December 28, 2013

I'm leaving soon for Peace Corps Thailand

"Sa-wat-dee, khrap" which means "Hello" in the language of Thailand, my home hopefully for the next 27 months where I will be a Peace Corps volunteer. I thought I would start off my blogging journey with this short post about where I am going, what I'll be doing, and who I will be working with.

Back in January, 2013, I applied to the US Peace Corps. For everyone who knows me, but especially my family, this comes as no surprise, except to me. Believe it or not, I actually filled out an application over 30 years ago (1982) but never sent it in. Oh, how I wonder what my life would have been like if I had. In 2012, I had returned to the US after spending four years in Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia, as a volunteer English teacher at a Buddhist center. While there I was fortunate to become good friends with a Peace Corps volunteer, Travis, who later would write one of my recommendations letters.

I had never really thought much about "volunteer" work until I had a chance to do some, first in France at Nalanda Monastery, which then lead me to work in Mongolia. My experiences showed me clearly that I want to help others in any way I can. Before, I wasn't sure what skills I had that could be helpful. But, in Mongolia, I loved teaching. After returning home, I couldn't wait to go back - anywhere.

Needless to say, the Peace Corps application process is long, as you would probably expect for a federal government agency. I won't bore you with details except to say that in July, I was "invited" to serve in Thailand as a Teacher Collaborator and Community Facilitator, which means in essence, an ESL (English as a Second Language) Teacher trainer. And I accepted!

The Teacher Collaboration and Community Service (TCCS) project is geared to support school teachers in rural Thailand to improve and apply participatory learning methods, especially in the English classroom. The scope of the Volunteer's work, however, is not limited to the classroom. Volunteers are encouraged to collaborate with teachers and community members to enhance the quality of life through the promotion of life skills and the development of the school community.

In a week, I will board a plane to head to our staging area, which is Washington, DC. There, I will meet the other people invited to serve with me in Thailand, called "group 126", and we will attend a sort of orientation session. The following day, we will all board the bus and head to the airport to begin the long journey to Thailand. Once there, we will begin PST, Pre-Service Training, in a provence just north of Bangkok.

During PST, each of us will live with a host family, begin intensive Thai language instruction, and learn more about what we will be doing. Upon successful completion of PST, I will swear in as an official Peace Corps volunteer (during PST, we are "trainees") and begin a 2-year commitment.

To be perfectly honest, I haven't thought much about all that. I know I will do my best to learn what I need to because I still feel I am a clean slate as far as my teaching methodology, even after 4 years in Mongolia. I hope my unique experience enhances what I am taught and what I can learn from my fellow trainees. And, although I know learning the language will be my biggest obstacle, I'm excited about it too. I've studied languages before but never really felt comfortable using them. In Thailand it will be a necessity of daily living - kind of like jumping in the deep end, so to speak. Ha Ha Ha

In these days leading up to my flight, I am busy shopping for what I need, saying goodbye to all my family and friends, and failing at just relaxing in these last moments before PST (which we are told is pretty grueling). Oh, and I'm also failing miserably at watching what I eat, what with all the going away dinner dates I'm getting.

I have absolutely no idea how much time I will have to update this blog during training, or what internet access I'll have both during and after, but I will do my best to share my experiences with you here when and as I am able.