Michael “Beaux” Mudd, 128 TCCS
When I decided to accept the invitation to serve in Thailand, I knew some of the challenges that would be presented to me; namely, adjusting to the formidable heat and spicy food, along with learning the language. I was interested to see what other challenges would arise and whether I could take them on to complete a successful two years of service in my village. So for this article, I thought I’d write about some of the challenges I’ve faced in my first year at site and how I’ve adapted… or haven’t.
ACCEPTING SITE AS IT IS
Moving to site from the safety of PST training was more of a challenge than I had imagined. In training, you are constantly surrounded by both Peace Corps staff and other PCV’s, and then you get to site and you’re suddenly all alone, and your travel is restricted. It is quite the shock. Then throughout the first year, you follow your friends on Facebook and see all of the amazing places they’re going and you wonder why you don’t leave the community more and do such things. I allowed myself to compare my service to others, and that’s never a good thing. So I spent time trying to learn and understand my community more. I talked with my fellow teachers to try to learn and better understand my school and my community. I learned about the school’s financial limitations, the students’ lives, the villagers’ lives, and what is important to the community. Through the effort of trying to understand my community better, I learned to adapt by appreciating what my village has, more than worrying about what it doesn’t. Ultimately my goal with my counterpart, my school, and my village isn’t to count how many temples, 7/11s, Amazon Cafes, or national parks we have visited, but to simply enjoy the privilege of working and teaching at a school that truly values my presence and is continually adding bathrooms, school buildings, and teacher housing to make school life better for everyone involved.
FACEBOOK ISN’T REAL LIFE
I must admit this one is an ongoing challenge. Adapting my life to make Facebook a more positive aspect of my service has been interesting. Comparing your service to others can simply drive you batty—I know because I’ve let it happen too often during my service. It’s so easy to do when you’re sitting in your house after school and you see someone eating pizza and your mood quickly changes. Simply spending less time perusing Facebook is a way to help this, but I think there are other avenues to help as I truly do love reading all the amazing things other PCVS are doing, especially when it comes to teaching about gender equality. So, I have been working to reach out more to others when I see their good work and congratulate them, versus just seeing and reading about their work and moving on. I also find it important to remember that Facebook isn’t real life. Most people only post their successes and leave out the more challenging aspects of their service; the kid who won’t stop telling you “&*^! you”, the 3 hour Friday afternoon meetings, or the “eccentric” counterpart. Everyone has these moments and it’s easy to forget as we get lost in our service.
They tell us as PCVs that year one is for building relationships and laying the groundwork for year two with your community. I’d say that year one is also for learning about yourself and looking at the challenges that PCV life/site life presents and then learning how to better deal with them. Of course, we will deal with issues in year two as well, but I really feel if we make progress on our year one struggles then year two will be that much more rewarding, not only in our communities but in our personal lives as well. For me, I’m really looking forward to continuing to work in my community helping my counterpart and my students grow and to spending a great deal less time worrying about what I don’t have and more time appreciating what I do.