Cyrus Ebadat, 130 YinD
Peace Corps Training (PCT) is truly a mind game. You are met with a new challenge every day that tests you through an intensive training process and real life situations that you may or may not encounter at your actual site. During this training you build relationships with your host family, your neighbors, Peace Corps staff and language teachers, and of course the many other volunteers that understand all of the struggles you have been through or are going to go through in some shape or form. While trying to maintain good relationships with the people around you, you are also going through language and technical training, as well as, trying to understand a culture that you can disrespect with the flick of your foot.
After three months of training you are forced to separate from all of the people that you have made a close connection with and go through the whole process of getting to know a new community and becoming comfortable all over again at the site you’re gonna be in for the next two years. A mind game might be an understatement. However, with every game its your mindset that can change your attitude, perseverance, and resiliency to get you through the game to the end.
The moment I got off the plane and took my first steps into this beautiful country my mind started racing. I found myself asking the same questions in my head over and over again, which were: Can you do this? Are you even qualified? Do you want to do this? Though, they were not kidding when they said we would be in the honeymoon phase the first couple of days because I felt determined that this was a piece of cake the first ten days I was here. That might also be because we were staying at a hotel around our friends without experiencing even close to what we are experiencing now. Peace Corps is not a vacation, but during these ten days I can definitely say that I forgot that I was here to work.
The first day we moved in with our host families, as I like to call it “Adoption Day”, was the day that reality finally set in and I was thrown into the challenges that I was warned about. Some challenges I faced were having to bike almost 10 miles for most of the week, teaching a class of students that don’t speak my first language without any teaching experience, being told that I look fatter and that I need to eat more all within the same day, learning a new language within three months and being expected to hold a conversation, feeling tired any time I have time to just think, being the center of attention anywhere I go, being asked by every person if I have a girlfriend, living in upwards of 90 degrees or more and constantly feeling sweaty, missing family members and friends that I left behind in the U.S., and the list goes on.
Each challenge that I have faced has been something that I wanted to face on my own, even though I had so many people to support me here, because it was my own decision to come here and I do not have to stay. In all honesty, this is not easy. Sometimes it can be really hard. In America, if you were to see someone cry or look physically stressed after a work day or in the middle of class you would think that something is wrong. In the Peace Corps I have come to realize that it is okay to feel stressed or the need to cry about the challenges you are going through, it’s natural. I can admit right now that I have cried at least once during this training. I have learned so much since I have come to Thailand and working in the Peace Corps, and I haven’t even made it through training yet.
The most important lesson that I have learned thus far is that your own thoughts and perceptions are the strongest coping mechanism you have for any challenge you face. During PCT I found myself constantly questioning myself and having negative feelings towards my ability to do my job or even to integrate within my community. I allowed myself to only see the negative and lose the confidence that had brought me to the Peace Corps in the first place. There has been one saying that has helped me push through all the challenges I have faced and turned these last weeks of my time during training into something I can cherish: You can do hard things.
You have the control to determine how you react to any experience and the way any experience makes you feel. If you have a challenge you are facing, no matter what it is, tell yourself that you are strong and that you can push through to the end. Allow yourself to feel what you are going to feel initially and do not beat yourself up for having emotions, you are only human. You will realize that it can be something that only makes you stronger. If you find yourself overwhelmed with your own challenges, remember to fall on the support of others to push you back up on your own feet. Make mistakes. Cry. Rethink. Rebuild. Grow. Make more mistakes and repeat. It’s a process.
If you asked me two years ago if I could do the Peace Corps, I probably would have said a definite no. Today I realize that myself two years ago was a fool. I anticipate that I will face many more challenges in the next two years or so, but I know that with time I can get through whatever life throws at me. I have grown so much from the first day I came to Thailand and I believe that this has been one of the best decisions I have ever made. If you are reading this and you are thinking of joining the Peace Corps or you are a fellow PCV or just reading to read, know that you can do anything you put your mind to because in the end of the day you are your own worst enemy. Mind over matter.