peace Corps and will be serving in Thailand from January 10, 2011 through March of 2013. My job title is a Community-Based Organizational Development Worker. I will be working with a community to help implement projects that affect the quality of life for various target groups. These groups range from youth and their families to women’s groups and small business groups. As of now, this is all I know of my future job.
I depart Saturday, January 8 for Philadelphia where I will receive one day of pre-service training at the Holiday Inn in downtown. The next morning at 4:30 a.m., I’ll be on a shuttle for JFK airport in New York. My flight leaves JFK at 12:45 p.m. for Tokyo. That flight is approximately 14 hours long. I’ll have a one-hour layover in Tokyo, then get on an eight-hour flight to Bangkok. I will be greeted at the Bangkok airport by the Peace Corps Thailand director and staff.
I’ll be staying at the River View Place Hotel in Ayutthaya (don’t worry, I can’t pronounce it, either) Province about 80 kilometers north of Bangkok for the first week. The first morning I’ll be receiving some vaccinations that will likely be following me through the week. I’ll also receive my new bike which is provided by the Peace Corps. This will be my main form of transportation over the next two years.
After the first week, I’ll move in with a host family near the town of Amphur Thai. This is the hub site for Peace Corps volunteers and trainees. I will likely not be in the town, but I will be within 18 kilometers of it as I will be meeting there once or twice a week with other volunteers. There will be between 10-15 volunteers in each village. There are a total of 69 of us going to Thailand. After the training period, I’ll likely be moved to a place of my own (if I survive the heat and language barrier).
For my 10 weeks of training, from what I understand, the mornings will be dedicated to language lessons and the afternoons are dedicated to technical training with my job. My job will be decided during training once the Peace Corps staff gets a good feel for my strengths and weaknesses.
I don’t know how often I’ll have internet access. I will be bringing my laptop, but I don’t know if I’ll have access in my home. At the very least, I should be able to get to an internet cafe now and then, but the training sounds pretty intense and I don’t know if I’ll have a lot of time to myself.
Part of my job requirement is to be able to bike 7-10 miles a day. This is a plus for me as I’m already a biker. Of course, I’ve never biked in business casual clothes in 90-degree heat with humidity.
How much Thai language do I know? Sa-wat-dii means “hello”. I’ve done some studying, but not a lot. I’m in the mindframe that I’ll likely learn more in two days in Thailand than I would listening to a CD in the states for three months.
The Peace Corps has encouraged me to relax and enjoy time with friends and family in the weeks before departure. I’m not too sure about the relax part, but I have been having more than a blast with family as well as friends, new and old.
As I write this, I am 48 hours away from orientation in Philadelphia and three days from a very, very, very long flight to Bangkok. Am I nervous? Yes and no. Yes because there’s so much unknown in my future. No because I know I’ll be well taken care of by the Peace Corps staff and everything I’ve heard about Thai people is that they’re very friendly. Thailand is known as the “land of smiles”. I know the next three months will be very difficult and I’m going to make a lot of mistakes. I also know there will be 68 other volunteers going through the same thing.
I’ve also found out in the last few months how many wonderful friends I have. If any of my friends reading this would like to write me an actual letter, it would be very welcome. In fact, I’m expecting a bit of loneliness, so a letter might just make my day. Here’s my address for now until March 23:
ATTN: PCV Jeff Jackson
242 Rajvithi Road
Dusit, Bangkok 10300
Letters will go to this address and then forwarded to me, wherever that might be. E-mails are also welcome and easier (firstname.lastname@example.org). I’m sure I’ll be jumping on Facebook when I can as well.
I have kept four books away from my eyes for the last few months in anticipation of bringing them with me to Thailand: I Married a Communist and American Pastoral by Philip Roth, Lie Down in Darkness by William Styron and A Widow For One Year by John Irving. My mom was also nice enough to get me a Kindle for Christmas, so I’ll be loading that up when I need to. Thailand does have Kindle connectivity. From what I’ve heard from the many returned volunteers I’ve talked to, once training is done, most volunteers have a lot of downtime.
There are so many other things I could include in this blog about what I’m expecting, but will likely be proved false once I finally immerse myself in Thai culture. I will update this blog whenever I get time.
Thanks to everyone who has supported my decision to join the Peace Corps. I am equally scared to death and excited to see what’s ahead. I can’t say I know what these two years will do to me. It’s sure to be the adventure of my life.