Sharing light

“When we share our light with others, we do not diminish our own light. Rather, we increase the amount of light available to all. . . When out of gratitude we use our candle to light other people’s candles, the whole room gets brighter.”

—Master Sheng Yen, “Rich Generosity

Not every day on this Peace Corps adventure feels like I am sharing my light.

Many days my light is waning, twitching on and off like a light bulb burning on its last wattage as I deal with disappointments, difficult situations, and feeling drained.

And yet there are some experiences that are enlightening and enlivening where I am glowing with a rekindled desire to share my light.

A week away from site, collaborating on a project with 4 other volunteers for an English training at a Vocational School in Phuket, was just that spark my flickering flame needed.

 

  • Sunday and Monday – Planning & Prepping
    • The 4 other volunteers and I created the content and organization of the training from scratch, and so lots of revisions were made throughout the first few days as we gathered feedback and prepared materials for the days ahead.

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  • Tuesday – Training Day 1
    • Getting comfortable – To encourage involvement and motivation, participants (40 Thai teachers and 20 students) learned a lot of ice-breakers, energizers and competed in games with vocabulary and conversation as an overview of the content we would be presenting more in-depth on Day 2.

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  • Wednesday Training Day 2
    • Specific content learning – Participants enjoyed activities at stations concentrating on improving English skills in the 4 subject areas: Hotel (front desk/housekeeping), Restaurant, Tourist Information, and Tour Guide.

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  • Thursday Training Day 3
    • Application of skills – The color teams competed in a Photo / Video Scavenger Hunt around Old Town to practice finding tourist information and speaking English with foreigners. We finished the day with a review and closing ceremony.

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My team was Yellow!

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  • Friday and Saturday – Sports Opening Ceremony & Patong Beach
    • We able to watch the parade and attend a ceremony of unparalleled performances by the whole school displaying a mix of creative cohesion, school spirit, and national pride I had never seen before.

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We tried some local dishes, many influenced by Chinese cuisine like these delicious noodles.

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The school spoiled us with accommodations at the college, meals and snacks prepared for daily, as well as setting us up in a resort to enjoy after the training.

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The Director of the Vocational School was so impressed with our successful camp, that there is another training being planned for December to train 100 more vocational teachers!

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I am so grateful to have had the chance to work with the great Thai staff at the Vocational School, who became instant friends, taking us to out to karaoke, dancing, and walking around Phuket’s markets and beaches.

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And I can’t say enough about the 4 other PC volunteers I was able to work with, learn from, and just relax with. From late nights of planning, eating Pizza Hut, and exploring a Chinese market celebration full of red turtles on our way to 711 to exploring Patong beach, where we were able to unwind with pedicures, massages, eat dinner at Full Moon brewery, watch “Crazy Rich Asians,” and enjoy long conversations on the beach. They’re a talented group, each with a lot of experience running trainings and different strengths that really diversified our output, turning the training into a fun learning week for all.

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Grateful to be shining bright again 🙂 6 more months of service to go!

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Freedom Under the Sea

Before sending us to pre-service training in-country, Peace Corps preps its volunteers with a pre-departure training. During training session, one learns many tools to breed cultural sensitivity including the infamous DIVE model (which is an acronym for something I forgot) which encompasses the idea of looking beyond the surface of an issue. You gotta dive deep to see the vastness of the situation, and I have quite literally dived deep into in the East Pacific Ocean now, exploring a whole new underwater world.

I love the ocean and I have over 10 years of serious experience in water sports, so one  would think that diving would be an easy sport for me to transition into, YET it was one of my biggest fears. The idea of being “trapped” underwater weighed down with heavy equipment and not being able to surface quickly if there was an emergency due to nitrogen poisoning, was not a sport I found appealing. Still, when the opportunity arose sooner than expected, I bottled up my fear, took a deep dive and kept my eyes open.

Anilao, Philippines

  • Dive site: Anilao Beach Buzz and Dive Resort
  • 3 dives:
    • LigPo Island (34)
    • Dive N Trek (32)
    • Anliao Pier (42)

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  • Instructor: Nel (local Philippine)
  • Highlights:
    • Night dive!
      • Able to stay longer under water, because our max depth was only 10 meters (~32 feet)
      • Saw mini coconut octopus and cuttlefish

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(Coconut octopus photo cred to Russian diver friends we made on the trip at Anilao Beach Buzz and Dive Resort).

  • Feeding the fish
    • Tropical fish swarmed us as we released bread from water bottles

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  • Kevin’s underwater camera!
    • Able to capture some pretty cool creatures even without the red filter lens

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Koh Lanta, Krabi, Thailand

  • 6 dives – Koh Bida and Koh Haa
  • Instructor: Whale (local Thai)
    • *rare instance, to have a Thai instructor – most are foreigners. I think because I spoke Thai, Whale felt comfortable to go out with us
  • Highlight: cave swim throughs
    • Swam into a cave and surfaced into an air bubble cavern
    • Swam through the infamous Cathedral and other caves around Koh Haa islands

*pictures/video to be added later

Diving is not a typical sport for Peace Corps volunteers in Thailand to try out during their service – although Thailand is one of the cheapest countries in the world to be certified, it would take over a full month’s stipend to pay for certification, not to mention transportation to and from, and lodging on the islands. If volunteers do choose to get certified, many wait till their COS funds kick in at the end of service or friends/family foot the bill.

Thanks to Kevin visiting twice, we are both 13 dives deep just 6 months into the sport (more like our grown-up expensive hobby). 4 dives to get certified on Koh Tao and 9 dives this past April in the Philippines and southern Thailand (I’ll be treating Kevin to dives in the Americas in due time after I get a “real” job;)

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Actions to match the Heart

In this next year of service, it is time to really go at everything with a full heart. While my mind races in frustration at the waste of plastic I see around me, my own actions still contribute. Though I can do little to change the habits of humanity, I can start with myself and my small actions of the heart can inspire new habits for those who observe. I am already observed as an interesting specimen on the daily – might as well make a show of some environmentally friendly habits.

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This week, I finally bought a reusable cup for iced coffee at the shop I frequent – such a simple step took me this long! I’ve seen none of the locals buy or bring in any reusable containers – instead they leave with iced coffees and teas in plastic bags or plastic cups that I soon see on the side of the road or in the river. Now the Thais can watch the farang flaunt her refillable cup – maybe I’ll offer myself up for selfies for each reusable cup bought or used…

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I’m known around school for having this water bottle slung to my side; I bought the beautiful crochet sling from PCV129 Cat Nightengale – it is oh so durable and convenient!

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I already have a reusable bag, but this one from TescoLotus just elucidates my one small Thai phrase “rak lok” or “love world” so much more because of its adorable image.

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I carry these utensils around in my backpack on the daily to eliminate plastic fork and spoon usage from food being handed to me (which is quite often).

 

I really need to get better about lugging this nifty to-go container around. Most cooked foods at the market, or even cut up fruit, are put into plastic bags and wrapped in a rubber band, and then put into another plastic bag to carry – this carrier eliminates that waste and keeps the food warmer and securer than a plastic bag ever could.

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Of course, I am also lessening my carbon footprint by riding my bike daily. Although this mode of transportation is forced upon me, it has been a blessing in so many ways. The heat in the south is brutal, but on my bike with the wind in my face I feel refreshed.

Traditionally, rural Thailand is an environmentally conscious country – I love the use of banana leafs to wrap these delicious treats – no plastic packaging needed!

Small actions of the heart can flow into a river of change ❤