BootsnAll Travel Network

Get Rich, Join the Peace Corps!

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Lalo and I with some of my co-teachers and friends. Yellow is the color for the King and Thais love their king. Love. The entire country is a sea of yellow.

Going back to your Peace Corps site is kinda like going home after your first semester in college. You realize that you will always be a guest from that point forward. Your life as you knew it no longer exists. Strange things have happened to your room (my old house in Thailand is now a motorcylce repair shop) and you are acutely aware of the most minor changes that have occurred since you left. In your mind that place is frozen in time, but in reality time has marched on without you. One of the biggest shocks for me was how big some of my students had gotten. They were grade school children when I left and now they are young adults in high school. It made me stop and think about time and how precious every day, week, and month is.

We went to Lalo’s site first, which is way up north, about 9 hours from Bangkok. We decided to fly because although we both missed alot of things about Thailand, neither of us missed voiced over action movies blasting all night long and air conditioning set below zero. When I first arrived in the swanky new Bangkok airport (which I hate), I was immediately struck by how developed Thailand seemed. Then I went to a few new ridiculously upscale malls downtown and I thought of how different Thailand was from how I remembered it. I had apparently forgotten that Bangkok is Bangkok and Thailand is Thailand, and when we stepped off that plane into Issan (the poorest section of Thailand) it was exactly how I remembered it. Smiling, barefoot children, old women with red mouths from chewing beetle nut for years, and dust. Lots of dust. I breathed a sigh of relief because this was the Thailand that I know and love.

We decided to make our visits a surprise because it is Thai custom to go a little (ok, a lot) overboard when you have a guest. Eventhough it was a surprise, it still got a little overwhelming at times. When you have a guest you should feed them. Alot. And if you can do it at a party, all the better. We spent about 48 hours at Lalo’s site and we attended two Round Table Parties: one of the most dreaded events in a Peace Corps volunteers life. Especially if you’re female and you can’t drink.

A round table party consists of a round table, 7-8 dishes which are usually the same… at every party… in any part of Thailand, lots of men drunk on whiskey, and young (sometimes disturbingly young) girls dancing around in skimpy, flourescent, sequined outfits. If you’re really lucky there’s karaoke and you are forced into singing a song in front of hundreds of people. It’s the same party for everything: weddings, retirements, Teacher’s Day, so-and-so’s running for public office, etc. We decided since we weren’t Peace Corps volunteers anymore we didn’t have to smile and pretend we wanted to be there so we made an early exit both times. At my site we weren’t the victims of any Round Table Parties, but we were forced to eat. All day and all night.

Everybody was really excited to see us. There were screams of joy and tears and hugging and the like. Visiting was good. I feel that I have closure with that part of my life that I didn’t have before. Being a Peace Corps volunteer is a big emotional investment. When it’s over you are left with so many powerful mixed emotions, and readjusting to American culture is probably more difficult than adjusting to Thai culture. Leaving Thailand was difficult for me, but now I see that I made the correct choice in coming back to the States. I am grateful for those two incredible, frustrating, challenging, sometimes magical years I spent in Thailand, but I am also grateful to be back in the United States.

Being in Thailand was so easy and comfortable: I knew the language, I knew the customs, I knew how to relate to people, I knew my way around, etc. and it made me realize I’ll always know those things. Thailand and all of the valuable lessons I learned there will always be with me. I think about the fact that I can travel halfway around the world to a foreign country with a completely different culture, a completely different language, a completely different world view from my own, and I can feel like I’m home, and that’s pretty awesome. I guess you can take the Peace Corps volunteer out of Thailand, but you can’t really take Thailand out of the volunteer… or something like that.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Lalo and his supervisor. He was so excited to see Lalo that he ran and picked him up eventhough he’s about half his height!

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Lalo at the dreaded Round Table Party

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
His supervisor also threw us a house party. At a Thai party everyone brings a few dishes, puts them on a mat, and you all sit on the floor and share.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Lalo’s supervisor’s daughter, Watanoi, hooked me up with some blue eyeshadow and some pink blush and lipstick before we went to the club:-)

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Lalo with two kids and the big boss, who was drunk the entire time we were there… oh, thailand:-)

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Talking to students at my site

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Group picture with friends, teachers, and neighbors at my site

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Lalo’s people gave him this necklace and my people gave me the necklace below. In general, they’re for good luck, and these ones in particular will supposedly make you rich. So, if I’m a rich woman one day, you’ll know why.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
We wore them on our final day in Bangkok, and it’s pretty strange to see foreigners with these on, so we got alot of weird looks… but who cares? We’re going to be rich.

Tags: , ,

One response to “Get Rich, Join the Peace Corps!”

  1. Scott says:

    Closure is weird, huh?

    On the one hand, it is like a death of sorts, and so we fear it. We fear the moment finally being over. We fear that passage in life being closed to us. We want to go back to it, to have it always available to us. And when it is closing, we can be filled with fear or dread or a strange kind of melancholy. The sweet sorrow that Shakespeare mentions.

    On the other hand, closure feels satisfying. The desire to return to that moment is over, and now it is just a memory and not a longing. A longing that can’t be satisfied can hurt, so the transformation of that moment from longing to memory can end the pain, if you want to call it that.

    And if we are Shiva and have a third hand (and a fourth, fifth, and sixth), we can see that closure also is rewarding because of its similarity to mortality — it makes us appreciate more fully the time we had that is now over. It can remind us that we are in a moment now that will close, and if we are living rightly, this moment, too, will be thought special — though many times while we are in the moment we not thinking about it that way. In the last episode of “Six Feet Under,” the daughter, Claire, is taking a picture of her family on the front porch as she leaves for college. Her dead brother, Nate, appears behind her and says, “Don’t take a picture. This moment is already gone.” That seems odd to say. That seems like he is saying don’t remember this moment. That seems like he is saying the moment isn’t special. But I think he is saying that the moment is always passing. Don’t resist the passing. Don’t cling to the past (which is different from “don’t remember”). Be now. Closure perhaps helps us realize the power of the moment that has passed, which can remind us to look for the power of the moment that is now passing, for the current adventure and for the next adventure.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *