Supporting Roles

It was school break.  I’m running a little late (as usual).  During school breaks I go to the government office (SAO) everyday.  I can plan or work on graduate school applications (ps GRE is over and went well).  School breaks can be nice however too much free time weighs on the mind here.  This particular day was one in which everything could’ve ruined my day if I let it.  Am I doing enough?  What will last after my time here is through?  I don’t want to go to the office again, but I don’t want to be home alone either.  Sometimes there is no easing the mind, only action will suffice.  So I locked my house, got on my bike and left.  When I arrived at the office there was an AIDS/HIV event being led my the health center employees.  All of the students, over 10 years old, from one of my schools were present.  I was arriving late so already felt out of place but what really upset me was that I wasn’t included in this plan.  My position here specifically includes health education and I’ve discussed my desire to do more about this before…so why wouldn’t anyone tell me?  Did they want to work with me but forgot?  Was I intentionally not included?  Am I even needed or wanted here?  I walked in and sat amongst the students figuring the best I could do was to just be present and see if my help was needed.  The woman facilitating the activities is named Name.  She works at the health center and I consider her one of the real friends I have here in my community, which made the whole moment even more striking for me.  In between the thoughts of self-doubt and frustration I started to truly listen to the activity.  It sounded familiar.  In March of this year Name and I led a sexual health camp for three schools in our village.  During this time she helped me plan and tailor activities to fit the cultural context and be understood easily.  And now here she was using activities from the same program.  All I could do was smile.  No, I’m not needed.  And that is a wonderful thing.

Lately I’ve been playing with the idea of self-importance. (Not be confused with self-worth) So often our internal dialogue revolves around us. We are each under the impression that we the main character of our own mental novel called Life.  This would work out fine except for one thing. Setting. The universe is full of other people and beings who are just as important. We are each one tiny piece of a billion-piece jigsaw puzzle. And even that might be putting it too generously. This is not to say that we should not take care of ourselves, or have goals but rather encourage us in the pursuit of our own path to be conscious of the vast number of people on a path just as important and valid to them; Taking time to look outside of your own interests and needs to recognize what others are experiencing and need. Realizing that every interaction you have is not about you but merely a moment in time can be extremely humbling and freeing. It can allow us to view situations more clearly rather than through a lens clouded with our past experiences and judgments. This is especially helpful to me here. My village existed before me and will go on doing so after I’ve left. This chapter is a beautiful and enriching part of my life but that is just an added bonus. In my last 4-5 months here I am trying to appreciate the growth I have seen in others’ journeys. After all that’s why I’m here.

Photos from GLOW camp that I’ve been working on.  It was great to have this week long experience with students from all over the central region of Thailand.  I’m grateful for all of the support from PC and the other volunteers who came together for this camp.

& Thanks to my sisters for visiting me. Love you and see you soon.

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Over-Qualifying

In preparation for taking the GRE I came across the term “over qualifying” For language purposes it means to excessively justify a statement. But for real life purposes it means to explain yourself unnecessarily.  For example, when sharing the news that I will be going to Bali to take a yoga teacher training course in April I noticed that I feel the need to tell people how long I’ve been doing yoga and that I know it’s a very “eat, pray, love” type of adventure for me to seek out.  In reality I know this is what I want and I’m thrilled to be doing it finally.  So what gives?  Why the self deprecation?  Maybe it’s that I worry it won’t be what I anticipate, or maybe I care too much what other people think.  Either way I’ve decided to take the advice of my GRE prep book and not under any circumstances overqualifying.

Sunset near my house

Thus far my second year of service has been moving much faster than my first. Perhaps this is because I feel more comfortable; Each conversation doesn’t require as much effort or result in an inner struggle to figure out how I came across. People know why I’m here and I know how to be here. While this year has come with much more efficiency on my part the passing of time has also led to the inevitable questions about the future. I spent so long applying to the peace corps I truly never thought about what I would do after. More than that the ease I feel here has made me wonder if I’ve been gone too long to fit in when I get back. It’s incredible to think that 2 years seemed so daunting. A year ago I would have loved to fast forward to this point. Yet here I am with 8 months left and not in a rush to leave. Time has a way of changing what we want most. Or maybe we’re what changes.  Recently I was talking about this with some other volunteers who also too are unsure of what the next year will bring yet all seem to be embracing the unknown enjoying the invigorating experience.  It’s moments like that that I realize no one ever truly knows anyway.  So rather than hiding behind the illusion of our set plans why not welcome the ever-changing journey that always seems to find us.

 

Bike ride home

My counterparts daughter 🙂

We took passport photos and are learning about different countries

Mon Bridge- 2nd longest wooden bridge in the world. Near the border of Myanmar

Sunset in town over the river kwai

 

Tii Nii & Dawnee

Let me start off by saying sorry for the absence.  All I can really say is that I’ve been living my life here.  I’ve had friends visit and the Thai school year just came to an end so finally some time to connect with you again.

 

The beginning of this month a long awaited project of mine finally happened- Sex education camp. Before this project most students never received any sex education training.  I worked with my coworker from the health center (her nickname is – Name).  She really understood my vision for the project and helped me shape it into something that would work for our community.  Before starting this project I was worried about my community having reservations about teaching sex education in a way that gave students a real understanding of their choices.  I made a few changes to the material but overall my counterparts, as well as the teachers who gave their input, really impressed me with their openness to teaching youth in our community a comprehensive program on sex ed.  A doctor even came to talk about STI/Ds, HIV/AIDS, and contraception/birth control options.  This was far beyond my expectations.  Name and the university students who were kind enough to help lead the sessions did an amazing job of making the environment a place where students can ask and answer questions without worrying if they have the “right” answer.  It took a while to organize everything and a few times I wasn’t even sure if the project would happen but I’m so glad that it did.  Connecting the different agencies in my community made the project a success and I believe it will continue to pay off.

Thank you to everyone making me feel special on my birthday even though I’m all the way out here 🙂 Some of my friends here found out it was my birthday too…

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I spent my birthday weekend at the beach and I’m really glad I did.  I love where I live in Thailand but the ocean has no competition in my mind.  Thanks to my awesome PC friends who came out.  You guys make life here extra stellar.

 

Tii Nii & Dawnee (Here & Now)

Some days I wake up and have to re-remember I’m in Thailand.  It’s like when you sleepover someone else’s house and wake up confused about where you are.  You’d think a year + in I’d be used to it…but I’m grateful for those days.  I prefer them to the ones I start by snoozing and wishing I could sleep instead of xyz.  Don’t get me wrong, I love sleep and get plenty of it.  But I love my life more.  The days I have to remember I’m in Thailand remind me that I wasn’t always here and I won’t be forever.  I remember how I’m living my dream and how unbelievable it is.  This mindset makes me enjoy and appreciate what’s happening, while it’s happening, which if you ask me is the name of the game.

 

Year of the Nam Jai

Times flies when you’re having fun, or when you make a drastic life change like moving to a new country. Some days may have been slow but the months of 2015 have flown by for me. Looking back on my pictures from the past year I can’t believe how much I’ve been able to experience. When I arrived in Thailand I was as excited and nervous as I’ve ever been in my life. Trying to keep my expectations low but feeling the pressure of over two years of preparation made me a mix of zen and adrenaline. I still wake up some days and can’t believe where I am. This is something I’ve wanted for so long. I’m so lucky to be here.

I’ve always been blessed by being surrounded with amazing people. Thailand is no exception. From the volunteers and Peace Corps staff to the people in my community I am never at a loss for company and compassion. I’ve been feeling more and more invested in my work as a volunteer and this comes from how welcomed and supported the community has made me feel. This week I was working with one of my classes and a student asked me when I’m leaving. I assured him it wouldn’t be for over another year (March 2017). He was happy to hear that but asked what will happen after that; would I ever come back? I was happy to answer him honestly that I will return many times. My first year of service has given me so much space for growth. The alone time that is inevitable in all PC volunteers’ service has given me a better vantage point on who I am than I’ve had before. A sort of focusing of the lens on my inner-self. I feel more capable than ever to serve the youth in my area. At times two years doesn’t feel sufficient. I worry that I will only scratch the surface. But then I realize these concerns won’t change my course. If asked I would do it all again and be right back here. More than ever I’ve realized how much life is about people for me. The people I miss, the people I meet, the people that inspire me, even the ones that get under my skin. They all add something to my character. Challenge me, support me, guide me. The more I learn about myself the more I have to give to my relationships. Like a well that never goes dry. This year will be the year of the Nam Jai (Thai-water of the heart)

 

 

If you want others to be happy practice compassion

If you want to be happy practice compassion

Left on Red

In Thailand drivers drive on the left side of the road.  I now bike on the left side of the road.  Little things like this were disorienting at first but now have become second nature.  I dare say it will be odd to come home and drive on the right side again, or drive at all.  While I have adopted many practices into my daily life there are some things that do not come as easily.  For me one of these is the bug invasions.

I clean my house regularly but it seems to make no difference.  I’m never safe from a surprise attack.  One of my first weeks at my rental house I was in my bedroom on a very rainy night.  I began to hear a buzzing outside my door but figured it was just a stray bug that hadn’t been lucky enough to escape before i shut the windows and doors that night.  It continued to grow louder and I saw a few bugs in my room I hadn’t seen before.  They had small bodies like ants but large wings like dragonflies.  They couldn’t get enough of the lights either.  As I opened my bedroom door I couldn’t believe the massive swarm that met my eyes on the other side.  Where were they all coming from?! Everything is closed.  My house has a long hallway with high ceilings and floor length windows down the whole thing.  I usually leave the lights on to get rid of the few insect stragglers.  These new bugs had noticed.  I was Tippi Hedren from The Birds.  The mass was so dense I couldn’t see though to the end of the hallway.  I slammed the door, my heart and mind racing.  No time to panic, survivial mode.  I was a girl scount, it’s just bugs, just a million bugs.  Inhale exhale.  I thought the hardest part of being in Thailand would be the language.  I’d gladly take language class compared to this.  I grabbed my raincoat, one of the only long sleeved articles in my closet, put the hood up and mentally prepared.  Zipping it up over my mouth I ran through the swarm, screaming on the inside only as to not swallow any of them.  I reached the door and ran to my neighbors house.  As I approached, barefoot, covered in mud and in tears I realized how this must have looked to her.  My 60 year old neighbor thought someone was chasing me.  All I could say through my Thai was “bugs, many, come”.  After she hesitantly followed me back to the house I pointed through the windows.  How could their be so many, and what was I going to do.  Her response was “Mai bpen rai”- Thai for no problem.  My thoughts- Ummmmm bpen rai-there is a problem.  She shut the indoor lights off and at least 50% of the invaders fell to the floor immediately.  The remaining critters flocked to the outside lights through the small cracks in the windows like ghosts through walls.  My neighbor found my reaction funny.  All I could say in my defense was we don’t have those at home.  She explained they’re called “Malang Mao” or drunk bugs and are very prevalent during heavy rain.  I thanked her and went to bed.  The next morning sweeping up the remains I was amazed to see how many ants had come to help me clean up the massacred heap.  Since this incident I haven’t had much trouble with bugs.  Some spiders and ants but nothing noteworthy until…

Invasion of the Toilet Snatchers

Yesterday after riding my bike home I dropped my stuff and went into the bathroom.  The top of the toilet (the lid with the toilet inner workings inside, not the toilet seat) was covered in ants.  I followed their trail out of the bathroom down the hallway and out the side of the front door.  They were headed inside and each carrying a little white thing.  Ants are so little but so organized it can seem way scarier.  I mean think about it, in the time I left for work and got home they had decided to construct a whole new home in a place I’d never thing to look.  It bothers me.  As if somehow they’re so smart and efficient they’ll overpower you despite the size advantage.  I swept them out and mopped with cleaner in hopes their trail would be a thing of the past.  However, they were still swarming the lid of the toilet.  I fearfully lifted the lid and noticed a quarter sized hole in the underside of the lid.  Then it hit me…the lid is hollow.  EFFF.  Fueled by the image of an ant colony in my bathroom I brought the lid outside attempted to power wash them out with the hose.  For now the cover of my toilet is plastic bags and duct tape until I can be sure the lid is mine and mine alone.

One of the tamer photos of flying ants I found online

One of the tamer photos of flying ants I found online

To be honest I don’t mind bugs and kind of feel bad.  To them the whole world is fair game.  They don’t know it’s “my” house or that if they crawl far enough they’d be in Myanmar not Thailand.  Maybe one day I’ll be zen enough to live amongst them.  But for now catch and release of spiders is as peaceful as I can manage. (only the slow ones) 😉

One day

Everyday here is different but this is how most of them go…

Wake up and say hi to new friends! This one was particularly pretty I thought. More like a fairy than a bug.

Wake up and say hi to new friends! This one was particularly pretty I thought. More like a fairy than a bug.

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Breakfast 🙂 usually oatmeal, but sometimes oatmeal pancakes.

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While I eat I admire my sunflowers.

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I ride my bike to one of the schools that I work at. It's hard to have a bad morning with a view like this.

I ride my bike to school.  I work at 3 different schools.  One is only 3km away the furthest is 12. It’s hard to have a bad morning with a view like this.

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Arrive at school! Change my clothes and say hi to the students. I work with kids 10-15 years old. These students (wave, sam, beer) -don’t worry just nicknames, are some of my favorites. Sam is serving his 2 weeks as a monk right now hence the robe. I have to be careful not to get too close during activities since part of being a monk is not touching women.

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Some days we go on field trips like this one for sports day. I usually don’t know about them ahead of time but that makes it even more fun.

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Students in traditional outfits eating on the bus.

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Lunch! I usually pack my own lunch.

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After lunch is when I use the free period to teach. I teach 3 grades at once so we use open spaces rather than a classroom. I try to teach english along with other skills. There’s always a game at the beginning of the lesson so they can’t be too upset when we get down to business. This lesson was on self-esteem.

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The bike ride home is just as gorgeous.

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Occasionally I stop at my host families to say hi, and help out.

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My host grandpa talks to me the most and always tells me how good my thai is. He’s getting sick but doesn’t seem to let it phase him.

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Bamboo shoots ready to be peeled.

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Coconuts

When I get home my neighbor is usually making treats so I get in the mix with her.

When I get home my neighbor is usually making treats so I get in the mix with her.

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Then it’s time for yoga 🙂 sometimes with friends.  These two friends work at the health center and often invite me to do “real friend” things like go to dinner or grocery shop.  I’m very grateful for them.

Dinner time! Geng som, spicy/sour sour with mushrooms.

Dinner time! Geng som, spicy/sour sour with mushrooms.

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Sunset walk

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Bamboo looks so neat when its first growing.

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🙂

Hope this makes it easier to picture me here.

Can’t wait to see Mom and Dad next week.

Love you all !

ps- wisdom teeth are officially gone! 

yay!

Peace!

Dessert before breakfast

In Thailand, there is no time that is deemed inappropriate for “Kanomes” (snacks/desserts).  Certain kanomes are made for different holidays, but on any given day, you’re likely to run into half a handful.  I do my best to resist them when I can, but much to my dismay my next door neighbor (widow- 60+ y.o.) makes them for a living.  I have recently begun to help her.  Last night she was making an order for 70+ people.  I helped her until midnight, which I must admit is an hour I haven’t seen in a while.  We talked about how we’re both single, live alone, and like to do the things we like to do.  She loved that I can sit on the floor Thai style without discomfort.  I attribute this to yoga of course.  I can’t wait until March.  Mango kanomes are the best.

Pii Team placing the kanomes into the pot to be steamed

Pii Team placing the kanomes into the pot to be steamed

cooling

cooling

All lined up

All lined up

Her name and # (Laksina)

Her name and # (Laksana)

Recently on a trip to BKK:

Waiting for the van. Again. My stomach sending me those signals that say it’s been time for a while now. If you don’t eat you may do something wild on that tiny van home. Like snap at someone for not sharing the elbow space equally or yell at the driver for this lack of regard for human life. We don’t want that do we? Okay 5:47. 13 minutes to find the perfect snack. Seems easy enough. But then my brain reminds me how bad I’ll feel if I buy something that isn’t healthy. How I’ll loathe myself the entire ride home as well as the next time I look at myself naked before getting in the shower. So steadfast in my intent to nourish myself properly I walk around the corner, past the 7/11 and I see a nice but not too nice coffee shop. I walk in, scan the menu, hmmmm, and then I see the display case. There it is, perfect three layer solution: granola, yogurt, blueberries perfectly packaged in a clear plastic to go cup. I point to it, pay and it is mine. I sit back down at the van station with 5 minutes to satiate myself. I pop off the lid, take the miniature spoon out of its wrappings and dig it into one corner. It feels oddly thick and as I bring it to my lips it hits me, the creamy density that is unmistakably…Cheesecake. The “granola” is in fact graham cracker, the yogurt-cheesecake, and the blueberries-topping. I smile because I realize I have found the one and only guilt free cheesecake in the world. I enjoy it even more than I would had I bought it intentionally. Sitting there with the sweetest reminder from the universe that nothing is under our control.

Updates:

Last week I went to Ayutthaya province for a project design training.  My supervisor at site came with me as my counterpart.  I wasn’t sure how we would work together but it went really well.  We’ve only been back a week already had and meeting and approved the budget for the project we planned (Sexual health workshop at the 3 schools in my Tambon).  I also found out she is the person at my site who applied for a volunteer.  If it wasn’t for her I’d be somewhere else, with a completely different circumstances.

Presenting on our project

Presenting on our project

After the workshop my closest friends (two volunteers) came back to see my home, and we took the train over the bridge over the river kwai.  The trip was gorgeous, but to be honest we would have fun going anywhere together.

Love and miss you all. IMG_1730 IMG_1753 IMG_1762