Monday, November 22, 2010

A PCV Wedding

video
Here is a video of a Thai wedding parade that took place last weekend. Note the music and dancing style, with a few awkward Americans thrown in.

This past weekend I attended the wedding of a fellow volunteer. It was an amazing and surreal time. Lynda, the bride, is a PCV in Isaan, the same region as me. The groom is her boyfriend from before she became a volunteer. He had been to visit several times and the couple felt both at home and loved by the village, so they elected to have a wedding Thai style.

This means several things. It means that the ceremony would be conducted by monks, no English, and that all the planning would be taken completely out of their hands. It means Thai food, Thai music, Thai dance and even a couple of elephants.

The wedding was an amazing experience to be apart of. Spending time with the other volunteers from my group reaffirmed my love for them and the family that we are. Spending time being a part of a Thai wedding revitalized my love for Thai culture, custom and tradition and how I can be at home in it.

Monday, November 15, 2010

We Need Your Help!

As you may know I have been working with the local HIV/AIDS group in my community for over a year now. After many trainings, meetings, and research we are getting a huge project off the ground. And you can help!

By making a donation, you will help one of the 13 families living with HIV/AIDS to start a small agricultural business to be run out of their home. Ten or twenty dollars could go a long way to help in this worth cause.

Here is a description of the project and the link to make donations:

https://www.peacecorps.gov/index.cfm?shell=donate.contribute.projDetail&projdesc=493-162

Business Development for those Living with HIV/AIDS

The summary below was provided by the Peace Corps Volunteer and the community administering this project.

Map of THAILAND

Map of THAILAND

Members of the Non Khun Person’s Having HIV/AIDS (PHA) Group, “Friends of Non Khun” aspire to start small agricultural-based businesses to operate out of their homes, in order to supplement incomes used to support their families. As adults living with HIV/AIDS, group members face the reality of maintaining good health while combating local social stigmas, spreading awareness, and caring for their families all the while. While recognizing daily responsibilities and obstacles, the group often discusses financial shortcomings, only exacerbated by having HIV/AIDS. In rural Thailand, where livelihood is still commonly labor intensive, the financial burdens of PHA’s are particularly harsh. Since HIV/AIDS persistently weakens the immune system, PHA’s are often not well enough to perform the hard labor of planting, farming and harvesting rice. Therefore, supplemental income through alternate business ventures is necessary for most PHA’s in rural Thailand to subsist and support their families. With additional income provided from small-scale businesses, the PHA’s will able to make a valuable contribution to their families while engaging in relatively simple labor, thus preserving their health.

Participants have chosen their business ideas, written preliminary budgets that were then finalized by the agricultural office, and done the related market research on their products. Businesses will include raising crickets, catfish, and ducks for local sale in the community. All of these businesses can be conducted out of the home and products will be easy to sell in this largely agricultural based community.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Feelings

It's a Monday here in Thailand and I'm feeling sort of weird and anxious. I can't shake the feeling that I have something to do, but in reality all my work is done, for today at least. This feeling probably has something to do with the fact that I am leaving at the crack of dawn on Wednesday morning to go to Bangkok to take the GRE for the second time on Thursday. I took the test last month and my performance was pretty disappointing. I'm this time goes a little better as I am taking the test in the afternoon, by myself, I already know where it is and exactly what to expect. I spent so much time studying before the last test and doing practice problems that I am kind of burnt out. This time around I have been focusing on concepts I need to pay particular attention rather than spending hours and hours doing practice problems.
In addition to taking the standardized test for graduate schools I have been working on applications. As of now I applying to a variety of programs all relating to international development. My first choice seems to change on a daily basis and its really all I can think about at the moment. Again, feeling anxious. I have done all my parts of the applications and am just waiting on transcripts, test score and recommendations. I know I won't feel free from it all until everything is turned in. I need to relax, take a deep breath.
Now despite all of this I haven't forgotten that I am living in Thailand and that I still have work to do here. I am anxiously awaiting approval from PC Washington regarding the grant for the AIDS group. I submitted the application over a week ago so it should appear on the website at any time! Again....anxious. Once the project is up I hope to raise the money in about 10 days so we can start the project as soon as possible.
I am also feeling older these days. Yesterday was my 24th birthday. I spent the day studying, and working on applications, but the evening brought something special. Two of my best Thai friends in the village and their families threw me a great BBQ dinner. The weather has been cool and breezy lately so we were able to eat outside and talk for hours. It was the perfect celebration.
So my current situation is one full of waiting and planning. Once I check all of these things of my to-do list I hope I can sit back, relax and enjoy the ride that I know Thailand has in store for me for my last 4 months as a Peace Corps Volunteer.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A Story

As I pulled into the schoolyard I should have felt out of place. I was riding a road bike, wearing a helmet, sporting a both a brand name backpack and a fashionable eco-friendly bottle full of filtered, pure water. Certainly no one else my tiny Thai village had any of these things and even if they did have a helmet, it was certainly way too hot to be wearing one.

But I wasn’t out of place. The schoolchildren all screamed greetings and rushed along beside me to head into the schoolroom; one of my favorite places in the village that I had called home for the past eighteen months during my time as a Peace Corps Volunteer. About twenty children and I gathered for our weekly after-school reading club. As I gave my young readers a drawing assignment, I noticed a teacher, members of the youth group, and local government officials meeting on the other side of the room. I eagerly listened in on their conversation, as I had been working with this youth group and teacher for the duration of my service on various projects. Putting my Thai listening comprehension skills to the test, I deduced that the government officials were finally starting to take notice of the good work of the group, and were interested in providing some funding for a small agricultural project to be managed by the group. Those officials were also congratulating some of the youth on a presentation that they made at the provincial level the day before and the award they had won for their recycling initiative that I had helped them start. A wave of feelings rushed over me. I thought, this is great; the group is finally getting the recognition and support that they deserve. But I also felt like I should have been included in that meeting. I wondered why I didn’t know about the presentation and award and why I had not been consulted on the new project idea. For the first time since my beginning months in the village, I felt my identity as an outsider, as a temporary presence seeping through.

As I pedaled home, I tried to sort through my mix of emotions. I was happy for my friends, those involved in the youth group, but I was sad for myself. Finally, I realized that to dwell on that sadness would be a mistake. I realized that the group was standing on their own. They had needed me when they started out. They had needed me to help them write grants to start projects. But they had not needed me to accompany them to an awards ceremony and they had not needed me to consult with the government officials. That work could be done without me. The group was making a transition. They were becoming sustainable. My feelings of sadness were replaced with feelings of accomplishment. In that afternoon I had seen the goals of development come to fruition. I saw a group of disadvantaged people that I had helped, trained, and empowered become a viable and sustainable entity.