It is the end of December, 2012 and I can’t help but reflect on the year. Normally, I find year-end reflections artificial, but I have spent almost the whole year in Thailand. There are so many aspects of this experience to write about.
Overall I am so glad I took the leap and became a Peace Corps Volunteer. I said to one of the PC staff that it did not seem that the agency was full of red-tape. That person did not totally agree, but as a volunteer I have felt that we are not bogged down in bureaucracy and the spirit in which the agency was created remains. We are left largely on our own after training and we are all having the experience we create in our individual villages. There are a lot of the same and some unique situations for all of us. I have been very lucky with schools, school directors and co-teachers. They have all been enthused about having an American here and do all they can to make me comfortable. The people in the village are also very kind and friendly. I think I have gotten an authentic experience of Thai culture, rural living, teaching ESL and being the minority. I have lived a totally different life-style here, no car, lots of rice, living exposed to the outdoors and the creatures who share that with me, rural life-style, Buddhist temples every few blocks, and a very tolerant people. I was given a Buddha as a gift at school yesterday and told I could pray to it. They know I am not Buddhist, but I can pray to Buddha anyway. It is all in the spirit of inclusion and communal living.
I have been surprised by some of the people who have stayed in touch so faithfully and conversely, by who I have rarely heard from. I am also aware of my contribution to lack of communication. At first, I wanted to share this experience with everyone as I was living it. That was partly excitement and partly trying to span the miles and stay connected. A friend here says he spent 6 months with one foot in Thailand and one foot back home and I can relate to that. I realized at some point that I was expecting more than I was giving and I tried to reach out to some friends I had not heard from. There was also the reality that friends at home were dealing with various events in their lives that I was not a part of. Not sure what it means, but other volunteers have also shared their surprise by who did and who didn’t stay in touch.
It has been a process to realize that it’s impossible to really share a year away and in a foreign culture. Pictures are a fun way to show people what it looks like here, but it is impossible to capture the whole experience in a camera or writing a blog.
It’s been hard at times too and I miss home, but I am looking forward to 2013. I am a much better traveler and plan to see much more of S.E. Asia. I hope some friends are planning trips, I would love to see you.
Happy New Year.
Sunset on the Mekong River