Sticky Rice Staff, 2017-2018
This quarter, instead of a theme we decided to try something new. The staff and contributors at Sticky Rice voted on a prompt which various members of our art, editorial, and writing staff responded to in writing, videos, photos, drawings, and poems. Those submissions have been collected here to give you a taste of “A Day in the Life” of a Peace Corps Thailand Volunteer. So without further ado, we present…
All The (PCV) Feels
Caitlin Roman, 128 TCCS
It’s Songkran. Thai New Year. The Water Festival.
Louie and I will be performing a dance for 400 elders.
I lean back and close my eyes as a woman I’ve never met before does my makeup.
She spends more time on my eyebrows than seems reasonable.
I open my eyes.
I feel amused
School’s out. It’s HOT. My host sisters are home and they say my name at least 15 times a minute… each.
I go to my room for a moment alone.
I breathe a sigh of relief.
I hear a giggle.
I turn around.
The five-year-old sits perched in the window of my bedroom.
I feel suffocated
We go for an evening bike ride through our community.
When we return our bikes are weighed down with bags of mangos.
I feel cared for
It’s 7AM on Sunday morning.
Louie makes me get up to go to the market with him.
I run into a student from my second-grade class who enthusiastically responds “I’m good!” with a thumbs up when I ask “How are you?”
His mother beams with pride and brags about her kid to whoever is on the other end of the cell phone.
I feel energized
I’m waiting at the bus stop.
…15 minutes… 30 minutes… 1 hour… 1.5 hours…
I feel annoyed
A woman I recognize but don’t know by name pulls up beside me on her motorbike. We make small talk.
“Kru bpai nai?”, “Bpai kon-dio law?”, “Kru ja glap dawn nai?”, “Tii noon now mai?”
Once the small talk is done she continues to stand there with me.
“Are you waiting for the bus, too?”, I ask.
“No, I’m here to keep you company.”
I feel gratitude
The Paw Aw calls a meeting… in the middle of the school day… again.
He talks without pause.
…15 minutes… 30 minutes… 1 hour…
I understand little.
…1.5 hours… 2 hours… 2.5 hours…
I look up to see everyone raising their hands.
I raise my hand too.
All eyes turn to me and laughter erupts.
I feel confused
My host sister is crying.
Her older sister and a friend are excluding her.
She comes to me for comfort.
I feel connected
I’ve prepared a day’s worth of lessons only to have them canceled for the third time this week.
I feel frustrated
The last day of school before break.
I say goodbye to my counterpart.
She hugs me and starts to cry.
I feel appreciated
I’m in the office finishing some work before the ceremonies begin.
My counterpart leaves without saying anything.
The ceremonies proceed without me.
I feel forgotten
Little voices yelling “Kru Caityyyyy!”
Feet pounding across the field.
Smiling faces beam up at me and speak in unison: “Good Morning!”
I feel loved
One of my counterparts reverts back to using the ruler as discipline when she teaches without me.
I feel failure
Students outside shouting… “kitchen, living room, bedroom, bathroom…”
My counterpart is using the flashcards I made.
She looks on as the students lead a practice activity we taught together.
I feel pride
Sunlight filters through the trees.
I watch a butterfly flutter in and out of the late afternoon light.
The birdy flies past my head as Bam declares another point for Thailand.
I am back where it all started, in Singburi.
Everything looks the same, and yet so much is different.
I feel changed
How Was Your Day?
William R. Blackford, 128 YinD
I’m lucky enough to have been gifted with some really wonderful friendships throughout this experience. People who support me. People who encourage me. People whose very presence makes me want to be closer to them.
One of those friends, who I talk to every day, will often ask me to tell him about my day.
Such a simple question, but one that causes a hundred different mental calculations, feelings, and assessments in a matter of seconds. In that moment, I struggle with being asked to take all of the fluctuations, the inflow and outflow of emotions, the victories, the defeats, the boredom, the joy, the excitement, and package it for consumption.
At first, I would often begin my responses with a judgment. “Today sucked,” or “Today was pretty good,” or “It was okay,” and then share some of the things I thought stuck out.
It took me a while to realize that that initial frame changed the way I conceptualized my entire day as I typed out the rest of the response. If it was “today sucked,” it would turn into a cascading torrent of sh*ttiness, each thing building on the other until frustration and annoyance crested in a gigantic wave. If it was “just alright,” I would focus only on the monotonous parts of my day, the drudgery, the boredom. If it was “good,” I might leave out some of the moments where I felt lonely, sad, or disappointed.
What I’m really doing when I talk about my day is talking about how I feel there in the moment when I am asked about it. Oftentimes I am not taking the time to really think about how I felt when I was experiencing what I am relating to someone.
I noticed this most starkly when one day after I had sent my response to my friend I reread it and noticed that, for a day that I started off saying was pretty unremarkable, a lot of really interesting things happened. A lot of connective moments. Some important lessons learned. A little letting go. I thought about it and realized that even the days that made me feel terrible still had so many good things in them.
One day as I began my response to the “tell me about your day” prompt, I found my fingers typing out the sentence “it was alright,” before I could even think about it. I stopped, reread the sentence, and just said to myself, “you know what? F— that noise,” and erased it.
I tried to let go of that thought, that frame, that storyline, and just talk about the things that I had experienced that day and the way they made me feel – a list of my experiences and my reactions to them. Some made me angry. Some made me feel joyful. Neither of those things makes my whole day good or bad.
The way that we conceptualize and frame our experience is so incredibly important. It’s so easy to wave off that question with an “it was fine,” or a “pretty good,” but that is kind of like a small microaggression towards ourselves and our experience. We don’t have to minimize our experience if we don’t want to. It is often easier to dismiss it, but there is an opportunity there to really reflect upon the minute details of our daily lives.
I want to be present for as much of my life as I can. Even though I know I won’t remember those small details a year from now, or even tomorrow, it feels good to honor the rich variety of experience that exists within every day between waking and sleep, no matter how seemingly mundane or unimportant;
Experiencing the texture of rice on my tongue.
That first swallow of coffee in the morning.
Toothbrush bristles massaging gums.
The contours and coolness of a tile floor on the bottom of my feet.
A lingering touch on the arm.
An unmitigated smile.
A flash of frustration and a wish to understand.
The feeling of being close to someone.
Wind turning a thousand small sounds into a roaring wave.
The feeling of water on my skin.
Questions without answers.
That is how I want each day in my life to be.
365 Days in the Life
Celete Kato, 129 TCCS
Carly Allard, 129 YinD
In a startling fashion, I’m suddenly awake and reaching for the off button to make the horribly loud noise stop.
Blink, blink, blink.
My eyes adjust to the newly brightened world, marking yet another morning.
Wake-up, check. Next-up, coffee.
Supplies are gathered, water is boiling, preparations are made.
I’m 1-2 seemingly endless minutes from my favorite time of day.
The anticipation kills me.
Sometimes I do laps around the kitchen table.
Other times I watch birds through the kitchen window, wondering where the day will take them (and me).
And then, when the last of my patience runs out, I victoriously squeeze the sweet godly nectar from my AeroPress®.
If I’m feeling fancy, I’ll add a splash of milk.
My steaming cup and I venture back to my room, as has become routine.
My Kindle sits on the desk as if waiting for the coffee and me to join in at a café’s corner table.
As soon as the Kindle’s power light turns green, I award myself with the first taste of the day.
Oh, what a sweet, unmatchable moment of joy!
I dive back into whatever story I’m reading, wrapping both hands around the mug, soaking in the heat and reveling in the familiar aroma.
Morning has officially begun.
… .. … .. … .. … ..
Lessons are planned and materials are prepared.
I’ve showered and have officially transitioned to “pajama time”.
My host family is upstairs in their bedrooms and I’m finally alone on our house’s ground floor.
The sound of our living room fish tanks provides the perfect amount of white noise to tune out the neighborhood dog barks and gecko chirps.
I wrap my hands around a steaming cup of hot water, anxious to indulge, but not foolish enough to taste too soon.
I’ve burned my mouth too many times already.
I add the tea bag and wait.
What is it with hot beverages and waiting?
Back to my Kindle, whose light again flashes green.
I pick-up where I left off when the morning’s coffee was finished.
As I continue down the lines, I simultaneously blow on the mug, wishing and willing the tea to cool quick enough for me to enjoy sooner but not too quickly that I won’t get to enjoy it for long enough.
Then, in an instant, my tea reaches its most perfect temperature and I take the first sip of deliciousness.
Night has officially begun.
(Kind of) Controlled Chaos
Michael Marano, 129 TCCS
Linda Smittle, 128 TCCS
We do not remember days, we remember moments. –Cesare Pavese
Some minor moments I’ll remember from a recent Saturday:
Sleeping beneath a light-weight blanket, wearing long sleeves for the first few hours of the day…
and relishing the “cold” (65 F) temperatures as my neighbors shiver beneath their down jackets.
Maybe my blood has adjusted to the Thai weather.
Watching the live feed of my nephew’s lovely wedding… and getting misty-eyed even though I was thousands of miles away.
Maybe the tears of joy will make up for some tears of frustration shed over the last two years.
Seeing a mouse pawing at the slick sides of my toilet trying to escape to dry tile…
and walking away.
Maybe he’ll drown.
Flinging my arm when a toad jumped from the pantry shelf onto the back of my wrist…
and catching my breath as he hopped behind my stove.
Maybe we can co-exist; toads seem less invasive than mice.
Cutting into a watermelon and smiling at the bright red pulp…
and eating the entire watermelon by myself – in less time than I care to admit.
Maybe I should buy two on my next trip to the market.
Slicing into an avocado (that cost twice as much as the watermelon)…
and thinking this knife is dull or this avocado is not ripe.
Maybe the chickens will enjoy a crunchy avocado.
Biking quickly to escape from a barking dog nipping at my ankles…
and feeling my arm hair tingle from fright at the close encounter.
Maybe the dog will realize I’m not a threat.
Playing Skip-Bo with four students before making chocolate pudding…
and noting how traditions change.
Maybe Skip-Bo and chocolate pudding will replace Uno and snowman cookies.
Analyzing the new marketing strategy at the weekly market…
where five different vendors sold 30 chicken eggs in plastic buckets lined with dried rice stalks (rather than selling 10 eggs in a small plastic bag).
Maybe the buckets increased their sales.
Heating water to take a bucket bath…
and looking forward to soaking my feet.
Maybe while the grime dissolves from the soles of my feet, I’ll meditate to regenerate my soul.
Thinking of the many moments that make up any typical day…
and hoping I’ll recall them with delight and awe when I look back at my Thailand PCV experience.
Maybe I’ll get misty-eyed thinking about the everyday experiences and the wonderful memories.
Same, Same, But Different
Kayla McCabe, 129 YinD
Last winter, I worked at Eddie Bauer. Before the snow had fallen and the sidewalks were coated in ice, I rode my bike to work. It was about a 10–minute ride and the temperature was perfect, warm enough that I didn’t really need a jacket but cool enough that I didn’t show up to work drenched in sweat. Biking home was always a comfort. There was a point where I would turn into my neighborhood and smell the mixed aroma of neighbors’ cooking and fireplaces along with the nipping chill of a late fall evening. At home, a hot meal was always waiting (though, depending on the time, it might have required some microwaving) and I would watch Netflix with my younger siblings. Unless it was a school night: then, I would chat with them about what homework they were doing before going to my room next door and watching Netflix alone before going to sleep.
Last Wednesday, I took my weekly bike ride to the market. It’s about 10 kilometers and, with the cool season setting in, the ride has become much more enjoyable. On the way home, it was even cool enough that I didn’t end up drenched in sweat. As I turned down the last back road before reaching my neighborhood, the sun setting behind three palm trees mixed with the fires set by farmers burning the weeds from their fields and the distant sounds of mortar and pestle (often used in a Thai kitchen) brought a sense of comfort. At home, two of my friends came over to see what I had bought and we chatted about what they had learned in second grade that day. It’s dark already, so they can’t stay long and I go inside with the hot food I bought an hour ago and watch Netflix alone before going to sleep.
Discovering similarities brings me comfort, and moments of joy. But it’s the glaring differences that stand out as noteworthy, rewarding, and ultimately the best part of my service.
A Day in the Life: A Haiku
Natalie Garro, 129 TCCS
Shower head’s working.
Flail my limbs in happy dance.
No bucket shower!
Megan Cindric, 129 YinD
One of my favorite parts of my job is the lack of routine. I have a schedule and always try my best to stick to it, but more often than not days will take an unexpected turn to who-knows-where. This was supposed to be just another day at the office until around 10 AM when one of my neighbors burst in and announced it was “time for dance practice.” I spent the rest of the morning trying (and failing) to learn traditional Thai dance with my community. The unexpected adventures are always the most rewarding, and every day I’m looking forward to what new experiences will come my way.
*The cover photo for this article was taken by Megan Ziegler, 129 TCCS