Thursday, March 31, 2011

Kii Moat DIZZANG...that hurts

Success, I am now an official Peace Corps Volunteer.  I passed the language proficiency exam with flying colors and gave the once impending speech.  I stayed in a hotel for a counterpart conference and said many sad goodbyes to my new family in Ayuthaya (my host mother calls me 3 times a day to talk. I can answer three questions and the rest is history) as well as new friends in the form of fellow volunteers. 

I am currently living at my site with my brand new host family in Yasothorn.  Amazingly, they are just as nice and giving as the host family in Ayuthaya. Communicating is not easy, they speak a different dialect and my central Thai is not good enough for them or me to understand much at all.  I will have to settle for using my hands and playing charades all over again. 

Like I mentioned last post, the food is a little different from the food in Central Thailand and the way of life is quite different as well.  Essan people are very easy going; they remind me of the southern part of the United States.  I say this because of the following:  “I will take you fishing and then I will teach you how to shoot birds from a motorcycle”, which happens to be a direct quote from one of my co-workers at the school.  If that isn’t Arkansas I don’t know what is!  Of course I had to let him know that I could not ride or drive a motorcycle in which case he replied, “Can you ride your bike with one hand?” 

Volunteer life, even though I have experienced very little of it, is quite different from Pre-Service Training.  During PST I felt like I was in school again, my whole day was planned, I felt like I was learning a lot and things came fairly easy.  Site presents a different dynamic.  Thai schools are currently on “bidtum”, which I am fairly sure is the Thai word for “midterm”, same as “ice cream” and “icateam”….(another quick side bar, if one were to pronounce the Thai word “icateam” incorrectly Thai people are quick to point it out to you, what is up with that?  I am not 100% positive but I believe that ice cream is an English language original). 

Back on track, Thai schools are on midterm.  My current primary role as a volunteer is to work with a Thai counterpart in the school in order to enhance his/her English language skills and participatory teaching ability.  Because school is closed and I just arrived, I have absolutely nothing to do.  There are positives about having nothing to do but there are also negatives.  The positives:  Sleep, Freedom and Time, The negatives:  Sleep, Freedom and Time. 

Sleep:  You could potentially sleep all day, but sleeping all day does not fly in Thai culture.  Thai people are always working and they always find something to do.  Sooooo, I wake up and act like I am doing things all day.  One may ask what that entails and no I am not going to tell, mostly because it is…nothing.

Freedom:  What is freedom? and then this blog post turned into a political campaign.  I need your help Kees.

Time:  I have all the time in the world to do everything.  I don’t have anything to do with all the time I have.

The food is delicious; the people are STILL nice (and curious).  The other day I went to the family farm with my new mother here in Yasothorn and she taught me how to get red ant eggs out of the mango tree.  It was impressive and I was excited until she stuck her hand in the collection basket and acted like nothing happened.  Being the "man" I am, I decided it would be a good idea to share in the culture a bit and give it a go.  I stuck my hand in to remove as many red ants as I could and got a little more than I bargained for.  Those little buggers were all over me in a matter of seconds and I most likely sounded like a 4 year old girl (no offense Lynlee) and my mom continued to point and hysterically laugh at me....Classic...the end of the story is we ate the ant eggs and sold the rest in the market for 50 baht...I received about 1000 ant bites for the equivalent of 1.35 U.S. Dollars.

 Yasothorn is great and I am looking forward to my first experience with the Thai New Year celebration “SongKran” which occurs in April.  I have a feeling that my next blog post will come shortly after the celebration as any Thai celebration ranging from weddings to funerals to 2 year funeral memorials, is usually worth writing about.

I also had the opportunity to speak with my brother Pat and sister-in-law Sarah which was great! I know that she probably already is but if she is not, please include her in your prayers as she embarks on yet another journey.

Juug gone krap,


Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Site Visit, Ect.

After viewing this page I have realized I need some pictures to document some of the wild and crazy stuff I have been getting up to (I only kid), but seriously I need some pictures.  I am not a huge fan of pictures so supplying pictures relevant to these posts may be a challenge.  Pictures are great sources of information because they allow the audience the ability to reflect the image in their minds with the actual picture.  Pictures come in many varieties…………Alright finished……

Last post I stated that I would be heading to Yasothorn province for a visit.  The group of 123 volunteers was able to head to Bangkok for train/bus rides to our respective villages.  I took a bus.  This is the first time I have taken a Thai tour bus and fortunately it will not be the last.  I slept the entire way to my Peace Corps Volunteer site visit near the Cambodian border, slept again from there to Yasothorn and slept from Yasothorn back to Bangkok (a grand total of approx. 16 hours).  My head must have hit the window at least a thousand times and I am sure that the Thai natives next to me were tired of receiving good old fashion American drool on their shoulders. 

I guess my point is I went to Yasothorn.  I did not know when to get off the bus because the stops were said once in Thai, Thai people got off the bus while I sat and pondered on how far past my stop I actually was.  Somehow, some way, I landed only 10 kilometers past my “site”.  I called my Thai counterpart on the phone and somehow between static and language barriers communicated I needed to be picked up.  I could not describe my location because there were not many landmarks.  My attempt was, “I am close to the rice field” (I am so helpful). 

My Thai counterpart somehow found me and my visit was underway.  I was taken into the village by truck, I sat in the front and the kids, ages 4 and 8, sat in the bed (I know what you are thinking, and yes that is the safest option I could think of as well).  Through dried up rice fields and many dirt roads I arrived at my counterpart’s house.  A beautiful wooden thai style house with an organic garden and ponds for raising cat-fish.  That night, I chatted with my counterpart and her husband.  They informed me of local cuisine, not all of which I necessarily wanted to hear and I want to list a few of the rather different ones:  crickets, grasshoppers, fermented fish, grounded lizard with peppers, hardened chicken blood (not a new one), chicken foot soup (ate that for dinner), bamboo worms and the list might go on.  In Issan the people used to eat these things out of necessity.  The people have found ways to include these things to supply the family with a healthy and balanced diet and they add enough spice and organic Thai herbs to make anything delicious (don’t knock it til you try it).

In the morning I was treated to breakfast.  I was then taken into the village to explore and meet the wonderful new people, the village leaders, the students, the two schools, the “government office”, my new host family and my potential new home.  I was required to introduce myself in front of the students, teachers and paw aw (principal) and of course I had to do it in Thai.  So there I was in front of 100 plus people and I absolutely butchered every Thai word I know, classic Luke.  They all got a good laugh anyway right? 

So all in all I know I will be busy at my site in the province of Yasothorn.  I have two wonderful schools I will be working with, a provincial education office, a health center and wonderful counterparts as well. 

All of this being said, I have two weeks of pre-service training left.  I am both excited and sad to be leaving our training site.  I will most definitely miss being around all of the people I have met throughout the whole experience and I will miss my host family a lot!  I still have some work cut out for me.  I will be taking the Language Proficiency Exam on Saturday of this week and must receive a Novice High grade.  I also must give a speech in Thai in front of the group’s Thai counterparts and community leaders as well as the Ambassador of Thailand from the United States, our Thai adjaans (teachers) and the Country Director for the Peace Corps (no pressure).  Anyone who has seen me play NCAA Football 2011 knows I do not crack under pressure….last second, game winning field goals are my specialty (okay, aim the marker with the left joystick, watch the wind and remember it is raining a little, press X, X)…….Bollinger, Joe, Smith and especially Sherman know what I am talking about…cool man…

Everything is still going well.  I took some time the other night to think about what all I have gotten used to in just 2 months.  I came up with a list of things that are normal now that were not when I had just arrived in Thailand and here it is:
Lizards living in my house
Showering with a bucket
5 people on one moped (the razorback football team cannot do that; frat guys, maybe) Eating dinner for breakfast
Riding on the left side of the road
More than 20 animals living in my house
10 Roosters under my bed
Pretending I understand Thai
Doing laundry with buckets  
Rain falling in the middle of my house
Sweating from every pore in my body….even my knees sweat, don’t ask me why
Not sitting on porcelain when using the bathroom but standing on it instead
Not having toilet paper
Eating fruits right off of trees
Not wearing shoes
No chairs
Being given some kind of gift every day

The list goes on and I am sure I will add to it but it is amazing the kinds of things I have adjusted to seeing.  I hope I will have the chance to update again when I get to my site.  Some schools have internet connections so if I get lucky I will be able to update regularly.
Aside from all that whoopla,
Lastly and most importantly,

I am elated to post that my sister-in-law is done with surgery and doing well!  I know they appreciated all of the thoughts and prayers!  I have been updated that several people had a hand in everything from yard work to a living room makeover.  The people back home are amazing as well. Thank you family for keeping me updated.  It is not easy to be far away from you in times like these but it is easier now that recovery is in process.

Choke Dii Krap,