“As you know, we recently evacuated Volunteers from China and Mongolia due to the COVID-19 outbreak and related travel constraints and school closings. Further evacuations are now under way at several posts. Unfortunately, it has become clear in the last 48 hours that numerous posts must follow suit.
It is against this backdrop that I have made the difficult decision to temporarily suspend all Peace Corps operations globally and evacuate all of our Volunteers. As COVID-19 continues to spread and international travel becomes more and more challenging by the day, we are acting now to safeguard your well-being and prevent a situation where Volunteers are unable to leave their host countries.”
My heart stopped. Someone had posted a screenshot of these words in our group chat, and I read and re-read them until the tears in my eyes blurred the sentences. It couldn’t be happening, could it? I felt so safe in my rural community – we had all but been reassured that we were fine, Peace Corps Thailand was going to stay right where we were. Some panicked messages, emails, and phone calls later, the truth was beginning to sink in.
We were going home.
This past week has been the hardest of my life. I know as each Volunteer’s service was different, so was their evacuation experience. But I feel confident in saying that I believe we all shared the whiplash of emotions that were part of uprooting the lives we’d built in communities we loved. I was angry to not have a choice in the matter, heartbroken over so little time to say goodbye, distraught over the loss of a year. I still am panicked at the change of life plans, uncertain over what moving forward looks like from here, and feeling just generally incomplete.
There’s so much to mourn, it feels like my heart has turned to lead. I cried for my young host siblings, who won’t understand why I’m gone. I cried for the foundation I’d built during my first year and the work that I wouldn’t get to do in the second. I cried over the loss of a culture, a home, a way of life, a family, a community, a dream.
I wish there was something I could say to make this process easier. Something to sum up all the good that we’ve accomplished, all that we’ve learned and seen changed in ourselves. An ode to the relationships we’d built, the difference we made. But I don’t think there’s anything I could say that would make any of us feel better.
What I can do is still provide a platform for us to share our stories. I can provide a place for us to process together, for us to read each other’s reflections, dreams, readjustment feelings. For us to mourn together, remember together, and move forward together.
Sticky Rice will continue to share the Peace Corps Volunteer experience. We’ll still be a place for your voices to be heard, our stories to be told.
In the next days, weeks, and months, I hope you take time to process. I hope you take time to recall the stories, the people, the projects, the love. And then, I hope you send them to us to share with our PC Thailand community.
Because I know I need this platform to keep being what it is, and I hope that maybe, just maybe, it will help you process as well.
Su su naka,
Caitlin and Bianca
Peace Corps Thailand Magazine accepts all kinds of submissions, please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org .
Ideas for reflection and processing:
- Articles about memories from your site.
- Puu-Ying Power articles about the women at your site.
- A list of all the things you learned about yourself.
- Tributes to other volunteers or counterparts who have changed your life.
- Photo or video compilations of your time in Thailand.
- Highlights of your favorite project, camp, club, or class.
- Humorous reflections on the culture clash or hardships of being a PCV.
- An overview of the work you did and/or insight into your role as a Volunteer.
- Poems, songs, drawings about your time at PC Thailand.
- Dreams about your future, plans moving forward.
- Anything that will help you process.