One year ago, I was making preparations to leave the country for 27 months. Leaving my job, my home, my friends, my family, my dog. One thing that really helped me get through the pre-departure period was reading letters that the previous group of Peace Corps Thailand Volunteers had written our group. Recently, I was given the opportunity of writing a letter to next year's group and thought I would share it with you all:
Dear Group 131,
Greetings from Thailand! I hope this letter finds you well. My name is Casey, and I am a Youth in Development (YinD) Volunteer from Group 130. Let me start by congratulating you on your invitation to serve in the Peace Corps Thailand! I hope that the clearance process has not been too arduous and that your ducks are starting to line up. Preparing to leave the country for 27 months is no easy task, so I hope that you’ve been able to find some time for self-care in the midst of it all. I remember how much reading these letters meant to me when I was in your shoes last year, and I am honored and humbled to be writing you one today.
In less than two months, you will arrive in Thailand to begin Peace Corps Boot Camp, a.k.a. Pre-Service Training (PST). Let me be frank: these 10 weeks are intense, in all the best and worst senses of the word. You will be overwhelmed. You will be tired. You will be sweaty. But you will also be better off for it. You will grow a lot as a result of the challenges you face. You will develop relationships with PC staff, teachers, currently-serving Volunteers, and of course, your fellow Trainees, who will become like another family to you. You will also learn a great deal about Thailand--its people, languages, and culture. Remember that the Peace Corps has been doing this work for 56 years. There is intentionality behind everything you do in PST, even if you don’t realize it at the time.
Towards the end of PST, you will find out where you will be serving for the next two years. The day you find out your site is going to be one of the most exhilarating days of your life. My site is in Ubon Ratchathani, which is in the Northeastern (Isaan) region. It is the easternmost province, so we have the first sunrise and sunset in the country. It’s also where Laos, Cambodia, and Thailand meet, known as “The Emerald Triangle.” The sub-district where I live spans 70 square-kilometers and consists of 11 neighborhoods and roughly 8,000 residents, most of whom are farmers. It’s about an hour away from the main city, which has a population of 200,000, a regional airport, and a decent Mexican restaurant (owned by a former PCV, no less).
As a YinD Volunteer, I collaborate with three schools, two community health centers, and one local government office to develop and facilitate youth development programming within the community. My work is very dynamic, which I love, and it forces me to remain flexible. My schedule looks different from day to day and week to week. Nevertheless, I will try and paint you a picture of what a typical weekday looks like for me at site...
My alarm goes off at 6:30. I snooze until 7. I stumble to the bathroom, where a cold bucket shower officially wakes me up. I wash all my dishes by hand from the day before and make a cup of coffee with my Aeropress (add this to your packing list immediately). While drinking my coffee, I listen to music and scroll through my emails and Instagram feed. After that, I finish getting ready, eat a little breakfast, and bike to the government office, which is only a kilometer away.
I greet my co-workers around 8:30 and make my way to my desk in the Education Department. During the morning, I make lesson plans, prepare materials, and/or meet with counterparts to discuss upcoming events, activities, and programming. For lunch, I usually eat Thai food with co-workers in a nearby district. Afterwards, we stop by a coffee shop for afternoon lattes and then 7-11 for some light shopping. Upon returning to the office, I bike to one of my three schools, which range from 1-15 kilometers away. At the schools, I co-teach English and life skills classes for grades 4 - 9. After school ends, I usually return to the office, where I co-facilitate two clubs (English Conversation and Theatre Arts), collaborate with my youth council on various projects, or lead health/wellness programming within the community.
I typically get home from work around 5, after which I sweep out my house and chat with my neighbors. If I didn’t get enough exercise that day, I will go for a jog or a bike ride around town before the sun goes down. I also have a pretty regular yoga/meditation practice that helps me decompress and settle in for the night. My evenings are spent making dinner, chatting with family/friends, reading, writing, making art, and/or watching Netflix. And there you have it: a day in the life of yours truly!
There are so many things I want to share with you, but I think it’s best if I wait until we meet in person. Part of surviving (and hopefully thriving) in the Peace Corps is learning to be comfortable with uncertainty. My advice for you is to try and stay in the present moment, as much as you can. Take one thing at a time. Find peace in the not-knowing. As far as what to do before you leave the country, I would suggest that you hug your friends, family, and pets as much as possible. Eat as much non-Thai food as you can. And write down what you’re feeling, so you can look back on it when it comes time for you to write a letter to Group 132.
Take good care, safe travels, and see you soon!