One Year Gwaw Reflection

In March, the Peace Corps Thailand Group 124 Volunteers reached their one year mark.  I was very busy at that time, and didn’t have a chance to blog on my thoughts.  Thais use the word “gwaw” to describe plus, over, or just past.  For instance, Thias get paid the equivalent of social security when they are 60 gwaw.   So this is my official one year gwaw reflection blog post.

Pre-Service:  Well, Pre-service was fun and all, it wasn’t my favorite period.  My host family was good, but not that interactive.  Also, my host sister and I had a falling out at the end.  It was hard to be myself because I didn’t really feel comfortable.  There was just a lot going on in a little amount of time, and all the volunteers needed to adjust.  Pretty much, I didn’t know how good it could be until I came to Bantak.

Site: Every day (or pretty much everyday) I feel blessed to work at the place I do.  First off, it is beautiful.  The Bing River splits my town in two, and you can sit on the edge with a view of the river, the river’s sandbars, palm trees and then mountains in the background.  I have seen some of the most gorgeous sunsets here.  A lot of the photos I have taken here have been of the sunsets, trying to capture the beauty but not succeeding.
Next, I really enjoy being with my coworkers.  There is a real community feel at my tessaban.  I would term the people I work with as “includers”.  And they are great to dance with!   Everyone at my site knows I enjoy dancing and are impressed at my moves.    It is great that they like to dance too; we have a great time together. (A few of my best memories for the first year include dancing.)  Some people at my tessaban have taken longer than others to open up to.  For instance, one guy I didn’t know that well, one day in Jan, he saw me practicing soccer.  He did a double take and looked like he had just witnessed a pig flying.  I will never forget the expression on his face.  It seemed to say “What?! Is that really Amy!?  What the heck is she doing playing soccer?!”  We are friends now.  The people I work with are genuine too.  Something I really value.  To me, the people of Ban Tak are just like the people of Indianola–not too flashy, hard working, genuine,  and helpful. 
My host family was/is fabulous.  I feel lucky I got to live with them.  I have since moved out of my Ban Tak Host family’s house.  There are positives and negatives, but it just seemed what needed to happen at the time.  Yet, I still go and eat with my host family at least once a week.  And I always have to be sure to go and bring them back snacks when I go anywhere.
My house is across from a outdoor market.  I consider the vendors my neighbors.  The other week I sat about an hour and a half with the fruit lady just watching people drive by.  I know if I had any problems, they would help me.  I wrote in my VRF probably the best way to describe my integration level is whenever I go outside, I get at least one “Hello, Amy!”

I get up later now.   My alarm clock is set for 6:11 so I can get out of bed by 7. Since the year mark, it has been easier to understand what is going on in the office.  I know what festivals and activities are coming up and understand what people are talking about.  After work I enjoy biking around, exercising with old people, or playing soccer…especially playing soccer.  It is my stress release.
On weekends, I enjoy traveling.  Staying at site for too long can be numbing.  I realized early last year, the only thing really holding me to my site was me.  If I am not traveling, I have a specific routine to make the weekend special.  I go to the library, read my book, buy a blended iced coffee (I only allow mself to buy these on the weekends), and watch a movie Friday and Saturday night (I don’t watch movies or tv shows during the week).  On Sundays, I go to church and then I eat supper with my host family.

My hardest time period was Reconnect (Mid July 2012) and just after Reconnect.  I just had to completely change my ideas of what success meant here and how I was going to achieve it.   Once I decided that I was going to be happy no matter what and not let Thailand win, things got a lot better.  And then soccer happened…
About a year ago, I wrote a post stating 33/66-33% of the time I feel fine, while 66% of the time I am freaking out.  Well, that has switched now.  Maybe, it is even a greater percentage for the good time.  Usually when I freak out, I think, “Oh yes, statistically this was bound to happen soon.”

Since coming here, I have seen people leave, desks change, learned to more appreciate people and take advantage of the moment.  I sometimes think about why I got placed here.  I don’t know the reason, but I am glad I did.
When people ask what do you think of Thailand, it takes me a while to come up with an answer.  After a certain time, it just becomes life.  Life has ups and downs but you are going to get through it no matter what.
All in all, life is good.

Random facts:
-The weather is always hot
-I have really appreciated getting mail from everyone and making letters! THANK YOU SO MUCH!  It makes my day, sometimes even my week!
-My favorite fruits are pineapple and mangos (The yellow mangos).  I have made friends with the fruit lady.
-Most ordered food: Cow Pat Ga-pow Rice with basil and pork.
-The best thing at 7- Eleven is the orange juice and the croissants
-Best thing at host moms huuua biis–fried end of banana flower goodness.

-Best purchase–the soccer ball and an external hard drive

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