Every volunteer has a unique experience depending on the location, religion, and traditions of their site. Each month we will explore a new volunteer’s site through the eyes of a visiting volunteer to show how similar yet different serving in Thailand can be.
Chandler Smith, 129 TCCS
Michael Marano, 129 TCCS
Si Thep, Phetchabun
Why did you visit?
I went to visit Michael for Makha Bucha Day.
What did you do in the community while visiting?
I visited Michael’s school, house, surrounding community, and his host family’s preferred Wat.
Describe the community.
Having been told by Michael that his community was hot and flat, I was surprised to enter a site surrounded by mountains – though, he wasn’t lying about the heat.
Describe where Michael lives and his host family.
Surrounded by rice and sugarcane fields, I found Michael’s picturesque house smack-dab in the middle of Si Thep. What makes Michael’s house a home is his big, hospitable host family. He has a Pa and Meh but he lives with their daughter, Nan, Nan’s husband, and their three children. They’re a group of warm and genial people that provide Michael with the supportive backbone that he needs.
Describe Michael’s school, teachers, and students.
Michael’s passion for teaching paired with his hard work as a PC volunteer is recognizable as soon as you talk to his students. They’re a brilliant bunch that adore Michael and eagerly ask questions in English. While I was there, we witnessed a group of his students teaching each other an English lesson. That was unforgettable.
What were some highlights from your trip?
There was never a dull moment from my visit to Si Thep, though there were a few crowning moments that will never be forgotten. On the first night, Michael’s neighbors turned a little restaurant into a fully functioning karaoke palace. Reuniting UB6 (@UnfinishedBusiness6 on Instagram) under the stars by the likes of Cher, “Believe”, Brandy and Monica, “The Boy is Mine”, and George Michael, “Careless Whisper” was what dreams are made of.
Additionally, going to the Wat with Michael’s host family for Makha Bucha Day, listening to Buddhist Mantra, and walking around the Buddha with candles lit was an exceptional experience that made me realize just how different our Peace Corps experiences are.
What surprised you about Michael’s community?
What surprised me the most about Michael’s site was its rurality. It’s very much the “countryside,” which was both isolating and refreshing.
Explain the similarities and differences between your site and the PCV’s site.
The site where I work is Muslim, so naturally there were an array of differences between my community and Michael’s Buddhist community. The most discernible social differences were the absence of women in Hijabs and Niqabs, the abundance of dogs, not hearing Muslim prayer five times a day, being able to eat pork and drink alcohol in a public setting, and not hearing locals speak Malay.