It has been quite a while since my last blog post….not that I have been slacking off; I have just been extremely busy. I will give you a summary of what has been going on.
Back up to July 11, at this point in time I was getting a little bit of Tambon fever and was ready to leave my town. In Peace Corps Thailand, after the first three months you have what they call “Reconnect” where all the volunteers get together and talk about how things have been going at site, make clarifications on how you can help your town, and get some more training in language. This year was special, because before Reconnect, Peace Corps Thailand celebrated its 50th anniversary. Talk about busy!
The anniversary was great. It started off with me arriving in Bangkok at 3 in the morning from an overnight bus from my site. Then after a couple naps, mall runs and getting lost trying to find the way back to the hostel, it was off to the reception at the US ambassador’s house to socialize and munch on hors d’oeuvre.
The next day, I woke up extra early because all current Peace Corps Volunteers had to be at the US Embassy where the 50th Anniversary formal ceremony was to be held 1 1/2 hours before it started to practice for the photo with the princess…even though I was not picked to be in the photo. This just translated into a slightly disgruntled and very hungry (I had to miss free breakfast to be there so early) Amy during the 50th ceremony. Afterwards, we had to wait an hour before lunch was served (because we were had finished early). Everyone was STARVING (in fact we had all missed breakfast)! All I, and everyone else, could think about was food and how wonderful a big burger would be…I was a little disappointed that they only served sushi appetizers, but I guzzled them down anyway.
The final event of the 50th was an open house at the Peace Corps Thailand Office. I thought this was the one of the best parts of the celebration. It was a relaxed atmosphere, so one could have a really good conversation with the older, returning Thailand Peace Corps Volunteers. There were people at the reception from every group of Thailand. I am part of group 124, and there were people there from group 1, who left back in 1962. A couple of people stood up and gave speeches about their Peace Corps experiences – “how Peace Corps changed my life”, “how Thailand has changed since I was here first”, “how my students have been inspired to change the world”, etc. I was inspired.
The weekend was what I would consider “my first real vacation” since I came to Thailand. I wanted to do something that did not involve temples, markets or malls for “my” weekend. Saturday I woke up at 5:45 to go zip lining. It was Amazing! Beautiful landscapes, 15 zip lines, delicious curry lunch and feeding elephants afterwards–Absolutely Fabulous! I went with two old(er) lady volunteers. We had a blast.
On Sunday, I went to the Cathedral in Bangkok. Now I believe what one of the Peace Corps staff meant when he said, “The great thing about Bangkok, is that it is so close to Thailand!” I did not feel like I was in Thailand at all when I was in Bangkok. And the Cathedral especially stressed this point…I felt like I was in Western Europe. Not only was it beautiful like all the rest of the Cathedrals, but the mass was in ENGLISH! . I can understand why they put so much effort into making beautiful buildings. It really raises your spirits, especially when you are used to a simple church building with plain walls and one single cross. After that, I met up at a Mexican Restaurant with a lady from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln who now lives in Bangkok. We had a nice visit. This was the second time I ate Mexican food during my break. I enjoyed it.
To finish off my special day weekend, I got my first Thai massage – which is quite different than any other massage I’ve had. The Thai massage is all about relieving pressure points. For instance, they pound their foot into your thigh. It is very different and a bit awkward at first. But you get used to it and you feel great afterwards.
On Monday, my roommate and I visited the “touristy” sites which are made up of Wats (temples). They were conveniently all located along the same river as my hostel was, so we took the River Boat Taxi. It was one of the easiest, most reliable, cheapest forms of public transportation I had taken all weekend.
Then it was off to Supanburi in central Thailand for the Reconnect training. The most useful part, to me anyway, was the language training. I took a sentence structure class and learned different conjunctions, how to make longer sentences and when and when not to use certain words.
We were compared to a cruise ship because of all our organized entertainment during the night… we had a Reading (where you could read a poem/free verse about your PC experiences), a Fashion Show, and an Improv Night (for which we did “Drama Club” games like “Freeze Frame”), free messages, and an exercise club if you wanted to get super sweaty (I didn’t). Super fun. It was also fun just hanging out on the roof top or the brightly colored lit rooms at night.
The following weekend, I went on a short trip with some of the other volunteers to the village that is famous for having the Bridge over the River Kwai. There is a seven-tier waterfall we hiked up the side. It was a low-key, nice place—had a somewhat Jamaican feel to it.
On Sunday, rather than go back to the city of Bangkok to catch the bus to Baan Tak, I took the local bus back to my town. Big mistake. What should have been a 7-, to at most 8- hour ride took 13 hours because we stopped at every town along the way. Live and learn I guess!
Other News: I have got a Thai tutor. Yay! I think it is going to work out very nicely, he speaks fluent English has a 94 year old mother, involved with the community, and next door to one of my friends from work. We are going over some the extra sentence structure sheets I got at Reconnect. Last Thursday was the start of Buddhist lent, and I gave offerings to the monks. The lent is for three months and the monks are supposed to spend this time meditating over the works of Buddha and are not supposed to leave their temple. It is beginning to rain more. However it’s all gray-April-rain with no thunderstorms. I am hoping it is considerably less rain than last year so it doesn’t flood in October. This coming Sunday is the Queen’s Birthday, which means in Thailand, it is also Mother’s Day. Thursday, I sat with the Mothers through a three-hour ceremony at the school. It was really sweet—there were dances, readings, a special part where the mothers sat up front and gave their kids string bracelets and told them they loved them and culminated in them sharing lunch together. Oh, there was even a part where the Mom’s and kids planted trees around the school together. I have never thought about my Mom as much as I did during this ceremony. You see all the Moms were wearing turquoise, light blue shirts, (I am guessing it is the Queen’s favorite color) and it happens to be my Mom’s favorite color too. Her wardrobe is stacked with similar blue shirts…she would fit right in.