I’ve passed the halfway mark.
I’m 14 months into a 27-month assignment. Should I close my service a month early, it’s possibly my time with the Peace Corps will be done a year from now.
These thoughts came to the forefront last week while visiting the Peace Corps volunteer lounge, adjacent to the offices in Bangkok. By coincidence, I ran into many other volunteers. I’m a volunteer from group 123. Group 123 all arrived in early January of 2011. I was the only 123 volunteer at the lounge, but there was a smattering of 122 and 124 volunteers.
First I spoke with the 124s, the new volunteers who have been in Thailand for about seven weeks. I’d been looking forward to meeting them since they arrived. They had just returned from visiting their separate sites they’ll be spending their next two years in (if they make it that long). They were mostly bright-eyed and excited about what lay ahead of them. They spoke of the strange things the Thais do. While their friends reacted in surprise, I could only roll my eyes.
The guy was looking at porn right there in the office!
She told me I was fat … right to my face!
I thought back a year and remembered what it was like – the unknown ahead of me. It was great while it was happening, but I realized I don’t want to trade my position for theirs.
Then I talked with the opposite end of the volunteer spectrum. The 122 volunteers arrived a year before I did. The ones who were at the lounge were having a final medical checkup downstairs in order for them to be able to return to the states. In other words, they were leaving the next day. For the most part, they were excited. There were some bittersweet feelings about leaving a once-in-a-lifetime experience behind, but they’d said their goodbyes and were only waiting for their flight to leave.
They gave me advice for my second year (“Use ALL your vacation”) and talked of their post Peace Corps plans (vacations across Southeast Asia and Europe, biking across America). They were excited for their new adventures.
I looked at a gathering of 124 volunteers discussing how to get from the office to the bus station so they could return to their training site. I looked at the 122 volunteers within 24 hours of leaving Thailand for good. I realized I’m glad I’m where I am. I’m not ready to leave yet, but I’m glad I know what I know. Having already gone through training, I can’t see myself doing it again, even in another country.
I’m right where I’m supposed to be.