Michael “Beaux” Mudd, 128 TCCS
Shortly after arriving at my site in Kanchanaburi, I decided to go for a bike ride. Leaving my host family’s house I went past the fields of sugar cane, my school, and took a left on our main street. Passing our local temple, I noticed a small market and thought of stopping to check it out, but my nerves got the best of me and I continued to ride. The following week I decided I was going and although I had been to several markets during my time as a trainee, it all felt foreign and I was aware that everyone was watching me, so I left quickly. Understanding what that feels like has been an education in itself during my service. Learning the angst that can arise simply from trying to buy groceries, is something I’ve never deeply felt before, but I know is something many face every day. As more time passed, my comfort level grew, along with my relationships with both my students and the villagers. Relationships are a vital part of Thailand and can easily determine a volunteer’s success during their time in the country and in their community. Taking the time to learn about people in your community can help change all of those wondering glares into beaming smiles; or at least amusement. I now know that when I go to the market that there will be joking with my students, old men yelling at me for no particular purpose other than to essentially just say hello, and villagers telling me if my favorites are available or not.
Market days are now my favorite day of the week, one in which I always try to bring my money with me to school so I can visit the market right after afternoon assembly. I love walking or biking over and being curious as to what my little ones are buying and chomping on. I enjoy saying hello and hearing people call out my name as we both wave. Some weeks students sell snacks of which I always purchase, whether or not I like them or not. I particularly enjoy this because it’s just a fun interaction for the students and myself and more so because it always makes me think of my dad. As far back as I can remember, my dad has supported every single fundraiser and I’ve long thought that says a lot about who he is as a person. Joining the Peace Corps in part was due to my desire to experience something I know my mom would have loved to do if she had not passed, but also because of the strength and love my dad has shown during and after her illness, especially towards children.
These days the sellers already know what I’m going to purchase before I even arrive at the market, such as my spicy sausage, cucumbers, carrots, onions, and tomatoes. As I near the end of my service I’ve come to realize that my market is a microcosm of my service here. I arrived in my village and didn’t know the first thing about my kids, school, counterpart, or villagers. I now feel like I know so much and see them as extended family. It’s going to be incredibly difficult when I leave my village and I’m certain it will be the opposite of that first bike ride.