Monday, August 31, 2009

What's Up

Well the seven month mark of my Peace Corps service has come and gone and we are quickly entering fall in Thailand! This really means nothing like it does in the States, it is still just as hot as ever with rain everyday. Apparently the cool season will start in late October or early November and I can't wait! The heat really does take a toll on me, believe it or not. This may have to do with the fact that I only have a bicycle to get around with. BUT, I have been getting around! No, no not like that, in a work/professional sort of way. I was out of town for two weekends for required Peace Corps meetings, both of which were productive and fun. It's always good to see other volunteers, but I have found the longer I am here the more I feel like my village is my home and find myself missing it while away. I think my host parents feel the same way and they are always excited when I get home from travels. This is nice. 

Last Thursday morning I left with my Thai tutor and friend, who is a teacher and two students to attend a youth entrepeneur conference about 6 hours away. This was especially exciting because it was sure to be productive but also fun for my group. My students, both 15, had never really left our province before and this was to be their first time to stay in a hotel! I also shared their first visit to the zoo on the way to the conference. It was so special to share this eye-opening opportunity with them. At the conference we learned the basics of constructing and writing a business plan and successfully wrote one in which the students at their school will make and sell EM. EM is an effective microorganism organic fertilizer which is taking off in Thailand these days and is fairly easy to make. If our business plan is approved we will get a small amount of money from USAID to start our business. Regardless of whether we get the money or even start the business, this conference was a success. The students are very bright and really got into the project. 

This Wednesday night I am departing with two more students and a teacher for the annual Peace Corps Youth conference. In this conference we will focus on personal development and of course play tons of games. It is supposed to be one of the best Peace Corps sponsored events. This is also exciting, because as before these two students have never traveled. We will take an overnight bus to Bangkok where we will visit the Peace Corps office in the morning before boarding another bus to the site of the conference. I can't wait!

In other news, things at site are going well and I have found the motivation to begin writing several project plans with the hopes of presenting them to the office in time for next year's budget distribution. I have also been in touch with the nurses and the PHA group recently (PHA stands for People Having AIDS). We want to do an AIDS education project in each of the villages in my area (20 villages) and I have been approved to take two patients to a business skills conference at the end of September. In this conference we will hopefully learn to improve their existing income generation business of raising cows. Both patients are nervous about traveling and studying business as neither went to school past 6th grade. As with the other conferences I believe there will be benefits no matter how small. I am making a huge statement to these women by taking them to such an important event and helping them travel, as PHA are still discriminated against in the area. 

I am off to teach this afternoon, something I have grown to enjoy. The kids are shy and not really motivated to learn English but it's still fun. It keeps me busy and involved in community life. 

So all in all work is good and life is great. 
Hope it is for all of you...more updates to come after the conference!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

You know you are a Volunteer in Thailand if...

So, if you are a faithful reader please accept my apologies; I have not updated in almost 3 weeks. Things are going along fairly well here and I actually feel busy and productive...apparently just no inspired to write. I will have you know that I planned and implemented my first small Peace Corps project. With the help of one very able teacher with a medium sized budget, we held a teacher training to help teachers learn skills needed to teach their students more life skills. With the help of three other Peace Corps Volunteers we had four sessions on nutrition/hygiene, HIV/AIDS prevention and awareness, teamwork, composting and recycling and appreciating the environment. And it all went great! In other news I have found a great Thai tutor, have been spending three days a week at the schools, and getting out into the community more. The project ideas are flowing! Things are definitely good. BUT, instead of recapping all of this, I have something more fun for my readers today!

A friend of mine, I guess he was bored, wrote up a list of funny things about being a Peace Corps Volunteer in Thailand, most of which are true and not exaggerated at all! I have posted a lot here and commented on them. So here is a shout out to the author, Eric "fried fish" Hoening of Isaan, and some of the best points...ENJOY!!!

You know you’re a Peace Corps Volunteer in Thailand if…..

1. You see four people on a motorcycle and think there’s still room for more.
This is sooo true. I have seen a grandmother, mother and father, a child and an infant all on one motorcycle. The infant did not look scared or alarmed in the least. Of course no helmets...

2. You actually choose to use the butt sprayer instead of toilet paper.
This is a good one. In Thailand lots of bathrooms have a basin full of water and you use a bucket to pour that water all over you. This is the shower. Also, in Thailand, most toilets do not have flushers or toilet paper, so a hose is provided to hose off one's self (hence the name the butt sprayer) and then to hose whatever down the toilet. These usually spay cold water with a decent amount of pressure, so I guess is sort of feels like a shower. I am not guilty of this one though!

3. You get told that you are beautiful/handsome at least four times a day.
Thai people admire light colored skin, noses with bridges, blue/green eyes and of course blonde hair. Even if you are ugly as sin, if you have these qualities then you are beautiful/handsome in a Thai person's eyes.
4. You can openly discuss bodily functions for hours on end.
It is said that Peace Corps Volunteers all over the world are able to do this. I guess it comes with the territory.

5. You LOVE sticky rice.
Sticky rice is what it is. Made with sugar or glutton or something like that, this rice is served in a basket and one rolls a bit in her hand before dipping it in the other dishes of food. It is quite filling, quite delicious, and quite unhealthy.

6. Anything less than a 12 hour bus trip is considered close.
Ok, so this is a bit of an exaggeration, but the bus rides here are long! For example, on the nicest bus available it takes me 9 hours to get to Bangkok, a mere 470 kilometers away.
7. You don’t really know whose chickens they are, but you have at least 10 chickens in your yard at any given moment.
My family only has 6 chickens and there are definitely 12 outside at this very moment. I don't get it...we hardly ever eat chicken here and eggs or an omelet at a restaurant can be considered expensive.

8. You are called fat and then forced to eat more than you possibly can.
Thai people love to eat, talk about what they just ate, or talk about what they are going to eat next. They also love it when a foreigner shows appreciation for the local cuisine. They also like to talk about how much people weigh or how fat a certain dish will make you. Hence the oxymoron. 
9. You are regularly passed by a 10 year old driving a motorcycle while you labor away on your bicycle.
Uggh, this is the worst. Riding down the hot highway around noon is bad enough, but when a young cool dude speeds by on a bright red motorcycle, you really feel like a dork. The token Peace Corps bike helmet doesn't help.

10. While trying to speak Thai, you have accidentally said that you “pooped a bicycle” 
Ah, a classic! The word for "ride" is a mere tone away from "poop". You get the drift. 

11. You get extremely excited when you can read a sign in Thai.
Reading Thai is sort of like a game or solving a puzzle. It's great at the bus station when someone offers to help you find your bus and you can say, "Oh, no thanks, I can read Thai just fine!"
12. You now feel totally comfortable asking somebody how much money they make.
This is a very common "get-to-know-you" question in Thailand. It's quite proper to ask. 

13. You can’t drink beer without ice.
You don't really have a choice. Either drink it with ice, drink it boiling hot from the heat, or wait around for it get cold in whatever fridge you can find. 
14. Your clothes are never clean, and they only smell good half the time.
When it's humid and you have to hang your clothes outside to dry, it can sometimes take days! All kind of dirt gets on them and they eventually smell like mildew. 

15. You think 75 degrees is cold.
Well, that's just a fact, it is COLD.
16. You have watched all your DVDs with commentary at least three times.
Life in Thailand can be slow sometimes, very slow. 

17. You commonly ask people if they have showered yet.
A common greeting...similar to "hey, how's it going?"
18. You have been in a parade.
Check, I have been in 3. 
19. You have used “tong sia” as an excuse
This literally means "broken stomach" and it can get you out of ANYTHING you might not want to do. The sad part is, is that you normally don't have to lie, a broken stomach is pretty much a constant condition. 

20. You are constantly asked if you are scared of ghosts.
Most Thais are very superstitious. 
21. You know that kids don’t need adult supervision.
True, and most Thai kids have some gnarly scars to show for it. 

22. You now hate microphones.
Uh yes, I can't really talk about it...

23. There are more lizards in your house than people in your village.
These buggers are everywhere, as is their shit...but they are harmless and eat annoying bugs. 

24 You actually start to think that your name is Farang.
What any non-Thai looking person gets called by Thai nationals until they know your name, and sometimes even after they know your name. It means "foreigner". 

25. You can "gin pet dai"