This is the last batch of photos. Christmas and New Years!
And just so the right person gets credit Carly took 99% of these photos 🙂
Here are some pictures from October 2014 – New Years. They are mostly of my travels around Thailand since 1. that is when I am with Carly and she always remembers to actually take pictures and 2. at my site I am usually busy trying to control a group of 30-40 kids so I definitely don’t have a chance to snap photos.
Hello family and friends
So I know I haven’t updated my blog in forever and I plan on writing a long post about what I have been up to the last few months including my trip to Mae Hong Son, an adventure where I severely overestimated my kayaking skills that ended with a broken paddle and much blood, the week that I actually became an adjudicator for Asian Parliamentary Debate (Random huh?!?), the Loi Krathong festival (some volunteers got dressed up as Thai princesses, my site dressed me up as a farmer), Father’s Day in Thailand, and the 5k I ran yesterday with 10 minutes notice. I also have a ton of pictures from all of these events. Okay that isn’t true, I suck at remembering to take pictures, but Carly does and I’m sure if I ask nicely she will share them with me so I can put them on my blog.
The reason I am writing this blog now is because I had one of those days where what I am doing here just made sense. I’ll be honest I have been down at times worrying about what impact I am actually making here. And then today happened, well it started a bit before today…
I teach at a small school here every Wednesday. When I first got there I was just talking with the kids about anything and everything and I told them that I liked to play soccer. All the kids started telling me that girls don’t play soccer in Thailand. The boys always play at lunch so one day I just walked out there and asked if I could play too. They looked at me like I was crazy, but they let me play. At first they would apologize every time they bumped into me or I got hit with the ball, but after awhile they seemed to notice that I was playing just as hard as they were and might I add scoring quite a few goals. After that the boys have invited me to play soccer with them every week for the last 12 weeks or so.
I also noticed that when I would play soccer with the boys a bunch of girls would come over to watch me. Then two weeks ago, after watching for 10 weeks, two of my fifth grade girls asked if they could play. The boys responded with the typical “girls don’t play soccer”. I stopped the game pointed to myself and told the boys “I’m a girl and I play soccer, these girls want to play soccer and they can play”, I was so proud of those two girls. It took a lot of guts for them to stand up and say they wanted to play. So the three of us girls played soccer all afternoon with the boys.
Which brings me to today. I came back from lunch and noticed a bunch of the fifth and sixth grade girls standing on the soccer field. I walked over to see what was going on and realized they were choosing teams. We had gone from “girls don’t play soccer” to a 6 vs. 6 all girls game of soccer happening at recess! I was beyond proud of these girls. They had decided that they could play soccer if they wanted to and let me tell you those girls played hard. They let me play too 🙂 Later that day during free period they asked if we could all play soccer again and leave it to these girls to march out there, kick the boys off the soccer field, and play hard!
I’m not sure if it was watching a girl play soccer, watching me not be intimidated by the boys, or just a girl power movement that was already in the works before I got here, but I am so glad that I got to be here to see it! I just want these girls to realize that they are capable of anything and deserve all the same opportunities as the boys and to see them feel empowered enough to take the field today, well I am just truly in awe of these 11 and 12 year old girls. Today was a good day.
I know that I created this blog in order to keep everyone updated on my time in the Peace Corps and Thailand, but I feel like writing about something that doesn’t have to do with either of those things. For those of you who only want to read about those things here is a quick update–It is still hot, I now know what is going on about half the time (that is a huge improvement), I’m figuring out this teaching thing, still not really a fan of the food, and I have been recruited to be a chairball coach (chairball is like ultimate Frisbee meets basketball sort of). So there is your Peace Corps Thailand update! So on to something else…
The depth of your compassion lies in your ability to forgive yourself – Mark Graham
This quote has been bothering me. Not in a “what a bunch of crap” way, but rather in that “I feel like I just got punched in the gut” sort of way. It feels like those times when you are having a conversation with somebody and they decide to skip the gentle flowery bullshit and skip straight to the truth that you really don’t want to hear. And I have been wrestling with this particular truth for awhile now.
I have this tendency to expect a lot out of myself, and by a lot I mostly mean perfection. It has pushed me to constantly improve and try to excel in everything I do. It also, however, has led to a great deal of kicking my own ass. That means according to this quote the depth of my compassion is less than a dirty puddle after a light rain. Given my chosen profession and my current life as a volunteer that fact is slightly unnerving.
So I have been on a mission to master this self forgiveness and self love thing! First stop for a super analytical individual like myself…research! Because clearly research is how you understand feelings 🙂
During my research I have come across such gems as “It is the past, let it go”, “you can’t change it so it doesn’t really do any good to worry about it”, “we are all human”, and “you need to love yourself”. Oooooooooh I need to just forget about it and love myself, well hell why didn’t I think of that.
I know I am pretty snarky for someone who hasn’t offered any alternatives to the above advice, but I think it is pretty clear that if it were that easy everyone would be doing it. Maybe I just run with a perfectionist crowd, but it seems to me that almost everyone has some regrets, “shoulds” all over themselves, and has a hard time accepting their imperfections.
The crazy thing is I would never treat any of my friends or clients the way I treat myself – constantly demanding perfection, repeatedly bringing up the past, berating them for every mistake they make. That inner voice of mine is one demanding critical bitch! Especially when it comes to allowing myself to move on from some pretty massive mistakes I made in the last few years.
This self love stuff is tough!!!!
To be honest I think I might still suck at this self forgiveness and self love thing. Don’t worry I will kick my ass later for not having mastered it yet 🙂 But I do have a few thoughts on the subject…
1. I’m still alive so obviously the last few years were not the end of my story. I have the chance to learn something from those mistakes, move forward, and do better. Even if letting it go and forgiving myself is proving to be quite the challenge at least I get the opportunity to try.
2. Life is pretty great right now. I let certain things in the past really mess me up and it would be a shame if I continued to let those same things ruin the good thing I have going now. I’m going to add “allow yourself to be happy and even think you deserve it” to my growing self care to-do list.
3. What is the worst that can happen if I let myself off the hook for messing up the last few years? I mean besides ruining my perfect “kicking my own ass” record.
4. As much as my mind wants to argue this fact, perfection is unattainable. I’m not perfect, but I’m also not making the same mistakes anymore so I must have learned something along the way. (It would still be pretty sweet to be perfect though, I’m just sayin’)
That’s it. That is all I have figured out so far. I think that learning to forgive and love myself may be more of a lifelong process than a quick research project. And I’m sure you are wondering why I took the time to write this blog post when really the entire thing is basically saying I have none of this figured out. I think I was hoping that by writing this all down I would have some great epiphany and discover the secret to self compassion. If nothing else I think that people really need to consider that quote, and give some thought to how compassionate, or not, they are to themselves.
So in the spirit of giving self love a shot I will end this with another quote I think deserves some reflection
Geez time just flies when you are busy Peace Corps-ing! I’m really sucking at keeping this thing updated and I would promise to do better, but really I think we both know that would just be a lie 🙂
Things here in Tak, Thailand are going great! I feel like after six months of feeling like I was in way over my head, not really knowing what was going on, and not really sure what I was suppose to be doing here, I have finally started to sort of figure things out. I mean I still have days where I have no idea what is going on, but they are much fewer than before. I am in a bit of a routine here now, and have actually been doing some youth development work. Progress!
I spend most of my time teaching at the local schools and planning for those lessons. I’m teaching 1st through 6th grade at two different schools in town. I’m pretty sure that the teachers think I am there to teach English even though I explained my role as a youth development volunteer, but that’s okay. I do teach quite a bit of English, but I also manage to sneak in some stuff to help the kids with their confidence, build team work skills, and work on critical and creative thinking skills. We also find a lot of time to be goofy and silly and just have some fun. I have also had the opportunity to teach some kindergartners. This scared the bejesus out of me at first, but those crazy little munchins grew on me and we managed to have some very chaotic and tiring fun!
I have also been teaching six hours a day on Sundays with the matayom (junior high and high school) students. I teach 10th, 11th, 12th grade in the morning and 7th, 8th, and 9th grade in the afternoon. We have been talking a lot about traveling and the world. Only one of my kids has been on an airplane and only a handful of the students have ever traveled outside of Thailand and that was only to Myanmar which is right next door. Most of my kids have barely left this province. It was really interesting to get their concept of the world. I had them get into groups and draw a map of the world, and the results were really interesting. Here are a couple of the drawings:
Honestly, at first I was appalled at their lack of knowledge of the world, but then it really made me think about what the world means to them. Even if they learn geography in school it is not as if these kids ever think of the world as someplace they will get to explore and see; learning geography is almost hypothetical. It is simply talking about places that they will probably never get the chance to see. It really made me think about what a privilege it is that I get the opportunity to travel and see the world. I really want that for these kids too. I at least want them to be able to dream of places outside of this tiny town where they were born.
So between all this teaching at my own site, I did manage to get over to my friend’s site to help her with a two day English camp for 84 sixth graders. Let me just say it was a tiring two days, but it was nice to get to see some other volunteers.
But life is not all work! I have managed to squeeze in quite a bit of fun as well. My community recently had its sports week and I was on the volleyball team. As most of you know I LOVE sports so I had a blast during sports week. It was actually a really good opportunity to bond with the other women in the office and we managed to play really well too 🙂
And like I mentioned in my last post I got an opportunity to visit Chiang Mai and I think it might be my most favorite place in Thailand so far. Carly, Kailei, and I got the opportunity to talk to some American high school students who were over here doing a volunteer project. A lot of them were interested in what the Peace Corps does and wanted to hear more about our individual experiences. I was really impressed with the questions they asked and their perspectives on international volunteering. It was also really motivating to talk to them about why I joined the Peace Corps and what I have learned so far. I think I needed to remind myself of my reasons for doing this since sometimes I just get all wrapped up in the frustrations of it all.
Carly and I also visited an elephant sanctuary while we were in Chiang Mai. It was amazing! These elephants are rescued from forced logging or from working in the tourist industry on the streets of the big cities. Several of the elephants had injuries from land mines, getting hit with automobiles, inhumane logging practices, or forced breeding programs. It was really amazing to see these animals up close. We got the opportunity to feed them, bathe them, and just wander around the grounds with them. They do not allow you to ride the elephants and all the staff are super gentle with them. We had a lot of fun and the area was beautiful. I definitely want to go back! I feel like I cannot really do the place or the program justice.
A couple weeks ago was the Queen’s birthday so that means it is also Mother’s Day here in Thailand. I went to Kalasin province which is about a nine hour bus ride from my province to see Carly’s site and meet her family. Her family was so super sweet and welcomed me with open arms. Like most Thai families they immediately made me feel at home and announced that I was their newest daughter.
They then let me take part in the Mother’s day activities which included eating of course 🙂 and paying respect to the mothers of the family. It meant a lot to me to be included in the ceremonies. Carly has a really incredible family and it was sweet of her to share them with me.
The weekend also included a very random trip to a Wat that had some interesting depictions of what I think were sins and consequences for those sins, but as usual I’m not totally sure what was going on and was a little confused.
All in all it was a fabulous weekend!
Like I said I think I am finally finding my Thailand rhythm or maybe I am learning to be more patient with myself and this whole process. Either way things are good and I’m feeling happy about being here. I can’t believe how fast time is going and I’m excited to see what else Thailand has in store for me. So until next time…Peace!