Friday, March 27, 2009

Okay this is going to sound like a broken record, but I really can't remember everything I've done lately. We are so busy! I wonder if there will ever be a day that I'm not exhausted during some portion of it. I usually go to bed at 10 and wake up at 7 which should be plenty of sleep, BUT the roosters crow all night! Also if it rains at night I have to set up buckets to catch the rain because leaks in the roof. Also the rest of my family gets up at 4:30 or 5 and the monks come around for food around 6:30 and then chant or pray. All of this leads to interrupted sleep. Also I'm mentally overwhelmed each day with speaking Thai and learning how to do community development! Now, now this is not really a complaint; I love my life here and can't imagine doing anything else. As I said before I will really miss my community when I leave for my permanent site. 
This morning my technical group (Kim, Susan, and myself) presented our work to the government workers, our families, and the villagers on what we had learned the past two months, and we did it all in Thai! The presentation went well and we are all very proud. I actually teared up when thanking the community and my family for their help, as did the majority of the Peace Corps audience. It really has been a special two months here in Chaibadan
Tomorrow I have my final language assessment with a professional tester. I'm not really nervous since I did so well this morning with my Thai, but plan on studying a bit with my family and friends this afternoon and evening; that is after I hand wash all of my clothes in a basin! I must score at least Intermediate low on the test and feel that I definitely will pass, BUT better not be too cocky though!
This week we stayed busy with two field trips.  The first was to learn about self-sustaining farming and organic fertilizer. The trip took a bizarre but interesting turn when our guide took us to an inter-religious Japanese philosophy center to look at art and pray a bit. I totally got interested but for some volunteers it was just too weird. If you ask me, just go with the flow and try and learn something wherever you go! On Wednesday, the whole Peace Corps group traveled to a wat (temple) that has a HIV/AIDs support group and hospital. It was much like the experience I had in rural China in visiting a similar facility. It was a bit awkward and disturbing but also a place of hope. In Thailand, people with HIV have a heavy stigma attached to their person, and some families simply drop their family members off at this wat, when the find out about someone having HIV, never to return. There was area with a large Buddha watching over the unclaimed ashes of the formers patients and residents of the wat. I asked about this place and how the current residents deal with being surrounded by death. My guide told me that the patients have to get used to the idea of death and come to terms with the fact that they might end up there. In Buddhism the body is viewed as unimportant, really just a shell for our souls, it is completely temporary and susceptible to destruction. This is true but also a little hard to understand from a Western and Christian mindset. This field trip was emotionally taxing but I realized that I can get involved with and build relationships with people living with HIV at my site. Many of these people get stuck in a life with only those other people with the same condition, and many would welcome a new friend, especially one from America who is trying to learn Thai!
This weekend, I have plans to relax at the pool and attend a religious ceremony for a friend's host brother who is entering the monkhood. Next week we wind down training with progress interviews and planning for a thank you party that we will have for the community. After that I move back into the hotel with all of my fellow volunteers to have a conference with our new Thai counterparts (those people we will be working with at site) and then on to swearing in and the big move!
It's hard to believe I've already been here for two months and it's already time go, but I'm exciting to see what the next 25 months have in store for me. 
Please continue to comment on my posts, and send emails and pictures! Please Please Please!


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Looks like I'm really terrible at blogging, only being able to post once a week or so...I'll have to do better about remembering all the details of what I've been doing. As you could tell I was so excited to get to go to Bangkok, get western food and head out on the town with my group....and that's exactly what happened. It was really great but the enormity of Bangkok and number of other farongs (foreigners) there was overwhelming and annoying. I took a night bus (on Friday) to Issan with another volunteer (Susan). We tried to sleep but ended up swapping life stories. Her's was a little more incredible than mine (ie, she knew Dr. King and spearheaded the civil rights movement in Oregon! I was in awe). We arrived somewhere (who knows) just in time to miss our next bus. We slowly made our way from town to town on a song tao, a covered pick up truck, to meet up with the current volunteer we were assigned to visit. It was so great to get to spend some time with her, Sherri from GA also a Religious Studies major, and we definitely were able to have some fun. We met up with other people from her group, my group and her colleagues for beers and lunch on the Mekong River overlooking Laos. Pretty amazing, no swimming though, the weather was freezing! Susan and I got up early the next day and flagged a bus own by Sherri's house to get our next bus station. There we parted ways to visit our respective sites. My trip wasn't too long and I had the bus driver stop right in front of my SAO, where my office will be for the next two years. I was met by a large amount of the staff, even though it was Sunday and talked with them as much as I could before I absolutely had used all my Thai and needed a nap. I stayed on the property with some of my younger counterparts and we had a lovely dinner and went to bed early. The next day began early to go over the SAO's six month plan after my arrival; also I was treated to tons more introductions. Then off to look at houses and the area. We all piled in a truck, one teacher came with and she could speak English, and we headed out. Most of the houses were so-so but not ideal. I have decided on a homestay, where I will have my own room with an older couple that have a beautiful home, garden and farm. Best of all they are one of the loveliest families I have ever met. The father is a retired soldier that used to work for the US army and his wife is a retired teacher; they also speak English! This will be extremely helpful because in my area most people speak Lao, which I obviously have not been learning in Central Thailand, haha! All in all the site visit was a sucess and I feel very lucky and excited to be going there. The community is extremely receptive to having a Peace Corps volunteer, as a couple from Peace Corps lived there a few years ago. 
I am now back at my training site with my Thai homestay family, who I missed a lot. They really have been amazing. After several overnight bus trips, some confusing commuter buses I finally made it back to bike home in time for lunch. I feel a little strange, because I now have two lives in Thailand, one at training and one at site, and I miss the other when I'm not there. It will be hard to so goodbye to my training community come April 9 when I move to site. 
That's all to report for now. This week and weekend the community development group will be putting together and running a life skills camp for the local teenagers. Should be interesting, will update again soon!
Peace, Sarah

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


Ok, so I can't even begin to remember what I've been doing since my last post, because I just found out about my site placement. Yes, that's right, my site, or where I will be living for the next 2 years. I am heading to Si Sa Ket, which is in the NorthEastern Thailand in a region called Issan. the area is flat, hot and dry, and very poor, and the speak Lao in this area. That means I have to learn to speak Lao (I'm actually pretty excited about this). My province borders Cambodia, and I will be very close to Laos. I will be working in a smaller sub-district at the local government office with a counterpart (age 26), I suppose we will figure out this whole community development thing together. I will most likely choose to live with a host family once at site for the first few months, but I wouldn't mind a homestay for two years! My schedule for the next few days is also pretty exciting:
- Thursday afternoon going to Bangkok with fellow volunteers, we will divide into groups once there and do a faux amazing race to get around the city and get to the Peace Corps Office.
-Thursday night we are all going for American food and then to the clubs.
-Friday morning we have sessions at the Peace Corps office.
-Friday evening I will go to the bus stations to catch a bus to visit a current volunteer, near my site (sort of), I will be with another volunteer from my group and we are meeting up with some other Peace Corps people on Saturday to go swimming in the MeKong River!! I am so excited about this!
-Sunday I head to my site to meet my coworkers and check out housing options. 
-Monday night bus back to Bangkok, in order to go to the hospital to have my finger checked out (I'm starting to regain some feeling!)

Anyway, I'm so excited about this small trip and the challenges that lie ahead, this job will be tough but I'm grateful for the experience. If you want to learn more about my future site, just google Si Sa Ket. The information is quite interesting. 

Interesting points about the area:
- they eat insects, field mice and sticky rice.
- Issan people are loud and colorful (maybe I'll fit in).
- Music and traditional instruments are prevalent. 
- the region is traditional but quite open to change and development!

As always, I miss you all but am extremely happy in Thailand, I love getting emails, no matter how long or short, keep em coming!