One of the most exciting days for Volunteers in PST was the afternoon our staff made an outline of Thailand and called out, one by one, where we would be spending the next two years of our lives. It was kind of like Volunteer Christmas. Well, Christmas came twice for me and I have my new site for the next thirteen months!
Isaan, the poorest, happiest, and most Volunteer populated region of Thailand, is going to be my home, specifically, Roi-Et province. Right in the heart of the region, I feel like I’ve already been thrown into a completely different experience here. I only arrived yesterday and here is what I’ve learned: we’re less than 100 km from Laos, I have absolutely no understanding of the Isaan language, it’s still really cold here in the mornings, and there is no 7/11 in my amphur/town. Here’s a visual aide.
I’m at one school (YAY!!) and my coteacher is someone who has worked with a 122er from the area and really seems to get ‘it.’ She’s heard about the program from the older Volunteer, observed him teach, he’s taught at my school a few times on his community days, and my coteacher already applied for a Volunteer in the new group. The secondary school didn’t meet Peace Corps standards, so it was ruled out they would receive someone from 124. They just get me instead.
I met the other teachers, students, and principal yesterday and they’re all very excited to have me. The only thing is the timing is a little off as it’s getting to be the last monthish of the school year. Sixth grade is preparing for the standardized testing (ONET) and I’m not sure how to approach end of the year lessons without knowing anything my new students have been taught this past year. My coteacher seems awesome enough that we should be able to figure this out pretty easily though.
I’m required to stay with a host family again for one month before moving out to my own place (a definite this time around even though the option, yes one option, doesn’t seem too appealing). The month ‘no overnight travel’ lockdown is also in effect too, but I don’t mind too much. I don’t have the urge to fly out anywhere soon. I have our mid-service conference the last week of March in Bangkok to look forward to anyway.
To say I’m not nervous would be a lie. I’ve heard plenty of stories from people, Volunteers and Thais, that draw up images of Isaan being a sometimes scary, sometimes splendid place. So far, so good though. I’ll be sure to keep you updated.