It’s been awhile, so we have a lot to catch up on!
Our story last left off with us going to our Thai family homestays. We were told that we are to be one of the family, meaning helping with household chores and having to do our own laundry. After a morning session of ‘things to prepare for’ like how a Thai family eats dinner, preparing for bed, squat toilets/bucket showers, and how to do laundry, and a language lesson with our permanent adjaans (teachers), we entered the big meeting room divided between us trainees and our prospective families. As we were sitting in our tambon (village) groups, I said to someone next to me, this felt like the kid’s book, ‘Are you my mother?’ Dr. John made a speech half in Thai and half in English and then we were off to find our families that were holding up our ugly non-smiling pictures Peace Corps had taken a few days prior. Admittedly, I was a little nervous. My stomach had butterflies as we stood and found our families and I thought, I’m here, in Thailand, in the Peace Corps. Finally!
I found my family pretty easily, actually I think they spotted me first and were waving my picture to catch my attention. We didn’t really say much, my sister said something introducing them before my adjaan came over and translated a little bit for us. They wanted to know how old I was and where I come from, which I stuttered over magnificently. I’m finding that whenever I have to speak Thai to someone new, my crippling shyness shines through and I mostly just stare at the faces I do know. I need to get over this, like yesterday. Back in the story, we decided to go get my bike and head home. It was a fairly quiet car ride home except for a few questions my sister asked me in English, mostly because my Thai vocabulary had been exhausted. My family farms, we our house is a little bit off the main road, which I like a lot. The driveway is a bit interesting, especially in avoiding the potholes in the dirt road. But you’re rewarded with these fantastic views of several lakes and seeing all kinds of animals along the way. We share the area with our grandparents so there are animals running all over the place between the two. We have two dogs, three chickens, and one cat that stay with us on a consistent basis. After settling in my room and unpacking a bit, I figured it would be good for some family time. Now both of my sisters can speak some English, so that’s good in that we can have some communication. What’s not good is that I’m not sure what exactly they understand when I talk as I found out after a few snafus. As we were all still in shy mode, we were all a bit awkward around each other. What do I do in awkward social situations? Make friends with the dogs of course! I smothered Bap-si and Duk dik with attention as we sat outside. Something I should congratulate the Peace Corps staff on is the amazing match they made with my homestay and I. It was probably blind luck, but somehow they managed to put me in the best location I could really ask for. My family has a western toilet, a shower head with running hot water, a washing machine, off the road, by multiple bodies of water, a balcony, palm trees, sisters, a crazy funny mother. We laugh, a lot. Life in my homestay is grand. I absolutely love it here.
I sort of lost chronological order there, but let’s see Saturday and Sunday, lots of eating, awkwardness, and time in the hammock. Love the hammock. Completely forgot about the party that went down on Saturday night. So my family asked me if I wanted to go to a barbecue and then something about my Grandma, hm ok sounds good. I’m expecting the immediate family and maybe some of the extended to be at Grandma and Grandpa’s house. I should have known when we got in the truck that it would a whole different story. We didn’t go far, but these neon poles were in the ground for about 50 meters before we made the turn and my jaw dropped. Here was a party of easily about 100 people with tables of food and of course karaoke. My head on a swivel, my sister had to point out the table of people waving me down…..yay other Americans! People I can talk to! Not like we could hear each other, but still, friendly faces of people I knew! They were sitting for dinner and I wasn’t in my seat for 30 seconds before a bowl with heaps of food in it appeared in front of me for a second dinner. I could eat a decent amount, but as soon as I made a serious dent in something, more food would be added to my bowl. We didn’t get to sit for long though, once the dancing started, we were all pulled up to start dancing in front of the stage around another neon pole with music that I think my hard of hearing grandmother in America could probably hear. I decided there’s nothing to do in that kind of situation except to be as silly as possible and dance with as much enthusiasm as possible. Don’t worry, it was recorded by multiple Thai people so that they could have permanent memories of that group of Americans that came to one of their parties once. IRB-ing would be the Peace Corps term (it’s an acronym, what more do you expect from the government). One of the male trainees, Jeff, had some old ladies after him to dance together which was absolutely hilarious. The table wouldn’t let him sit down without having whiskey or stand up without dancing. I’m sure this kind of thing won’t be a fun and excited after two years, but for a first party, I had fun. It was ridiculous, filled with laughter, and very Thai. Just part of the Peace Corps experience here. I’m excited for the ride.