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The Journey South

Ahh, where to start?

It has been a week since we left the Golden Dragon in Singburi and I feel like so much has happened.

I haven’t had a moment to myself let alone time to sit and type a blog post since my arrival here in Satun. Currently, I am staying with my co-teacher and his family in Amphur Muang, which is about 60 or so kilometers away from my site in Amphur Manang, the reason being that we have had a Province-wide three day “Sports Day” event for all the teachers. Schools were pitted against schools from different regions. It started on Monday with a huge, elaborate parade and opening ceremony. Women had to arrive at 1am to get ready since the make up and costumes were so intensely decorative. Fortunately, I was only a simple flag bearer and could afford to arrive at the late hour of 4am. Only extraneous garment I had to purchase the night before was the tackiest suit I could find at the weekend night market, where I just so happened to be helping sell cold crepes.

Ask me about it the next time you see me and I can go more into detail for you.

The day consisted of a lot of walking and standing out in the intense heat. More than a few people fainted from heatstroke. Patience was something I found to be present here in this instance more so than back at home. I casually commented to a fellow teacher that if this were to happen in the United States, the organizers would have gotten an earful before midmorning. And yet we persisted. It was a bit tortuous, but believe it or not, I enjoyed it thoroughly. “This is what I am here for,” thought a small voice in my head. “To weather the unknown and unpredictable.” Every day is a new adventure waiting to unfold. I’m literally at the mercy of my current caretakers.

It is akin in many ways to being a child again, entering a new community and not really speaking the language that well yet. You have to go where you are taken and live with decisions being made on your behalf. Others have to speak for you at times, and people are constantly talking about you.

Something I have noticed considerably is the importance placed on looks and how you look.

But yeah, more on that in another post.

Being here has given me an outside in perspective soon to be replaced by one that is on the inside looking out. Thinking and talking about America as some distant country with a foreign culture, funny ideas, and strange customs has been eye-opening.

What is it that most people do during their free time again?

The difference between here and Central Thailand is also fairly considerable. It feels like with every mile I distanced myself from my old home in Tha Kham, the more I began to realize that Thai culture is far from being a monolith. Just as I cannot speak for the whole of America, my experiences in two months with my host family, fellow Peace Corps trainees, staff, and ajaans were only a drop in the sea. The entirety of expression varies widely on a spectrum. Ways of life change as do perspectives. On the way down, I think all of us in the van felt like our old lives were falling away and being replaced by  new feelings of uncertainty and discomfort. Don’t get me wrong, we have an amazing group of people here with us, and let me emphasize AMAZING. Nevertheless, the realization that we are entering into a place that we know nothing about to live and work for the next two years hit hard as we made the 16 hour road trip down.

Along the way we stopped numerous times for gas, food, site seeing, bananas, a roadside market, you name it, we probably stopped there. The most notable reason was for prayer. Since all our co-teachers are Muslim, they stopped to pray in adherence to the practice of making sure to pray five times a day (set at different times of day). When we had to eat, the only restaurants we could eat at had to be Halal. For me at least, these were some very new concepts to wrap my head around. It was interesting, odd, and beautiful. The whole idea of me coming here. The nature of our situation. The hodgepodge of completely new sights and sounds. Everything is now sort of coming together, but it all had to fall apart first.

At this point, I have come to love these new feelings of uncertainty and discomfort.

My school is in the jungle amidst the palm and rubber plantations. The road can curve and bend through places few eyes have ever seen. Hills rise and fall at precarious angles. The campus itself is in a state of oddly comforting disarray. Since being here though, I have felt so at home. Despite the fact that I have had to share a bed with my co-teacher’s brother in law. The people here have taken me in and I love them for that. I could seriously go on, but I think that this too is for another post. Mang, if you’re reading this, be on the lookout. I’m going to write about you and your perfect family.

Right now, I’m in the room typing this out at a thousand words a minute because I know that dinner is soon and that I still need to take a shower.

Today, during the last day of “Sports Day” we had some really interesting relays. I’m happy to say that I helped win Manang second place in the sack race relay. Twas my first time, but I feel like I’ve uncovered a new talent. Other relays consisted of running in a group with a long pole between your legs, “Superman” tag teaming by putting a pair of underwear on top of your pants and then switching by taking them off and having your teammate wear them before sprinting back, and rolling a tire with a stick in segments around the track. Hard to imagine I know, but I probably also suck at explaining.

Rained quite a bit during the event, but no one really cared.

We do things in rain or shine around here.

That’s basically how I feel about the whole Peace Corps experience so far. Attitude is 100% of the challenge. Taking every hurdle in stride and getting up when you eat it. Starting off every morning excited and ready to take on the day.

Rain or shine, I’ll be here … Open and eager to learn.

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2 Comments

  1. lcono8

    Love your insights Clarence. Your attitude IS everything and feeling like an uncertain, helpless child is just part of the learning experience. That’s why we signed up for this crazy ride 😉 #lovinthesouth #rainorshine

  2. I feel the last paragraph about attitude, and getting up when you eat it (something I’ve done a lot of recently). Those feelings of uncertainty you felt driving south were felt by those of us headed up north as well. Miss you lots.

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