Well here I sit. On my bed, somewhere in Uthai Thani enjoying some weird spicy bread stick snack. I have maybe finally caught up with the lost sleep from PST and I feel good. I am so proud to say that I am finally a Peace Corps Volunteer, a solid seven years ago I did a project in my business class about Peace Corps and that sparked something. Then one night two years ago, I looked up from my dinner towards my grandmother who was being a slight pain in my rear (love you grandma) and said “I don’t know, maybe I’ll join Peace Corps” She said something along the lines of good idea. Then one year and four months ago I moved from my home in Puerto Rico post Hurricane Maria. My mother told me “I love you but you have one year to get out of my house.” Then I did it. About an hour before my closing night shift at my dead end job, (Mexican franchise restaurant) I applied for Peace Corps. I looked at my mom who was also my manager and just said “I did it”. Then we waited, and waited, and waited more. Finally a solid three months later I got the email saying to get ready for an interview. When that day came I sat in my living room with a notebook full of answers to questions I was sure were coming and they did, for an hour. When I got off the phone, I went to my mom’s room to tell her but she was still sleeping. So from then I waited, and waited, and waited way more. I was convinced they didn’t want me. Why would they? I was a bartender, I didn’t go to a great University, and my only experience teaching English was to my Venezuelan stepdad and in my mind really that shouldn’t even count because teaching is what families do for each other. In my mind at that time was Peace Corps is something rich, white people do. So I did what I do best, travel. My best friend and I spent the summer traveling the states. We went to Puerto Rico, Boston, Miami, Canada and I tried to get her to NYC but that ended up being a sister trip to see Wicked in December. It was amazing. But somewhere between Miami and Boston, I got the email. I was accepted to be a Peace Corps Trainee, and to get ready because paperwork was coming and it was coming fast. Medical, legal, you name it and I dealt with it. There were multiple times during medical that I was sure I wasn’t going be accepted, but I was. Finally I got my shit slightly together and ate a whole lot of garbage American food, then said my goodbyes.
Then came PST and “You can do hard things” became both my supportive mantra and my sarcastic reply to pretty much all of life’s problem. The support in Peace Corps Thailand is amazing because as they said before “You now have over 50 friends you don’t have to explain your decision to” and they were right. 50+ new friends and I’ve got to say I’m pretty close to the happiest I’ve ever been. Despite my 7 mile bike ride into town and 7 mile ride back home, despite the dogs chasing me, and despite that one really bad bike fall that managed to break two of my tires. PST flew by, I cried saying goodbye to everyone especially my host family. My host family in Suphan Buri were easily the kindest people I’ve met. From day one, I felt nothing but pure appreciation because how grand do you have to be to allow someone into your home and treat them as you would your own child. I felt at home with my host family and no matter what they will now be part of my family and I will be a part of theirs.
Now is Peace Corps all doves and rainbows. No. It gets tough. I’m in the first week of site, and I’ve never experienced a loneliness like I do on my days off because honestly try as I might I’m pretty much situated in the middle of nowhere, and despite the language training I’m not good enough at Thai to have a proper conversation. But that’s part of it. The Americans fade and suddenly you’re the only Farang in your town. But the joy I feel when I walk into my school and say “Hello” to my students and hearing them respond is unimaginable. You find yourself appreciating the small successes rather than the big ones. Today my success was finally having students feel comfortable enough to walk in and hang out in my (Work in Progress) classroom. Did we speak much? No. But they did enjoy the time there dancing to Fleetwood Mac and Stevie Wonder, they did enjoy my cactus named Groot, and they did enjoy hearing me say “Rohn Mak” (very hot) and that’s what matters to me. i
When I was still in PST I said “everything will be better once we get to site” and here I am. Is it better? Not necessarily. It’s just a new challenge that I am eager to tackle.