This marathon is nearing the end

“…a man leaves much when he leaves his own country. They said that it was no accident of circumstance that a man be born in a certain country and not some other and they said that the weathers and seasons that form a land form also the inner fortunes of men in their generations and are passed on to their children and are not so easily come by otherwise.” – Cormac McCarthy

I have never missed America more than I do now. There are a number of reasons for this increased longing.

I’ve been here for almost two full years. I’m about two and a half months shy. Either way, I feel like a regular in a foreign land. During the first year of service I was constantly telling myself, “This is so cool! I’m a Peace Corps Volunteer in a foreign land helping the locals.” Lately I have to remind myself that I’m in a really cool situation and that it is unique living in Thailand. I’ve gotten so used to it. I’ll be buying something at the market and speaking Thai and it will occur to me that this isn’t a common lifestyle for Americans.

The cultural changes grind more in the second year and it’s not just me. Every one of my friends I speak with have the same feeling of burnout. I look at some of the volunteers who ended their service in the first quarter of the year with fondness knowing they got a pretty good Peace Corps experience and left without the burnout phase, still looking upon the culture with esteem. They got a “good” Peace Corps experience, but they didn’t get the whole thing as that’s what I and the remaining volunteers of Thailand group 123 are now experiencing.

Projects and daily activities are beginning to wind down. There’s less to do for many of us including myself. I can only offer my assistance to locals so many times and get grins and no suggestions before I stop asking.

I’m starting to look to my future back home. What that future is and where exactly ‘back home’ will be, I’m not sure, but I’m slowly getting some ideas. I’m considering everything from selling cinnamon toothpicks to elementary schools in Northern Canada to putting my hat in the ring as a 2016 presidential candidate. Group 123 volunteers will have our final get together at the close-of-service conference at the end of November. I’m hoping to get a better feel of what to expect when I get home during that and maybe a few new ideas.

The baseball playoffs have coincided with my recent lack of internet. Maintenance was done to the internet at my office recently and ever since my computer won’t pick up the Wi-Fi (As of 10:31 a.m., Monday, October 14, it’s working. Keep your fingers crossed). This may be the final straw in my slow decline from going to the office as I’ve learned over the last 18 months that very little gets done in the community when I’m there. Peace Corps set me up at the local government office as a home base, but almost everything I’ve done with the community I’ve done from my own fruition.

This is how I picture going through customs at the Minneapolis airport next spring.

Thankfully, my Kindle can get the internet, albeit it’s extremely slow and black-and-white. But I don’t need fast, colorful internet to check box scores. Last year I watched the playoffs progress as a happy foreigner realizing I’ll appreciate the game that much more having missed it for two years. This year I’m a black-tar heroin addict who thought he could kick the habit but has gone into relapse and I’ve got the shakes and itch all over. There are ants crawling all over my skin (sadly, in Thailand, this statement can be taken literally). If the playoffs weren’t exciting, I might not feel so itchy, but the two one-game playoffs and then the series comebacks of both the Giants and A’s are making me scratch the blisters I got from itching. I write this the early evening of Thursday, October 11, and if the Orioles can overcome their 2-1 deficit to the Yankees, I might need to be hospitalized.

I didn’t know how right I was in March of 2011. Just before being sworn in as Peace Corps Volunteers, we had a one-on-one meeting with one of three top staff members of Peace Corps Thailand. I was set up with the country director, John Williams. He asked me what I planned to do in my first few months at my site and I told him, “I don’t have a lot of plans other than to get to know everyone. Twenty-four months is a marathon, it’s not a sprint.” Williams agreed.

When I said it, I had a feeling it would be true, but I can now say I was dead on. A marathon is 26.2 miles and Peace Corps service is 27 months. Energy needs to be saved for the last months. I have it, but I’m getting excited and anxious to cross the finish line.


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