It has now been 20 days since we left the Duke city. The Peace Corps staff has spoken several times about several stages of adjustment that most if not all volunteers will experience in some fashion. We are still waiting for the "what am I doing here" stage, which follows the first stage, which is the "honeymoon" stage. The honeymoon stage consists of loving the country, feeling like you belong here and really fit in.
I don't know about the fitting in part but most of my thoughts thus far have circled around why I did not do something like this sooner. Thanks, Gary Gyure. Our schedule has been prohibitive of any seriously deep thinking so far but I am now adjusted to being awake while it is night time in the place I spent the first 3 decades of my life and I think I'm about to get started on these things.
Being immersed in Thai culture I feel a sharpened awareness. It's as if all faculties realize they need to operate at 100% in order to achieve survival now and so they do. Granted, the Peace Corps administration here has among the most sophisticated programmatic training I have ever seen, none the less, I can feel my brain growing new neuron-pathways every day. Some of these are for the processing of the strange sounds that come out of these people's mouths, some of them are making those sounds myself, but others have to do with an expanding perspective of what it means to be a human.
Peace Corps is working hard to steep us heavily in Thai culture and values (by the way, all of the staff working with us for language and technical session now are Thais). Some of that seems a little over the top, but for the most part it is eye opening to see just how different the things the Thais see as important actually are. One example: we have met probably 150 people in our district now and when I mention the first name of Erin and I's host father, they all know who that is. Maybe this is common to rural life everywhere but everybody seems to know everyone else. They are a collective. Even more striking is the absolute lack of the "what do you do?" attitude of Americans. This was a point very well explained by our technical trainers. Here, people don't care what you do, but who you are, and if you have family and where you are from. According to our THai trainers, it is perfectly allowable to leave work for any family responsibility. You don't tentatively ask your boss while afraid you are going to look bad, you go and take care of your family. I like this concept a lot, and will remember it for a long time when I'm back at work in the States.
Our schedule continues to be roughly 5:45AM to 8PM. We have had no real days off as of yet. Today was a big party with a dancing performance by us and the ajaans (teachers), singing by everyone and an very good meal. Cousin Donny will be glad to know that some of his disco dance moves have now been seen by Thai audiences. Peace Corp activities really are turning us volunteers into a brotherhood over these weeks. We do everything together from learn to eat, to play to sing. I have not before seen so much openness from so many people (52 Americans).
In the morning, my program CBOD, has language same as Erin's (TCCO) but in the afternoon this week we biked around the community and interviewed people. Our Thai is still quite limited, but we are able to ask a decent amount of questions already. To start we ask about family, then about business . This work too is exhausting. The brain is working to comprehend sounds and formulate questions as a knee might work to keep a body moving in a marathon. We learned a lot about Thai local government structure which will be important for our work later. Next week we go from interviewing people in groups to doing it individually, which I like, because I honestly find it hard to get a word in edgewise with a group of four.
I'm still working on the 401k transfer and have not quite gotten to international calling yet. I think our bills in Albuquerque have stopped coming in, and that's good because so have our checks.