Megan Cindric, 129 YinD
Pictured above: Me smiling as our town’s Nayoke blesses me at the Songkran water festival. Not pictured above: Exhaustion from the heat, confusion as to what the heck is going on, awkwardness because this was picture #25 and we were far from finished, discomfort from the scratchiness of whatever those pants were made out of, general mental chaos)
I’m guessing anyone who’s had experience with the outdoors has an understanding of what “Type II Fun” means, and they’re smiling to themselves because they know what I’m about to say, but for those who do not know let me try to explain…
Back when I was working at a summer camp we’d say there are 3 different types of fun: Type I fun is the kind of stuff you’d typically consider to be “fun”: Relaxing on a beach, spending time with your friends and family, a nice day hike, making your favorite meal for dinner, etc. These are the activities that are really fun when you’re doing them, and when you look back on them they’re fun in hindsight as well. Type I fun is enjoyable, but it lies within your comfort zone. It’s easy. Very little is risked, but as a result very little is gained as well. For much of my time back in the United States, Type I fun was all I knew. Sure, it’s fun to spend a day lounging by the pool, to have those days where everything goes according to plan and things are simple. We all need time where we can immerse ourselves in Type I fun, where we can simply relax and decompress, but every so often we need a little “push” to step outside of our comfort zones, which leads me to the next category:
Type II fun is my personal favorite, though in the moment these activities can be anything but fun. This is the sort of stuff that kinda sucks while you’re dealing with it. Oftentimes it involves stepping outside of your comfort zone and dealing with situations that are downright unpleasant. Some fun examples include getting caught in the rain on your bike ride to school, finding ants in your brand-new jar of Nutella, peeing on your foot because squat toilets are hard (and it’s not like there’s a how-to manual for those, okay??), doing laundry 3 times per week because of the heat and the sweat, giving impromptu speeches in Thai, leading impromptu activities in Thai, just generally existing in Thai, realizing the Thai idea of “not spicy” and the American idea of “not spicy” is not the same, the bugs, this unwavering heat…you get the idea.
Now, you may have read those Type II examples and thought “Hey, that sounds like stuff you’re probably dealing with every second of every day! What a funny coincidence!” And I’m gonna get back to that, but first, let me briefly cover Type III fun: This is the stuff that’s not fun when you’re doing it and not fun in hindsight either. So this is like getting routine vaccinations, applying for a loan, wisdom teeth removal surgery, jury duty. You know, just generally dull activities. I want to clarify that my time here has yet to fall into the Type III Fun category. If my job here was Type III fun, I wouldn’t be here, plain and simple. It’s hard, but it’s not that hard. Instead, about 90% of the time my Peace Corps experience lies in the Type II Fun category.
So the thing about Type II Fun is that yes, it can really suck when it’s happening. It’s uncomfortable. It’s awkward. It’s not the sort of thing you’d consider to be “fun.” This is not sitting comfortably in your home in the air conditioning. This is leading a class of thirty 11-year-olds when the power is out so the fans don’t work in your classroom and no matter what you do these kids are not understanding your lesson and you’re tired and you’re sweaty and just want to go home but you can’t leave for another 3 hours. This is being told you’re supposed to “wai” in greeting to the mayor of your town, only to have him promptly hand you a microphone and ask you to introduce yourself to the 100+ people gathered for the meeting (in Thai, of course). This is the constant process of removing ants and spiders and bugs of all shapes and sizes from your house. This is dealing with 90+ heat day in and day out. This is exhaustion. This is sweat and tears and misunderstanding. This is life outside of my comfort zone. And the thing I am constantly reminding myself of is this is good.
The benefits of Type II fun are always experienced in hindsight. This is the kind of stuff that you write home about, the stuff that makes the best stories. I could tell you all about the days I spent laying in my hammock, the days I spent relaxing in the air conditioning at my office, the “perfect” days, or I could tell you about the days where everything went awry, where I was so burnt out and exhausted and ready to quit but sucked it up and pushed through and somehow, somehow still managed to succeed. The latter sounds much more interesting, right? There was a challenge, and though it was unpleasant, it was overcome, and conquering such challenges is what makes a great story. Type II Fun is outside of our comfort zones, but that’s where we’re going to grow. If we never push our limits, if we are never willing to step outside of the security of our everyday lives, we will never see how far we are capable of going. Even now, less than 6 months at my site, I have completely redefined my limits as a person. When I have a day that’s rich in Type II fun, I remind myself that even if it’s difficult, it will pass, I am strong enough to get through it, and afterward, it’s going to make a great story. I no longer stress about the days when I face Type II fun. I accept that this is where I’m at, this is what my experience is, and to waste energy wishing it was something else is foolish. When you have that shift in mindset, when you are able to look at these stressful situations and see the good in them, that is when you will start to grow.
Yeah, giving an on-the-spot speech entirely in Thai is stressful, but having your whole village applaud you at the end of it certainly makes it worthwhile. Yes, sometimes kids don’t understand an activity, but that gives me a great idea of what doesn’t work, and by the next week I have a new strategy or activity to keep them engaged. I cannot do anything about the heat, but never in my life has a cold shower felt this refreshing. I am learning to roll with the punches, to take these moments of Type II as they come, and understand that in the long run, this will help me become a better volunteer and a better person. As a result, many things that used to terrify me are becoming fun and exciting. Before Peace Corps, I never would’ve been the person to voluntarily dance in front of 30+ people, to eagerly jump into karaoke on the tour bus to Bangkok, or to try a new dish even if I’m not quite sure what it is I’m eating. I have changed so much as a result of pushing my limits, and I could not be happier with the results. I have talked to so many volunteers who say this is the most they’ve ever changed in their lives, and I would have to agree. We are constantly growing, constantly testing our physical and mental limits, living in this zone of discomfort and challenge, and it’s paying off, because yeah, a lot of this sucks in the moment, I won’t sugarcoat it, but when the hard days come we can look back on these moments we’ve overcome and remind ourselves “If I could get through that speech, through that class, through the heat of a Thai summer, then I know I can deal with this too.” So when the Type II fun comes, which it oh-so-frequently does, I’m learning to embrace it with open arms. I remind myself that even if it’s horrible right now, I am strong enough to overcome whatever is thrown my way.
And if all else fails, it’ll make one hell of a story afterward, right?