We made it!!! It’s our new home sweet home. I’ve felt so welcomed by the Thai people (that I’ve come across so far) as well as the Peace Corps staff. The four of us stepped off the plane to real leis and the cheerful greetings of reunification with our other trainees. They had us go through the government/diplomatic line at immigration which was pretty nice boost to the ego. I couldn’t really see much out of the window on our bus ride to our training site so I decided to sleep.
Yes, I can now decide to fall asleep, and by decide I mean surrender to the lump of skin that is my jet lagged body. I’ve never had such a reaction like this before. It’s magnified by the fact that we started training the next morning at 8am (and we finally settled into our rooms around 3 am) and were thrown a large amount of information of Peace Corps policies and the like. Luckily, many of us seem to be on the same page in this regard. The afternoon started with a medical overview given by Dr. Rit (who is awesome, yes I could tell in his first speech), our first immunization (first of the rabies series to protect against the soi dogs that rule the rice fields/streets), and our first Thai language lesson. I can say hello, my name is Erin, and what is your name? That is if I can actually remember the right tones to it, I might be saying Apple, Erin is you, snake, your snake? Which also means that I remembered the words to begin with…I should be studying at night, but my body just seems to knock itself out once I get within a 45 degree angle to the ground.
Another vital thing we learned was how to properly wai. Waing is what the Thai do instead of shaking hands. You hold your hands in front of you like in prayer, offering a sa-wat-dee-ka, and bowing your head slowly until the you touch your nose to your index finger. We are meeting/introducing ourselves to the governor tomorrow…..rerealizing that I’m going to have to do that tomorrow, shoot.
After a lunch of rice (more and more rice) we took off to our ‘hub village’ about twenty minutes away via badass bus. I can’t begin to explain this bus we were on, it looked really cool however my lungs will tell you another story. Anyway though, as we were driving there, checking out the markets, houses, and people, someone said “guys, we’re IN Thailand now.” And it was so true. It still is, but it really feels like it now. We’ll be meeting back in this hub a few days a week, the other days we will be off in our villages with 10-15 other volunteers for intensive language and cross cultural training. Like who to wai and how. (I would like to interject here to point out that we’ll be moving into our homestays on Saturday (as in two days from now) and all I know how to say thus far is “Hello, my name is Erin, what is your name?” Let that sink in for a minute……..this is going to be, ‘interesting.’)
Between yesterday and today, I learned more about bikes than I have in my entire life. We were issued all kinds of equipment from a really awesome electric green helmet (groovy), an inflatable tire, a mobile bike pump, and all kinds of do-whats and thingamajigs (I’d like to point out that the red line is not coming up under the word ‘thingamajig’ meaning that it’s accepted in Webster’s dictionary, something I would not have guessed in a million years) that I’m still not entirely sure what their purpose is. But I learned how to change a flat tire, with the assistance of the Thai Bike Asia man that pretty much got exasperated with me every 3.7 seconds. We went in our bike groups for a ‘big ride’ of ‘7 km’. I put it in quotes because I’m not sure how much I believe that we actually went that far. Needless to say, our butts are a bit sore this evening as we did many more mini rides throughout the day. Today school was in session so we got to wave to lots and lots of kids as they would shout hello to us and run away. There was some frisbees thrown as well as catch and it made me smile even just as I watched. Overall, it was a successful day. Don’t worry, more fun stuff is on the horizon, I have a test tomorrow! Maybe I should study for that as well….oops.
They topped yesterday off with this welcoming (traditional) ceremony that had the trainers wish away all the anxieties and troubles out of our bodies and help the soul come back to its rightful place. They do this by tying a piece of white string around your wrist (my left because I’m female). At one point I got chills from the soothing words of one of our Thai language instructors as she tied it around my wrist, it just might have also been from the air conditioning.
The Peace Corps staff prepared a welcome dinner on the terrace of our hotel that was absolutely beautiful. Being a water lover, the fact that our hotel is right next to the river and the wat (temple) to boot makes me a happy camper/trainee. Well for as long as I could stay awake. I experienced something that I’ll be getting a lot of the next two years: celebratory Thai karaoke. It kept me awake, a foreboding foreshadowing if you ask me. There were lots of laughs (dancing queen, I love rock ‘n roll, and my table’s number) and even more yawns and people falling asleep in our chairs, so it was off to bed. I stayed up to a whopping 8:45 pm, a new record, thank you very much.
I really enjoyed myself yesterday and today. We’re all really bonding as a group. I think it’s amazing that anyone can sit down with anyone else and be able to hold a conversation without (much) awkwardness. We have a fantastic little group that I can’t wait to get to know over the next two years. I’m kind of having trouble turning my brain back on to remember the language stuff we’re learning, but hopefully that will change once we’re constantly in classes. Speaking of brain malfunctions though, I’m starting to sway in front of the computer as I’ve been resisting sleep for the past 6 hours (yes, that means I was ready for sleep at 3 pm). Hope to check in again before moving into my homestay, internet will be a bit sketchy at that point. Hope everyone is well around the world!!