Monday, June 10, 2013

What a volunteer in Thailand does...

Thomas Edison once said,
"Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration." 

If this be true, I belong in Mensa for certain. We all know Thailand is hot by now, right? Like, really hot? Okay, good. Now, comes the "good" news. Apparently because you're already sweating so much, the thought of a hard day's work pales in comparison to my "norm" back home. When I work for more than an hour straight, I'm told to take a break. When I walk home, less than a kilometer from school, I'm told to take a shower and a nap. It's the Thai way.

So, what do I do?

I wait for everyone else to be ready to work again, anxiously awaiting my next "fix." I can't get enough of this thing called work (if you know my parents, you'll understand why), and sometimes I'm expected by my supervisors to work with others. Heck, I played well with others as a child, it would make sense that I'd work well as an adult, right? Right! (-ish)

There's a lot going on in Thailand. Many jobs that teachers do that we didn't have to take care of in the States, from handling scholarship money for students, to paying the bills, running the nurses office, etc. There's one secretary, but she does...other things. She's busy, too. So, Jessie, who really wants to work on this one thing, doesn't always get to work on it at all, or if she does, it's not normally in the way people would prefer.

There are three goals in Peace Corps. You learn about them early in training, and you never really grasp the notion, I guess. The first is why you think you're coming (to help the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women). The second is why we need to be at our best 24/7 (to help promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the people served). The third is what you spend most of your time working with (to help promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans) because in order to fulfill this goal, you actually have to understand them yourself. It's a biggie.

So what I do here in Thailand is not so simple to answer, but I think a bullet-point stream of consciousness session will help elaborate a bit:
* I sweat. 
* I laugh.
* I cry.
* I speak beginner's Thai to people who have never talked to foreigners.
* I teach beginner's English to people who have been learning "English" since pre-school.
* I plan things that never happen.
* I am asked to do things without any planning time whatsoever.
* I read (a lot).
* I shower multiple times a day.
* I say I'm full.
* I decline to eat the fruit that is offered after saying I'm full.
* I decline the dessert that is offered after the fruit after saying I'm full.
* I decline the coffee that is offered after the dessert that is offered after the fruit that is offered after saying I'm full.
* I encourage my students to speak English using stickers, straws, and puzzle pieces.
* I inspire my fellow teachers to try to speak English by simply being there.
* I learn how lucky I was to be teaching where I was before.
* I learn how lucky I am to be learning the lessons I'm learning now.
* I crash my bike after a two kilometer dog chase (okay that only happened once, but I'm still scarred by it).
* I miss home.
* I miss my family.
* I miss my friends.
* I miss the people I never thought I'd miss.
* I meditate more often.
* I try not to scratch mosquito bites.
* I write in my journal on tough days.
* I write in my blog when time (and internet) is on my side.
* I hope things get better.
* I hope things don't get worse.
* I hope I'm enough.
* I take pictures in my mind.
* I breathe in moments like a sweet cake.
* I miss baking.
* I get bored.
* I make lists.
* I get bored of making lists.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. Transition is difficult and in time the list will change, along with me. For now, I'm still learning. 

I'm sure that will always be.