I’ve now been in Thailand for over two months. I’ve learned the language (rated around “intermediate” by the Peace Corps), the culture (watch where you point your feet), how to drink whiskey (with Pepsi), the best strategy to take a bus even though I can’t read Thai (tell the teller and every friendly face – most of them – around you where you’re going so when the bus arrives I have half a dozen people telling me I should get on it), and how to have the time of my life in Bangkok (no training necessary minus college). My training will come to a close next week after I’m officially sworn in as a Peace Corps volunteer a week from Monday. At the moment, I’m still just a trainee.
It’s really difficult to sum up the last two months in one moderately-sized blog, so I’ll throw a few tidbits back to the states (and Korea).
I am one of 66 individual Americans who have volunteered our time for Peace Corps Thailand group 123. It’s impressive how well that many personalities have worked together. Ages range from 21 to 70. There’s a big group of volunteers who have only been out of college for a short time, but there’s also a large group over the age of 45. There’s also a good number of people like myself who I call the “tweeners”, not fresh out of college and not as seasoned as the older group.
I have made some fantastic friends that will last for a long, long time (well beyond my two years in Thailand). The great thing about such a big group as well as the fact that there are dozens of volunteers from group 122 that I haven’t even met yet is that I know I’ll be making even more friends.
At the moment, I’m still living within biking distance of the 65 other volunteers, but two weeks from now we’ll be spread out among a country about the size of Texas. If a volunteer is within an eight-hour bus ride, they’re considered close.
I will be living in northeast Thailand in the province of Surin near the amphur (city) of Sangka. I’ll be within biking distance (20 kilometers) of Cambodia. I’m living in the tambon (cluster of villages) of Thepraksa. I’ve already met my counterpart, a 35-year old woman nicknamed Su who’s the leader of a community program. I visited my future home a few weeks ago and spoke with numerous people (in Thai) and made sure to write down as many names as possible. I’m glad they can’t read English in case they happened to see how I described them in my notebook: “Balding dude, guy with weird thing on forehead, pregnant lady … I think.”
I will be living with another host family for the first month in Sangka: an older couple about the same age as my parents who live alone. They were extremely welcoming and down-to-earth when I stayed with them. Bonus: the father watches Thai boxing on TV and smokes cigars.
Everyone’s job as a community based organizational developer (CBOD) is different. No one really knows what they’ll be doing until they get to their site. The same goes for me. All I can really say is I’ll be addressing the needs of the community and doing my best to help the sub-district administration office (SAO) with those needs. As of now, the only need I know of from my two days there is that they need someone to help teach the students English and I think I’d like to help out. This will not be the only thing I’ll be doing. The rest is up in the air.
Before all 66 of us went to visit our future sites, we spent a night in Bangkok (known as Grung-tep to the locals). I suspect the Peace Corps expected this to happen, but in my opinion, when you lock up 66 individuals in a small area of rural Thailand for six weeks of intense language and technical training and then let them loose for a night on the town of the world’s sin city, some crazy shit’s going to go down. Stories are still flying around about what went down that night (nothing illegal or against Peace Corps policy). Check my Facebook page for photos. I’ll just say I didn’t get much sleep that night and had to be up around 6 a.m.
Once again, I’ve began a blog and ran out of time. I can honestly say when I get to Surin, I will have more time to write blogs and e-mails. I’m hoping to do this weekly.
Until then … Sa-wat-dii!!!