Carly Allard, 129 YinD
Card games have become an almost daily occurrence at my house. Uno, Phase 10, Spot It, Go Fish; we play ‘em all. I try to reign in my competitive side and embrace the fun of the game, but sometimes there’s inevitable disappointment when my cards reveal a truly crappy hand. Other times a ping of excitement hits (like when there’s a wild or two in hand) and I feel like the game is totally in my favor.
Games are truly incredible. They’ve provided hours of entertainment and ample bonding time with my host family. Between hands, lessons on sportsmanship and teamwork have blossomed, turning a casual after-dinner game into a real-life learning opportunity. Especially with my youngest host sister, I try to instill the importance of making the best of what you’re dealt, regardless of how good or bad the outcome may seem.
A short while ago, I realized the same lesson about making the best of your dealt cards is equally applicable to Peace Corps service and my life in Thailand. There’s no way to know what’s in store for a PCV when they step off the plane. Even as we raised our right hands and took the PCV oath, there was no way for us to know what lay ahead. Sure, we knew where we were headed in Thailand and generally what we’d be expected to work on at site, but there was absolutely no way to know much more than that.
Each site and each person’s service comes with a unique set of characteristics, a full set of positives and negatives. Some PCVs have incredible host families who’ve truly become a second family, but living in a crowded home may come with a lack of independence and alone time. Other PCVs have adorable rental houses they get to make their own, but long for the company of a daily shared meal or even furniture to cook or sit on. Some of us have mountains in our backyards, others have porches overlooking seemingly endless rice fields. While Buddhist temples decorate the skylines of many sites, some people see Christian church steeples around town or often hear the rhythmic Islamic call to prayer.
One of our programs requires PCVs to split their time between schools, the local health center, and our community’s sub-district administrative office. The other program’s PCVs only work at one school. Some people have incredibly supportive co-teachers who’ve embraced the co-teaching mentality and have taught and planned side-by-side with their PCV from day one. Others lead classes entirely alone, in Thai, and hope their amateur lesson planning skills are adequate enough for the students to learn at least a little bit.
Some people’s counterparts have become their best friends at site. Others rarely see their assigned counterpart because they’re too busy to work with their PCV. Some people speak incredible Thai and can even communicate in their region’s local dialect. But some struggle to make it through a conversation without inserting English words, and chalk it up to “teaching English” to our students and community members. While some people can read and write Thai very well, the language still looks like lines of squiggly characters to others.
The list could go on and on. Some people have flush toilets, some flush with a bowl of water. Hot showers are an everyday norm for some, but others savor the hot showers they only enjoy in the cities. Some people eat bugs every day, others eat frogs and ant eggs on the regular. Air conditioning soothes some to sleep while others sleep and sweat simultaneously.
There’s something truly magical about the process of serving in Peace Corps, though: eventually you learn to deal with what you’re dealt. Perhaps an extra Peace Corps goal for PCVs to learn is to make the best of what we’re given. Just like my cards in yet another game of Go Fish, I’ve found joy and thankfulness in the things I have at site and have worked hard to accept things the lack of others. At the end of the day, I realize that even an unlucky card can’t ruin this incredible game, which I am forever grateful I’ve had the chance to play.