Home Is Wherever Your Site Is

IMG_3149Carly Allard, 129 YinD

“Here’s hoping I can ‘jai yen-yen’ and let fate run its course. Everything happens for a reason, right?”

About a year ago I was somewhere in Sing Buri, Thailand sitting in front of my fan, staring at a blank journal page. I’d received the journal as a Christmas gift before departing for Peace Corps but neglected to fill it with my thoughts and feelings during the first nine weeks of pre-service training. Alas, there I was, already in week 10, exhausted, in front of the fan, ready to start writing.

“Tomorrow is site placement day, a day that’s been equally anticipated and dreaded since finding out I’d be joining Peace Corps.”

Pre-service training, commonly referred to as PST, was coming to a close, which meant each passing day was a step closer to the unknown that would become my Peace Corps service. Before departing for the great unknown, though, there was just one minor major detail left to unveil: my site placement. Where was Peace Corps asking me to serve, under conditions of hardship if necessary, for two years?

Peace Corps Core Expectations for Peace Corps Volunteers #3: Serve where the Peace Corps asks you to go, under conditions of hardship if necessary, and with the flexibility needed for effective service.

On the eve of site announcement day, I was a bit of a nervous wreck and apparently felt it was the best time to start my Peace Corps journal. Now, almost exactly a year later, I’m incredibly thankful I did because, just as I predicted in that first journal entry, I am able to look back and laugh at how I felt, at how nervous I was.

“So tomorrow. Tomorrow is the day. Never before do I remember dreading and looking forward to a day so much. I’m sure many days, months, and years from now I’ll look back and laugh at how I felt right now, but that just doesn’t seem to calm the nerves.”

Looking back, part of me questions what I was so nervous about. Another part recognizes that fear of the unknown isn’t necessarily something I’ve ever taken lightheartedly. Yet another part thinks maybe it was just pure excitement. It’s one of those fond look-back memories that leaves a toothless grin of “oh, yeah” on your face and a tiny twinkle in your eye. It’s not something easily communicated or explained. In fact, it’s not even very easy to write about.

There’s an incredible amount of pressure placed on Peace Corps sites. Not only will your site become your home for two years, but the people there will become your family, coworkers, students, friends, and neighbors. You’ll become part of your site and, in time, your site will become part of you. And that’s a big deal! And I think that’s why the nervousness filled me, and presumably others, for days and hours before the big reveal.

As soon as it was announced I’d be headed to Chiang Rai all the feelings of nervousness and stress were immediately replaced with overwhelming feelings of joy and excitement. Talk about an adrenaline rush! If I can remember one thing about site placement day and the aftereffect of site reveals, it’s that I simply could not stop smiling. It had been decided and I couldn’t help but feel a sense of “oh, of course” about heading to northern Thailand.

A later journal entry reminds me that upon telling my PST host mom about my site placement in Chiang Rai, she leapt out of her chair and gave me a full-fledged, double-armed hug for the first time since we’d met. What a very special day it was, indeed!

Now, almost a year into Peace Corps service in small-town Chiang Rai, I am able to see that this site – this town, and its people – were truly intended for me to become part of. I’ve always been a believer in the “everything happens for a reason” philosophy and have come to adopt the same approach during my Peace Corps service. Of course, a great deal of thanks goes to our outstanding programming teams at Peace Corps Thailand, who are responsible for pairing everyone up with their sites, but I feel like each of us is truly meant for the site we end up in.

So, to the Peace Corps Trainees of Group 130, who found out their placements this week, I have one piece of important advice: jai yen yen! Everything happens as it’s meant to and a sense of home will find you no matter where you go. Take a breath, soak it in, and welcome home!


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