Rae Richards, 129 TCCS
Welcome to a column meant to explore the highs and lows of Peace Corps volunteer life—in Thailand and beyond! Each month, we will highlight a current Peace Corps volunteer somewhere in the world and interview them about the best and most difficult experiences that they have had in the last month. Through storytelling, we can gleam at how different and similar life is between volunteers across provinces and borders—enjoy!
Site: Uttaradit, Thailand
Interview Date: Feb 17th 2018
Interviewed by: Rae Richards
Rae: How are you today?
Marcus: I’m good!
Rae: Okay so the first part of this, I’m going to ask you some silly would-you-rathers so that people get a sense of who “Marcus the Person” is.
Marcus: Okay, okay, okay.
Rae: So first one: would you rather move houses constantly or stay in one place the rest of your life?
Marcus: Move houses constantly.
Rae: Would you rather eat only salty/savory foods or eat only sweet foods?
Marcus: Savory. Hell yeah.
Rae: Would you rather always see someone you know when you go out or never see anyone you know when you go out?
Marcus: Oh my god that’s the hardest would-you-rather ever. The weird thing is that before Peace Corps I think I would have said always see someone I know. But now I’m definitely going to say never see someone I know, like, 100%.
Rae: Thanks for entertaining these silly questions. Pivoting hard here, the next thing I want to talk to you about is a low moment that you’ve had in the last month or so. It can be any kind of low– a bad day or week or entire month. However you want to think about it– whatever comes to mind.
Marcus: There was one day after I had been at site for a while with no break. Honestly no, I don’t think it really was a while but it felt like I’d been here for like a month straight. I was with my counterparts discussing what I’m trying to do to look ahead at what they can do to help the students in the future when I’m no longer here: everyone’s on board and knows what’s going on. But then the very next day they had just absolutely no idea what was going on. It was so confusing and we were having such a hard time communicating and understanding each other. It felt like Mercury was in retrograde, TBH. [Laughter] And it might have been now that I think about it!
Rae: Broadly speaking, when you’re having these rough moments who do you go to for support? And when you don’t have access to them and you’re alone, how do you take care of yourself?
Marcus: I mean, I have Will. He’s the first person I call. [Laughter]. But if there’s no one I can talk to, then I hole myself up in my house for a while and just watch movies and forget about my job for a minute. It’s so satisfying.
Rae: You gotta take those mental health breaks. What’s your favorite movie that always puts you in a good mood?
Marcus: It would have to be Buffy, not a movie but a show. [Laughter] It’s a way of life.
Rae: That’s golden. I’m definitely including that in the final cut of this interview. [Laughter] Anyway, can you now describe for me a really awesome high moment you’ve had in the last month– anything that brought you a lot of joy.
Marcus: So two days ago, I was with my Mattayom 3 class which is my favorite class, it always has been. We were doing the map activity where they had pictures of volunteers and they had to place them on a world map based on where they think they are from. And at the end you say “Surprise! They’re all from America. Let’s talk about that.” And it was so good. I was really worried and I didn’t even know I would do the activity before I started it– it just happened that I had the materials and no plan for the day so I was like, “Let’s do this!” And my students were so into it, asking me so many questions about diversity, about how immigration works in America, if it’s good, if it can be better. They asked me if that’s how everyone makes it to America. So then we started talking about slavery and racism. It was amazing. Probably the best class I’ve ever had. It wasn’t at all because I did anything. It was because my students were asking questions. That’s all I needed. It felt so good.
Rae: That’s amazing. What a cool moment to have.
Marcus: And I didn’t even see a moment where they were like “Oh, maybe we shouldn’t make fun of darker skinned people in Thailand.” Like they didn’t even make that connection. But the fact that they were affected by racism in America– it’s good enough for me. I’ll take it.
Rae: I find that for me, it’s so much easier to point out the bad s*** in other people or places. It’s much harder to look inward and be like “I need to improve”. But perhaps that’s where you start– thinking about these issues in other places.
Marcus: Yeah, totally.
Rae: That’s a victory if I’ve ever heard of one. How do you catalogue and cherish these good moments? Do you keep a journal or take pictures or anything?
Marcus: I do both. There are some times when I just feel good and I’m not necessarily participating in anything but I’ll take a picture of that moment. As many candid pictures as possible because posed pictures drive me insane. And I have a journal that I try to write in as often as possible but what is really hard is writing when I’m feeling happy. I don’t think to write the good moments as much. I also started this new thing where I made a list of all of my students– current and the ones that aren’t here anymore– and I started writing down memories that I’ve had with each of them or things that make me think of each of them to help me remember them. I realized recently that I don’t remember a lot of campers from when I was a camp counselor and I don’t want to forget my students here. I’m trying to make sure I have pictures of each of them and write these memories down. I want something to look back on.
Rae: That’s a really beautiful idea. You’re in this transition right now and that’s a very creative and interesting way to remember your service. I’m not even COSing– you are!– and yet my heart just got all weird and sappy feeling. You’re nearly done!
Marcus: I have 28 days left and it’s really weird. So many times I thought I would go home. And yet here I am.
Rae: I’m proud of you. To conclude our conversation, now I want to ask you what media you’re currently consuming? Shows, books, podcasts– anything good?
Marcus: I’ve been watching Fred Armisen’s new stand up on Netflix. It’s incredible. He is so talented. Also just watched “A Futile and Stupid Gesture”– it has every funny person in the world in it. For podcasts, I just found a Buffy podcast [Laughter]. It’s satisfying every need I could have. I’m going to listen to it when I hang up the phone with you! And for books, I’m reading “The God of Small Things” by Arundhati Roy– it was a gift from a fellow PCV.
Rae: All excellent things. I’m definitely watching that Fred Armisen special. Now I already know you have a blog but I have to ask– will you keep writing in it once you leave Thailand?
Marcus: Yes, I haven’t been writing much lately because I’m an idiot and waited until the end of my service to start a million projects. But my hope is that I can continue to write in it beyond my service.
Rae: Can’t wait to read it. Remind me where people can find your blog?
Marcus: It’s https://dontyoureadthis.wordpress.com!
Rae: Thanks so much! Can’t wait to see what your next adventure is.