PC projects: Keeping Connected and Staying Motivated

When things at site get slow during bpit-term (summer vacation), it’s healthy to remember that our service isn’t just about serving our Thai communities, but additionally about supporting our Peace Corps community.

PC projects I am currently a part of:

  • Sticky Rice magazine contributor
  • Curriculum Team member

Keeping connected: Sticky Rice magazine

  • Now, I will be a consistent contributing book reviewer (already doing that on Goodreads – just have to edit and add for my PC audience). First review is Siddhartha – being published at the end of the month. Banner below made by the magical PCV Michael.

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Staying motivated: Curriculum Team

  • Gives me deadlines and large-scale projects to focus on: calling fellow PCVs to compile their successes and challenges in the classroom, creating and recording a Pronunciation training (soon to be released), organizing and re-imagining best teaching practices and content.
  • Allows me to have Skype calls with 2 of the most motivated, skilled, and happy volunteers in group 129: KC and Clarence – as someone who does not reach out often to fellow volunteers on my own, these scheduled calls are all the more meaningful

 

I know that being apart of these smaller circles of influence help me stay connected and motivated to my commitment of service. Cheers to 1 more year! Su su!

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Gains and Losses

My high school water polo coach used to say (as the Varsity team said good-bye to the seniors at the end of the season) that we weren’t losing key players – we were gaining new players.

Of course, we were losing some of our best players AND we were gaining potentially great new ones, yet the philosophy is one that has stuck with me:

Focus on what there is to gain instead of brooding over what has been lost. The past has passed; time to look forward.

Looking back on this past year of gains and losses, of novelty and routine, of highs and lows, I think reflecting on past losses give more meaning to future gains and the experience as a whole, because those losses were key players in my journey and growth.

In this post I will focus on the human connections that have had a large impact on me.

Although I have lost the physical proximity to some of the PCVs from group 129, who have left Thailand ending their service early for one reason or another, I have also gained lifelong friends.

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Danielle was my neighbor, co-teacher and closest friend during PST.
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Cheri was in the province above me and we were great travel and swim partners.
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 Jessica and I shared long philosophical discussions and hours of language training together.
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Liz and Libby were and still are my loves of light. Luke and Ben were the first volunteers I ever met after arriving in San Francisco to begin my Peace Corps service. 

 

I’ve lost one host family, only to gain another, and I will be forever connected and grateful to both.

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Singburi family
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Singburi kids
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Surat Thani family
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Surat Thani brother

 

I’ve been so lucky to have gained and lost so many visitors – their brief glimpses into my life, have served to rejuvenate me again and again.

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Kevin was my first visitor – we lost our worries and gained our SCUBA certifications.
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My adventurous aunts and cousin visited for a great start to the New Year.
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Kalina was a surprise visit; knew her as a friend of a friend, yet she truly is a kindred spirit.

I have gained loads more supportive people at my school, hundreds of sweet students and various members in my surrounding community, not to mention all the Peace Corps staff and volunteers still with me; however, I will not physically lose them for another year, so there will be another blog post to commemorate them when the time comes…

 

A Saturday – 1 year in

Jump on my bike. Secure my green helmet.

 

First time wearing a tank top with my shoulders exposed – 1 year in and I am willing to risk this less conservative shirt for the sake of getting rid of my shirt sleeve tan (unheard of to Thais who hide away from the sun, hoping to keep their skin lighter).

 

It’s 8 am and about 25 degrees Celcius (almost 80 degrees), but on my bike the wind is cool and the road is lined with groves of palms and rubber trees that shade the newly paved road.

 

I recognize the papaya trees lining the road by their fanned leaves and bunches of cylindrical green fruits versus the dragonfruit vines I’ve passed for the last 10 months, that have yet to blossom fruit (it takes a whole year!).

 

The smell of trash burning is in the air.

 

I am greeted with a friendly “hello!” by many out-and-about locals I’ve never met personally (or maybe I have) yet they recognize me and my bike.

 

I take a left out of the shaded rural road and onto a main drag.

 

Riding down the left side in the “bike lane,” people are out walking their cows. Tractors join me in my lane when they are too slow for traffic.

 

It’s a 2 laned highway and vehicles are pulling out blindly into the oncoming traffic to speed past other slower cars.

 

Older ladies sit at their roadside booths selling assortments of packaged treats and the newest fruit harvest.

 

I pass several fried banana stands where I occasionally stop.

 

Motorcycles going the wrong way and monks in orange robes returning from a morning collecting food offerings also share my lane.

 

I stop at 711, a convenience store that once stood as an oasis of comfort in my beginning months, and now I spend money at sparingly, preferring to spend locally (cheaper) and accumulate less packaged trash to burn.

 

I pull out some baht from my Thai bank account, the smell of fried chicken and sticky rice wafts over from the left (a typical thing to be sold in the morning) and a small market of vegetables to my right, with less vendors than usual.

 

I park my bike at the coffee/bike parts shop where the owner greets me, knowing my routine will lead me to the post office before I order from her.

 

She’s busy, but not too busy to stop and take a few photos of the farang to post on Facebook (she does this with all of her customers, not just me).

 

Her friend joins the picture and I notice we are all wearing purple, the lucky color for Saturday.

 

The post office staff knows my routine too; today, there is a new guy up front that looks at me a little wary, but the others assure him that this farang speaks Thai.

 

I send off my paperwork to the Peace Corps office along with a few letters and postcards to friends and family, then return to the coffee shop to enjoy rice porridge, a large iced coffee, and some sweet treats (like glazed donuts).

 

Overall, I’ve spent less than 100 baht ($4) today.

 

The owner trusts me enough to jump onto her motorcycle and ride down the street to pick up some supplies as I sit alone in her open air shop and write down my thoughts on a notepad.

 

A year into my service and I am appreciative that the strange has become the norm.

 

I appreciate so many weekends with no plans other than this routine bike ride; an unscheduled weekend was such a rarity in the States.

 

Appreciative of the sugar rush that propels me 10 km (6 miles) to the place I call home with my host family.

 

Appreciative of the cold shower and air conditioned room that awaited me there.

 

It is important to keep in perspective that not every Saturday is this idyllic, a bike ride where I am bursting with gratitude and seamlessly integrating.

 

It has taken a year and a low slump to overcome (around month 10) to reach this peace.

 

Appreciative that although many expectations were not met, although I am missing out on things at home, and although not every day is easy, I’ve made it a year, a challenge that has made me more wise, more patient, more tolerant, and more open to the inconsistencies and simplicities of life.

 

Like a papaya tree spreading out its great big leaves to take in as much sunlight as possible, I am expanding myself to embrace the open air and soak in the energy around me.