Monday, February 28, 2011
Photo Essay: 2 Years in the Peace Corps
With this blog I have attempted, very feebly at times, to document my time as a Peace Corps Volunteer serving in Thailand. Sometimes words could not do the experience justice and at other times I found myself so confused, hot, tired, crazy to even and try and explain what was happening in my life here. As my time winds down, I find myself thinking more and more how quickly the whole thing went by and how in a way my 2 years here seem like a dream. Taking a trip down memory lane lead me to the idea of posting a photo essay to represent the experience. The pictures below represent each month spent here in Thailand. The photographs include not only my work and travels, but milestones and holiday such as birthdays and Christmases. It's wild ride....enjoy. I know I sure did.
This is after my first week in Thailand and shows my first of many visits to a Thai temple for a Buddhist ceremony that I wouldn't necessarily understand, but would most definitely learn something from.
This photograph was taken at one of the many PC training events we had. In many ways, training was like being at summer camp or a semester abroad. This was during sports day, as I compete to make the best tasting som-tam, a popular Thai dish that was soon to become one of my favorites.
This was taken at the end of March, only a week before we swore in as official Peace Corps Volunteers. My fellow PCVs and I are experiencing one of our first "village parties". It was the first of many to come. Thai people love to spend time together and are constantly in the pursuit of sanuk, or FUN.
Here I am posing with some ladies from my village during my first week as a PCV at site. We are dressed in traditional clothes for the Songkran parade that we are about to dance in. This was my biggest lesson in getting out of my comfort zone, going with the flow, and embracing my new life in Thailand.
During my second month at site, I quickly set to work trying to learn all I could about the community that I was sent to serve. In this photo I am using what basic Thai skills I had to discuss the area of the village with a teacher and the village headman. Girls from the youth group accompanied me to make sure I wouldn't get lost!
June sent all Thailand PCVs to PST 2, or our second round of training. Here I am with all members of my project sector, Community Based Organizational Training or CBOD.
Feeling reinvigorated by PST 2, but with no "community" projects in sight, I made my way to the community schools. I quickly was seen as a free English teacher. I had no idea I what I was doing and labored through some pretty hard days at the schools, but powered through because of those kids.
Thanks to a conference thrown by Peace Corps' Community Enterprise Community, I was able to start a project with some high school students and their teacher. The project was making and selling organic fertilizer at the school. Here we are writing the business plan.
In September I was able to attend another conference, this time with two people from my community living with HIV/AIDS. The conference sparked the small business development project with the local HIV/AIDS group that was to last for the remaining time of my service.
I guess I needed to let loose. Maybe it was because it was my first vacation with my new best friends or maybe it was because I was so excited to see the beaches of Thailand. Either way, on the first day of my first vacation I ended up in the hospital on the island of Koh Samui with a dislocated patella (knee-cap). Ouch!
Celebrating my first birthday in Thailand which was actually my 23rd. We had the candles backwards. I got to celebrate with many friends and my birthday buddy and fellow Rhodes College alumnus, Beau.
One of the biggest (literally) projects that I was able to pull off was in December. The girls youth group I helped with held a 2-day leadership camp for 200 of their peers. 8 other volunteers came in to help supervise. Truly an awesome 2 days!
December gets two photos because a lot happened that month. My parents and brother made the journey to Thailand and we embarked to explore all we could, including Angkor Wat in Cambodia.
In January we had our Mid-Service Conference (MSC). Though we weren't really halfway through, the conference served to discuss what was working at site and what wasn't, but importantly served as an opportunity to goof around with my amazing volunteer friends. Here are a bunch of twenty-something girls inside the fort we built in the hotel room!
Back to the village and back to work. Here I am reading a donated book to a group of rowdy students. This served as the inspiration for the reading club that I continue to run.
For some reason during February and March I ended up staying at site for a total of 6.5 weeks. At times I felt like I was in prison! Here I am with friend on my first trip out as we tour a Thai movie set!
Celebrating one year as a Peace Corps Volunteer with two amazing friends in Vietnam!
This photo was taken during Songkran, the April water festival or Thai New Year in Chiang Mai. Songkran basically amounted to Peace Corps spring break which included endless water fights and lots of partying.
Students posing during the opening of our youth led recycling center. One of my proudest moments as a Peace Corps Volunteer!
The utter chaos of a student-led reading camp I helped to organize.
Peace Corps spring break round 2! 4 days on a island with 25 of my best friends...what happens on the island stays on the island!!!
Not really sure what happened last August, if anything...must have been life as normal in my village....so here's a picture of fruit....
As the months rolled by and my language skills increased I was able to start more projects and help more villagers. Here I am interviewing village health volunteers about the community bathroom we were renovating. As always, my faithful youth group was looking over my shoulder.
After taking the GRE in Bangkok, I set out to explore Chinatown. Bangkok is a fascinating place and I have developed quite a love/hate relationship with the place.
During my second Thai birthday and 24th birthday dinner. For this birthday I opted to stay in the village and celebrate with Thai friends and family.
At the end of November, my host dad (pictured above), passed away. Here is a photo of him giving money for school supplies and uniforms for needy children in the village he grew up in.
During December, I had the pleasure of attending my friend Pi Jam's graduation. We have worked on countless projects together and she is like a sister to me. During the two years I helped edit her Master's thesis, which she wrote entirely in English.
The view from breakfast on Christmas morning on Koh Yao Noi. Yes, I am very lucky to have been sent to Thailand!
After two years, part of my daily life is getting to interact with these cuties....they are collecting trash to turn in to the recycling center down the street.
During my house visits to the participants of the the HIV/AIDS small business development project. This villager is successfully raising crickets that will be sold to generate secondary income.
It's now the last day of February and though I have some idea of what March will hold, I'm not sure if a photograph will be able to represent it. March marks the end of my time in Thailand and the end of my time as a Peace Corps Volunteer. Stay tuned to see how it goes!!