Michael (Beaux) Mudd, TCCS 128
Every Peace Corps Volunteer decides to join for different reasons; from wanting to experience living abroad for the first time, to building a resume, and meeting exciting new people. For myself, becoming a PCV was a decision to step back outside of my comfort zone and challenge myself. Since 2012, I had spent winters at a ski resort in Northern California, and summers all over Alaska. That time was filled with wonderful experiences and many friends, but I felt I needed to challenge myself more and continue to grow as a person. I thought the Peace Corps was the perfect opportunity to do so, and in a world that is changing quite rapidly, I thought it would help me keep up, both personally and professionally, once I returned to the “real world”. Now, as I approach the end my first year in Thailand, I believe my time living here, and serving in the Peace Corps, has changed me for the better and helped me to become more prepared for the world around me. However, it’s not in the way I would have ever expected it. While other PCVs, staff, teachers and students have been a large part of it, the biggest help has come from the dogs.
When one arrives in Thailand, it doesn’t take long to understand that there are quite a few dogs here. You’ll find them sleeping in the streets, on sidewalks, tables, and so-called “Dog alleys”. One has to be careful to avoid contentious situations with dogs as a PCV because if one bites you it leads to several painful shots in the stomach. Fortunately for me, I’ve (so far) not had too many close calls with dogs, and I’ve been extremely lucky with the dogs owned by my training host family and now my neighbor. During training, I lived with a wonderful family that had two dogs that were loved and treated well. Seeing how they were treated versus your average dog in Thailand was both painful and awakening as it gave me a better understanding of animals and people. It’s not just the dogs in the alleys that don’t receive the treatment they deserve; in our world, it can at times be easy to forget that we all need others to help us and feel loved. From my host family’s dogs, I learned more about unconditional love. Whenever I would come home after a grueling day of training, my dogs never cared anything more than that they were glad to see me. I think about that often as I work with my students; about how my behavior and attitude towards them matter much more than how much English they learn.
At site, I live next to my Principal. At first, I was reluctant to live so close to him, but that feeling dissolved quickly when I learned that he had a new puppy, named Fried Pork. Fried Pork and I quickly became buddies and spent a lot of time together. The first semester at site was challenging with a steep learning curve to the ways of my counterpart, school, and community, but my puppy was there through all of it. Like my puppy at training, he didn’t care about anything more than he was just happy to see me. He would walk with me across the street to get a drink, walk me to school many mornings, and often run beside me as I rode the half kilometer to the “big” grocery store. Fried Pork, surprisingly became my best friend at site, something I would have never imagined. Sometimes I’d even talk to him about my day. So, it was quite painful when I hopped on my bike one morning, after grabbing a chilled coffee from the store, and saw my puppy dead on the road. He had chased one too many motorcycles. I really didn’t want to go to school that day, as I didn’t know how to answer why I was so sad. But I went anyway and decided to discuss it with the students. I found it to be a profound experience sharing with young children that it’s ok to be sad and to show those emotions in front of others. I think it’s important for kids to learn that you can be sad about something and still move on, as there were events earlier in my life when I didn’t handle the loss of life very well.
Thinking about the world it often feels like it rewards those willing to step on others to reach the top. I’ve thought for a long time that I don’t want to be one of those people, but being a PCV has caused me to stop and think more about not just myself and others, but also all of the other critters sharing this world with us, including the dogs. I don’t know what this means for me in regards to what and where my future work will be; however, I do believe that once my service is complete and I go on to whatever is next, I will be a more complete and compassionate human being.
Before Fried Pork passed, my principal got a new puppy. I’ve given her the nickname Wu-Tang and just like Fried Pork, she comes running over when she sees me and I pet her belly and give her treats. I look forward to what she will teach me during the remainder of my service and hope that whatever that may be, I can take it with me once I leave Thailand and venture back out into this changing world.