Since joining Peace Corps, I’ve slept with a number of men. As volunteers, we’re all on a budget and we tend to stretch it as far as possible. When staying in a guesthouse or hotel for a weekend get-together, the ladies share a room or two and the men do the same. The more people in one room, the less everyone has to pay. This is the main reason I’ve been sleeping with a lot of men … literally.
As volunteers, we adjust to our surroundings. We may take a walk to get drinking water or boil it, go days without speaking English, have to cram into a crowded un-air conditioned bus, no longer use toilet paper and we may share our bed with other men.
For Paul and I, our unselfishness began early. It had nothing to do with saving money. We had shared rooms in Philadelphia and Tokyo and when we walked into our room in Ayutthaya, where we’d be for the next five nights, we saw one large bed. We notified the staff and they brought up a small cot. Wanting to fall asleep and not wanting to bother the staff anymore, we decided to share the large bed and we did for the next five nights. We’re closer friends for it.
Then there was Bangkok and Paul’s friend, Scott. Not having a place to stay, Paul was kind enough to let me crash in his room. I planned to stay on the floor until I saw it was a cold, dirty tile. There were two skinny twin beds. I’d just met Scott that night, but he seemed like a nice enough heterosexual fellow, so we talked baseball and fell asleep within inches of each other. Note: I’d sleep with a trustworthy gay man if it saved me 100 baht.
In Khon Kaen, Josh, Joe and I pushed the two twin beds together and alternated who would sleep on the crack for three nights. I felt Joe’s knee a few times throughout the night (I think it was his knee), but overall it was a comfortable three nights. We’re closer friends for it.
But it doesn’t stop with sharing a small bed with half-naked men. There are other things I do that I didn’t do often in the states. The most obvious of this is the sharing of germs.
This is really good – try it, my friend said as he fills his spoon with said food. Do I hesitate to eat off his spoon despite his cough and cold sore? No, but I probably would have in a country I didn’t need 13 immunizations to enter.
I never dared attempt karaoke in the states, but on my first night in Thailand I found a group of women – Thai and American – asking me to sing with them and I did … sober. Thailand and Peace Corps are doing strange things to my behavior.
It’s a compliment to the group of friends I’ve made since January that I don’t hesitate to share a bed, drink from the same beer bottle as a dozen others, eat from the same spoon or tell the story of when I was six and woke up screaming I was blind because my parents shut my door of my bedroom leaving no light in my room. Camaraderie in the Peace Corps is as satisfying and welcoming as a package from home filled with books and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.
Every volunteer does their part to stretch their monthly pay as far as it can go. I have a feeling I’m going to be friends with many of my fellow volunteers for a long time, beyond our departure. We’re doing something together that none of our other friends will be able to understand including sleeping with men.
Author’s note: I published this months ago in the Peace Corps Thailand newsletter Sticky Rice. I got an e-mail in response from a fellow gay volunteer saying he liked the feature and said, “I’ll sleep with you anytime!”