Ruhamaiah Bradley, 130 TESS
An RPCV (Returned Peace Corps Volunteer) from back home once described Peace Corps as, “the hardest job you’ll ever love.” Quite the popular slogan and definitely on the bullseye. Peace Corps hit the target with that one. Completely understandable. However, I’m finding, right about now, adulting to be the hardest thing I’ll ever love.
Like most Americans, privacy and independence are key to my livelihood. So you can imagine how excited I was to move into my own home at my site. Not to say that I didn’t love living with my host family. I had, and still have, a sweet deal with them. I have many host family members that speak English. In some ways, they’re more American than Thai, which is probably a byproduct of my host sister being a foreign exchange student in the states. Honestly, they’re just dope people, but let me get back to the excitement of moving out.
So boom! I’m all ready to move out and excited until reality hit. I had no furniture. One doesn’t have to imagine how fast purchasing furniture can use up their one-time settling-in allowance. It’s all good though.
I have a bed and bed frame, and a refrigerator and cooking supplies (the latter were donated). A counter, steamer, and oven (all purchased by me). I have some trash cans for my bucket shower and toilet water. Also another trash can to be used for its intended purpose, you know…for trash. A clothes rack to hang laundry (it sees regular use once a week, nevermore, because hand-washing can be a time consuming struggle). A black desk and a cushioned chair (both collect dust and have been used as storage for other items). Of course, I supplemented saved money from PST (pre service training) to cover the cost of some of these items. A reed floor mat and two cushions are also part of my furniture.
The mat and cushions were purchased so I could spend time with some of my students. Maybe watch a movie or teach English. It was a great idea until I was out of mangos. I’ll backtrack for your convenience.
When I first moved into my rental, a few of my anuban (kindergarten) students came over. It was expected. What wasn’t expected were all of my mangos being eaten. In their defense, I did offer them some, but I didn’t get to have any. My host mom had dropped the mangos off the morning after I moved in, along with breakfast, because she knew I didn’t have any groceries yet. I wasn’t upset about my mangos being gone, but what if that was all I had to survive on for the day?
The kids eventually left and later that night my host family showed up at my door with a steaming hot plate of spaghetti. Nothing covering it, just cooked, and delicious. I ate every bit of it while sitting on the floor. They laughed at me while I ate and were glad I enjoyed it. It was in this moment that I realized I didn’t know how to adequately take care of myself. This begins my journey into adulthood while in Peace Corps.
I’m being dramatic but everything has become easier despite the initial struggle of it all. I’m learning that fruit here doesn’t last as long as it does in the states since it isn’t engineered, so I’ve started freezing my bananas. My rice was infested with rice weasels, so I had to throw that in the freezer, for a week, as well. I’m learning vegetables don’t last as long. I may or may not have spent hours on end Google searching how to tell if garlic has gone bad. I’ve learned how to make cookies from scratch because I have a terrible sweet tooth. Having an abundance of oatmeal chocolate chip cookies on hand means I won’t run through my baht buying snacks.
I eat more than I expect, so I have to buy more fish, chicken, and shrimp than I initially expected. Water testing eggs for freshness has become part of my routine. As well as steaming then freezing broccoli so that it lasts longer. The most surprising of them all, has to be waking up early in the morning to fill my trash can with clean bath water. Along with that, I also use my drinking water to shower, because rainy season means brown water. Rationing water has become quite the useful skill.
If you were wondering, besides the occasional craving for instant noodles, or the days I eat it because that’s all I have in my cupboard, I’m doing well. I work out, occasionally, and I cook for myself often. Not quite what I imagined my post-undergrad “adulting” to be like. Never would I have imagined eight months ago, that all of this would be my reality and it’s all beginning to feel normal.
Read Ruhamaiah’s previous articles The Freeing Feeling of Gender Expression, A Funeral, and PST Survival Guide.
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