Daylisha Reid, 130 YinD
It happened to me. All of the things I refused to believe could. People said, “Enjoy it while it lasts,” and I thought to myself, “Please, that could never be me!” I remember looking at the facetious, volunteer-run social media meme accounts that poked fun at volunteer experiences and thinking about how lucky I was to be dodging all of the challenging things that impact volunteers.
Teaching English wasn’t happening because I’m a Youth in Development Volunteer — not a teacher. My background is in youth counseling and advocacy, my degree is in Psychology, plus I did not sign up to teach.
I was going to work at my local hospital every week, I definitely wouldn’t be stuck in the office. I needed to get out there and start teaching youth how to live healthier lifestyles with a team of nurses to back me.
I couldn’t wait to plan camps, paint a mural, and initiate gigantic community projects.
This honeymoon period wasn’t going to end! Host mom cooked three delicious meals a day and Gabe and I were invited to every hot event happening in our village. Weddings and what we call back home, “The Cook Outs.” Unexpected bpai tios and often times meetings where we couldn’t understand anything that was happening, yet we were asked to give an opening speech each time. Oh yeah, this would never end.
I even had a best friend that wasn’t 12 years old. She was the same age as me. These seasoned volunteers were straight up hating.
No one had said anything rude about my appearance either. Coarse hair, black skin, with the thickest of thighs, an elephant in every room I entered, yet I dodged any remarks that could potentially hurt my feelings.
I wasn’t going to cry in front of Thai people.
God has a way of humbling you. As you see, I mentioned a lot of “I”s without much mention of what my site may need from me. I’m a foreigner entering a place that doesn’t revolve around me.
I teach 6 English classes two days a week. I no longer work at the hospital because the projects weren’t moving. I’m still waiting on a budget and haven’t painted a mural. That honeymoon period? Definitely over! I watch my counterparts celebrate days off together via Facebook. I’m no longer as exciting as I was a few short months ago. My best friend was told by a community leader that our friendship was inappropriate, maybe we were having too much fun, but nothing harmful. However, when hierarchy speaks you respect the hierarchy. I’ve been told to get out of the sun, wear sunscreen to avoid getting darker, that my hair looks better longer, and how much prettier I am now that I’ve lost weight. Some days, my kids talk about how they wish they were beautiful, and throw white powder on their face to exemplify exactly what they mean. Oh yeah, I cried. In front of a teacher, I cried when my best friend pulled off in that white van to go back to America, I cried when I showed up for sports day, ready to play pétanque, and hours later was never called on to play.
I read something the other day that said you can’t love people in your language, you have to love to them in theirs. As poetic and beautiful as this sounds, it’s one of the hardest things I’ve had to do. Humble myself and recognize that I’m a product of my environment and not a product of theirs. I can’t place expectations on someone that doesn’t share my marinade. I’m not here to change others. You can’t change people, that must come from within. I’m here to love people with my palms wide open. To keep trying even when it hurts, when it offends, and when it rejects. To find grace in the little things like the children screaming they miss me as I enter the school yard each day; cheering my young ladies on as they hold a tough yoga pose; or the heat breaking storms that pacify my soul. You know, those small wins. It’s those small wins which makes this count. #Month18