Friday, January 30, 2015

Thai Day

We are approaching the halfway mark of our Pre Service Training (PST) here in hazy Bangrachan. I've yet to see a blue sky, which I believe is due to the ever present trash fires and burning of sugarcane fields. I dream of green jungle and clear skies in the North, where I hope to be assigned.

Our days are mostly filled with studying Thai or teacher training. It's a lot of sitting in hot classrooms trying to focus. Some days I feel like I've made a breakthrough, others I feel like I'm broken. I think we are all anxious to come out the other side of PST and get started.

Me with my first language group

This is how I feel by the time I bike home at the end of a long day in the classroom. (I shot this on the one day I got home early, only to find I was locked out of the house. Had to sit out front with our four dogs. I liked how he was using the pot as a pillow.) 

This is from the little restaurant across the street from our training center. This plate costs 30 Baht. (almost $1)

On Saturday we celebrated Thai Day with performances from our teachers and American skits and dancing from the PCVs. This photo is of our teachers singing us a song about how glad they are to have us as students. There were a lot of tears shed. 

We were served a big Thai feast at the end. I am very grateful to be serving in a country with such amazing food. 

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Bangrachan Village

Our transition out of the resort and into a host family in Bangrachan Village was a little unnerving for us. Nobody knew exactly what to expect. Would we be thrust into a situation where we can barely communicate with people who really want to communicate with us? Yes. Would we be taking cold bucket showers and squatting to poop for the next two months? Quite possibly. Would we be sleeping on a dirt floor and using stray dogs as blankets? Thankfully, no.

At last the wait was over. We met our new host families in a big room and were driven to our new homes for the next two months. Couldn't help but feel a sense of relief during the house tour when I saw I had my own room, a bed, and screens on the window. Things got better after spotting the heated shower, western toilet (sans seat), and washing machine. All in all, I have it pretty good. Wifi would have been frosting on the cake, but once I got data going on my phone, it wasn't a big deal.

Rice fields near my home

My host family's house

My bed area with  my PC issued mosquito net

The first night was super awkward, as I was a stranger in a strange house with almost zero ability to speak in Thai. I wasn't sure what to do or when to do it. After talking to other volunteers, this seemed to be the norm. However, things got dramatically better over the next few days. Soon I was meeting neighbors and extended family, feeling independent on my bike, and becoming a member of the family rather than a guest. 

A neighbor's pet squirrel

Language and technical training has been non stop since we arrived in Thailand. I feel like I'm back in high school and college--places I never wished to go back to. I'm not the greatest student, sleeping through a good portion of my classroom hours. It's even tougher for me to stay awake here with the heat, dressed in riap roy (business casual). I keep thinking--2 months, I can do this. 

Group 127. There are 70 of us now after one went home. 

Culture training

Community mapping bike ride with my language class

The silver lining to everything in Thailand is the food. It's been great!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Peace Corps Staging & PST

It's been a whirlwind of activity since leaving Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport a week ago. What we all expected to be a three day staging in Seattle before leaving the country turned out to be just one afternoon.

We flew out the next morning for Bangkok, with a short stopover in Narita, Japan. Long enough for a tasty bowl of ramen. 

Double-decker busses were waiting to transport us to our home for the next week--the Golden Dragon Resort in Singburi. The term resort is bandied about a bit more casually here than in the states. Rest assured, we aren't receiving spa treatments or swimming laps in the pool. (there's no pool)

We got a few hours rest that night and then it was straight to training. Information is being crammed into our heads at reckless speeds. We've received enough books and manuals to start a small library. 

We enjoyed a special welcoming ceremony and a visit to meet the vice governor.

Today was bike day, where we received our new bikes and learned how to use them. Really nice to be out of the classroom for a change. 

In two days we will be kicked out of our comfortable resort life existence and welcomed into the arms of our host families. From then on we will be biking to and from training ever day, rather than taking the elevator. More to come....

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Packed And Ready To Go!

This is me for the next 27 months 

How does one pack for a trip that lasts for 2+ years? It definitely takes a bit more planning than a weekend getaway. For me it starts with a detailed packing list. Thailand is hot year round, so all my warm weather clothing stays home. There's this thing called "riap roy", which I believe is their version of business casual, so I'm bringing what I consider to be an excessive number of polo shirts. (three)

Actually, I'm bringing very little clothing, as almost any apparel can be purchased there for dirt cheap. Thailand is notorious for their knockoffs. My focus has been on bringing items that I'm not certain will be available, or my favorite versions of them, like my plastic cutting boards and wooden mixing spoons. I've stashed two quality kitchen knives and a Magic Chef carrot peeler. I even squeezed in my salad spinner. I'd bring my blender, juicer, and food processor if I could. Obviously my priority is with kitchen tools.

I believe I am packing light, as I only have one large suitcase, a duffel, and my laptop bag. I could carry on my duffel and check another large suitcase, but it would be a huge pain to get around. A few other specialty items I made room for:

500 GB Hard Drive: Not only is it handy for backing up important files from my laptop, but I've caught wind of a flourishing black market hard drive exchange among peace corps volunteers. You never know when you might meet someone with decent taste in movies and music.

Trail Running Shoes: I limited myself to just two pair. I figure I can pick up some cheap road shoes there. Additionally I am bringing my hydration pack, about 5 pounds of GUs/electrolyte tabs/etc, and my Garmin watch. There are a lot of runners in the PC community. Looking forward to running some races with them.

Big Boggle: One of my favorite games. The letter cubes are also handy in the classroom.

Handheld GPS: I was so glad I brought my geocaching gear with me to Japan, so it was a no-brainer to bring it with me to Thailand. Hiking is more fun when there's a treasure hunt along the way.

Portable iPod speakers: I've lost track of how many trips and countries they have been with me. Perfect for listening to music around the house or on the beach.

Crossing my fingers that both bags make it to my final destination. I'm off to Seattle in the morning, and then Thailand on Saturday.