One of the bad things about living on a farm is that the gai-chan (chicken song) wakes you up everyday. Well at least if you’re a six-foot American girl living with a farming Thai host family. For the first few weekdays, I was awake and moving at 4:15 AM because our chickens don’t just crow once. They crow at midnight, one, two, three, three-ten, three-fifteen, you get the picture. If they don’t wake you up, one of the five dogs on the compound will see something in the dark and wake you up. Are you noticing a pattern? What I’m trying to say is, in the morning, I’m up early. This is nice as it’s still really cool outside, I’m actually fresh and aware of my surroundings. I’m able to get things taken care of that I’m too busy/exhausted to do at night. If you had told me that I would like the fact that I’m awake before 5 AM everyday when I was in America, I would laugh in your face. At this time, my parents are usually the only ones up with my Paw already out in the rice fields and Meh is making breakfast or other housework. Breakfast is usually something with egg, rice, and the previous meal’s meat. My krap-krua has already realized how much I love milk, so I’m usually with a juice box of chocolate milk. That was how Monday morning went.
Our families were supposed to lead us to school, but I was to be picked up by someone else’s family. I wasn’t entirely sure how this was going to work, but I just went where they told me to go. Standing at the end of my driveway, with my meh of course, I couldn’t help, but feel like a kindergartener off on their first day of school. Billy Madison suddenly came to mind so I changed some of the lyrics to “Back to school, back to school, to learn Thai and prove I’m not a fool….” My meh was getting worried when it was getting later and later and there were no other bikers until….oh! Here in a line, was all the other trainees from further down the road. On I hopped to the blue bus-bike line to school waving goodbye to my Mom. We were a little late there and were scolded accordingly.
Peace Corps training sessions are necessary and important to learn policies, procedures, and security measures, but sometimes (actually more like nearly always) hard to sit through all day. This was one of those days, same with Tuesday, except we that we got immunizations. Now I’m not to love being stuck with a needle and injected with a dead virus, but I understand their importance so that one of us doesn’t get an illness and spread it to more people. We were warned that about a third of us would have a reaction to our Tuesday shot of Japanese Encephalitis of some flu-like symptoms about six hours afterwards, but don’t worry, the longest they’ve ever lasted were twenty-four hours. HA. I started feeling a little woozy in our after TCCO Technical (we’re starting to call it taco tech) session, but told myself to suck it up since it wouldn’t be lasting very long anyway. The rest of the session went by with lots and lots of questions about the Thai education system, but the exciting news was that there was a volunteer there! She chimed in occasionally which we all liked because she really knows what it’s like working in Thailand. It helped that she was really nice and very enthusiastic, so that boosted our power-point weary spirits. The bike home actually really helped clear out the congestion in my nose and I started to feel a little better until I got a shower. I thought that would cool me down, but I was actually still really warm before going to bed.
Wednesday morning, I noticed that I had slept through the chickens, which was weird and actually heard my alarm. I hadn’t slept well going to sleep with what I thought might have been a slight temperature and had a dream that I was quarantined, so I decided on an off-chance to check my temperature with my Peace Corps provided Medical Kit (da-da-dah!). Turned out I had a lovely 102 degree fever, yummy. When I woke up, I wasn’t in very much pain. It was uncomfortable, but I didn’t want to miss language class after two days of going through the other sessions. My Meh sent me back to bed after informing the higher-ups that I wouldn’t be coming in to class that day. It was after a nap that my body decided that it hated me. I was literally singing to myself ‘I am in misery…’ you know, the Maroon 5 song? I don’t know what it is about the last two months, but I’ve gotten sick, like can’t get out of bed sick, more times in the last two months then I have in the last five years of my life. It hasn’t been fun. I missed the following morning language session and Meh drove me in for the afternoon taco tech. It goes to show how much we do in one day because the past few days, I’ve been trying to play catch up. I can’t tell you how many sentences have started with ‘oh, we did that when you were gone….’ You would think that I took a semester long sabbatical!
The one good thing about being sick is that I got pretty close with my family in that time, my Meh in particular. She speaks very little English, so our conversations were pretty hilarious in my delirious state. It was kind of soothing in a way as she clucked over me in Thai and I would gaze up at her through my mosquito net. She went above and beyond a ‘homestay’ Mom had to do and treated me as one of her daughters. I don’t have enough Thai words to properly say thank you. I don’t know if I ever will. We had many inside jokes that came through that situation, my favorite being ‘monster Meh’. This evolved from when she says that I have to eat before having my Tylenol, even when I’m not hungry or she’s not there. She set one of my sisters on me one afternoon when she went to the temple. My sister said I had to eat or Meh would smack her across the butt. I don’t think Meh actually would have, but I managed to tell her when she came home that my sister beat me until I started eating. We all giggle because they know I exaggerate things (funny how that translates even when you don’t speak the same language). So now when she wants me to do something though, monster Meh (with finger fangs) comes out and we laugh hysterically. Yes, Peace Corps, you made an excellent match here.
I now have a new nickname too, given to me by Meh. My sisters both have J names and Erin ends up sounding more like Air-lein, Meh named me Joy because I bring her laughter. It made me smile from the inside out.