Peace Corps tells us we need to assimilate-assimilate to the culture, assimilate to the people, assimilate to the lifestyle. They drill this into our heads during Peace Corps training. And when you get to site, it seems to be assimilate or die. But, then Peace Corps also says that we are not supposed to turn Thai and give ourselves totally up, for we are Americans and we need to stick to our values. Now this is what I call a paradox. It is such a fine line between assimilating and losing yourself. Volunteers who have not had success assimilating are more depressed, and volunteers who lose themselves aren’t totally happy either. Since I have come here I have done two distinct things I can think of that are not specifically Thai, to not forget who I am: I go to church and play soccer. This post is about the later.
Now to give you some background: I have played soccer every summer between 1st-9th grade. In high school, I got too busy. Then in college, I played intramural soccer freshman and sophomore year, after that I got too busy again. Pretty much, I love playing soccer. If there is a game I will play with friends, my first choice will always be soccer.
I was super excited that Thailand, like the majority of the world, was super into soccer. However, soon after I arrived, I found out that here soccer is considered a “boys” sport. I played twice during my three months of pre-serivce training, but that was with some other boy and girl volunteers. Once I got to site, it was soccer deprivation on my part. I kept hinting that I really like playing soccer when they asked me what I liked to play, or that I could teach them. The answer I got was the typical Thai smile with a nod of the head…aka no. The tessaban where I work has a soccer team (all male), and every time I would see them play, I would get jealous, itching to be out on the field, kicking the ball.
About a month ago, I played soccer for the first time at my site. The school had a sports day, and they were playing “Fuutban pu ying”: Girls soccer. I couldn’t let that joy just escape. Finally, about a month ago, I couldn’t take it anymore. I NEEDED TO PLAY SOCCER! 8 months of soccer deprivation and seeing boys playing it all the time was too much for me. I went to buy a soccer ball. The first quote I got for a soccer ball was 300-2000 baht. (2000 baht equals about 67 dollars), but I was able to buy mine used for 150=$5.
Next, the question was where to play. There is a field right outside of my office and at every single school. I decided to go to the high school because I wanted to avoid the questions from my coworkers. I arrived thinking I was just going to kick a few goals when, lo and behold, there was already a high school girls soccer team scrimmaging!!! WHY DID NO ONE TELL ME ABOUT THIS SOONER!?!?!?!? I think I played soccer 5 out of 7 days that first week. It was amazing. To confess, I avoided posting this sooner because I didn’t want the soccer team to be some dream that just went away. I am pretty sure now it is here to stay.
I have defnitely become happier since I have started playing soccer. It is just one of those things that is not a normal Thai female interest, but it makes me, me.
It is not too late to send a Christmas letter or care package! I would definitely appreciate either! If you need the address, please send me an email!