Ian Tramm, YinD 131
During Pre-Service Training Peace Corps staff really drives it home that service is a series of pretty drastic ups and downs. They even mapped out statistically at what points during our 27 month contracts we were most likely to hit some of these low-point slumps and they warned us that they can be brought on by any number of factors: be it feeling homesick around the holidays, a project not finding its footing, feeling like your work isn’t making the impact you had hoped it would, or maybe simply feeling lonely or isolated at site. Well it’s been more than a few months since I posted anything here and I think maybe part of that was because I didn’t wanna concede anything to you. I haven’t forgotten when you said that this was gonna be a difficult and unpleasant two years for me, and for so long it wasn’t until suddenly, and frustratingly, it was. Lo and behold the slump.
So yeah the last couple of months have been kinda rough. That’s not to say that I haven’t still been motivated and inspired on a daily basis by my counterparts, my coworkers, and my students, but it’s just kinda been a strange place I’ve felt like I was at for a while there. In November I helped co-facilitate a gender and leadership centric GLOW/BROS camp (Girls Leading Our World / Boys Respecting Others & Self) with a number of other volunteers in a neighboring province and it was easily the single most rewarding event I feel that I’ve been part of thus far in my service.
I was riding such a high that whole week as we watched our kids independently lead activities, engage with new people, and explore new and challenging concepts. I think I speak for all of the volunteers who attended when I spout how proud I was of my students that week. Yet still, despite all that, despite having taken part in something that I see as an amazing experience both for the students and the volunteers, something that I’m now looking forward to hosting at my site in the coming year, I was still somehow oxymoronically in this painful, unpleasant, endlessly frustrating slump; like a pit in the sky.
I think one of the hardest, but maybe also one of the most beneficial aspects of this job is the amount of time we spend alone. And I don’t mean physically alone, well I guess I do mean that also, but really what I’m talking about is the psychological isolation that comes with being the only PCV, the only foreigner, the only native English/non-native Thai speaker for miles and miles and miles. Even when we’re at an event with hundreds of people and music and food and dancing, sometimes it can still feel like you’re just standing by yourself in an empty field wondering what the hell you’re doing there. That being said, I do think that comes with a lot of opportunity for self-actualization. It feels like I spend a lot of time in my own head, especially given that for a significant portion of nearly every day I’m out on my bike in the middle of a sea of rice fields miles away from anything. As comically pathetic as it may sound I honestly think my best friend at site is my bike. I spend so much time alone on my bike that at this point it feels borderline meditative when I go out for a long ride and I’ve come to value that enormously. It’s the time I take to process my emotions, understand why I’m feeling the way that I am, and decide where I can go from there and thankfully it would seem that I rode that damn bike right out of my slump.
So as I’m sure you’ve gathered by now despite having been down in the slumps, I’ve still been writing (remember when you said I wouldn’t?) I think like the bike it’s been a way to process; externalizing my insecurities and all that cuz it’s harder to fight something you can’t see right? I don’t know, I don’t really have some grand, all encompassing, “well this is what I learned” type point to end this on, just that it’s been a hell of a year. Peaks and valleys and peaks and valleys. And undoubtedly many more of each to come.