Kayla McCabe, 129 YinD
It’s finally happening!! In just a few short days you will all be in Thailand and I think I speak for everyone over here when I say we are so excited to meet you all and follow your journey! You have a lot to think about right now so I’m going to keep this short. I’ve collected advice from current volunteers and compiled it below. You do not need to read this before you leave home. Everything here is advice to keep in mind as you travel to Thailand and begin training. Read it at the gate, on the plane, when you’re waiting for a session to start, but, if you’re still at home, take a minute to eat a slice of cheese or stare at the snow instead…
Take everything one day (or hour) at a time. In any job, anywhere in the world, even in your hometown, you will have people and things that frustrate you. Remember this. There is a lot you will not understand, even two years later. Social roles, personal problems your counterpart is facing but never shares, financial burdens, etc. Give everyone a chance and understand that they too might be under a lot of stress and being around you might increase that, or decrease that. It’s up to you. You are here to serve, whether that means washing dishes for 300 people at an event or having the same conversation repeatedly with community members. Your service is reflected in everything you do, not just teaching and camps. It’s ok to ask for help and take time for yourself. Journal, workout, do art, cook, etc. Know your coping mechanism and make it a routine that re-energizes you daily, not just when times gets hard.
You can get treats in big cities. It’s Thailand, don’t fret. Yes, your site may not even have a market. But that 8- hour overnight bus ride to Chiang Mai won’t seem so long after a while. There you can get your fix of IPAs, burritos, sushi, almond butter, milkshakes, or whatever comfort food you enjoy. Also, for those worried: being vegan or vegetarian isn’t difficult. You might have to make some compromises once in a while, but people understand. Don’t be afraid to tell them.
No matter what anyone tells you, be yourself. Your journey will be nothing like the journey of anyone else, and that is valuable. You will also never be alone. There is always someone who will understand what you are going through, even though you may not know it.
Go with the flow. Each moment is new. Open yourself up and you will learn a lot. Appreciate PST, being around Americans every day, because although it’s exciting to know and go to your site, you’ll be on your own soon enough and for most of your service. Appreciate each day for what it is.
This experience cannot be anticipated. You will spend a lot of time trying to anticipate it and trying not to. You can’t have no expectations—that would be ridiculous—but be ready to have your expectations not be met, whatever they may be. What you do when that feeling inevitably comes is what will guide you through your service. This is supposed to be hard. You’re supposed to struggle and suffer. You’re supposed to have hard days. You’re supposed to be frustrated and exasperated. If this were easy you wouldn’t be here.
It can be hard, but try to stay at site as much as you can. The more you leave when things get hard, the less coping mechanisms you will develop for being there. Building the relationships that need to be built to do the important work here takes so long. There are people at my site that I saw almost every day that didn’t even start talking to me until I had been here for a year, and now we’re close friends. Building those relationships can only happen when you’re around and people know you. When you leave often, many people may perceive that you are not here to do good, and may shut you out. Ask yourself often what it is that you came here to do. Did you come halfway across the world to hang out with Americans and party? Or did you come here to experience a new way of life, challenge yourself, connect with people, and do something meaningful?
You do not have to be Thai. Some of the things you will learn in PST will seem like iron laws, but they’re not. They are guidelines. They can be broken, they can be challenged. You will find the right times and places to provide people with a new viewpoint, or an alternate story. There is no mistake you can make that will ruin your entire service as long as you are acting with good intentions, giving the benefit of the doubt, and generally just not being an a**hole. You do not have to change who you are to be here.
Enjoy the ride and capture the experience in a way that works for you (photos, journal entries, letters, etc.) We will see you all on our side of the world soon!