Admittedly, I am not a Valentine’s Day enthusiast. Although, also admittedly, I don’t have a past of disastrous valentines to deter me from the ‘mushy’ corporate holiday. I’ve actually had fairly enjoyable Valentine’s Days. It’s strange to think that I spent last year’s hallmark holiday at a Widespread Panic concert in Columbia, South Carolina, and this year, I am in Thailand. Anyway, I’ve digressed…
In contrast to my history of satisfyingly average Valentine’s Days (sorry feen gao… ex-boyfriends), this year’s was an absolute train wreck. For the past two weeks, I have been teaching prathom one and two and prathom three at a local school, roong-rian wat Sopa. While my students have not been angels, by any means, I’ve been able to maintain my sanity. This past Tuesday, however, I lost that sense of mental stability and broke down. My students were replaced with the spawn of Satan. Regardless of any and all classroom management methods I tried, the tiny Thais manipulated my classroom to the point of absolute anarchy. After an entire morning of feeling like an unpaid babysitter for nearly 50 kids, I felt miserable.
For the first time, I felt undeserving and unqualified to be in Thailand as a Peace Corps Volunteer. I felt defeated. After struggling to hold it together in the classroom, I walked out in silence at the end of my lesson to cry alone behind the school. All I could think about was boarding a plane to return to the comfort of America. I imagined how I would use the several flights of the 72-hour journey home to catch up on sleep. I fantasized about my mom picking me up from the airport and taking me home to Bellechasse Road where I would curl up on the couch with Layla, my furry sidekick, and watch reruns of Friends. In that moment of defeat, the thought of an American return seemed incredibly appealing.
After moments of attempting to gather myself and dry my eyes, I felt a warm and firm hand on my shoulder. It was a fellow trainee that I have become particularly close with. She had observed my classes – rather, failures at classes – earlier that morning. Dismissing my feelings of immense embarrassment and discomfort with my vulnerability within that moment, my friend wrapped me in a hug which I myself did not even know I wanted. Through tears, I told her how unqualified I felt. She responded with a laugh and reminded me that my students’ behavior was not a reflection of my ability to teach, but that my resiliency and willingness to push through to the end was a reflection of my ability to be a PCV. Her validation made me feel silly for contemplating giving up just a few minutes prior.
Valentine’s Day was my most difficult day of teacher training thus far. Everything that could have went wrong… went wrong. Immediately following that dreadful morning, I biked to a lunch date at a street vendor we PCT’s frequent. The food took so long to make that we didn’t even get the chance to eat before we had to bike back to a four-hour Thai language session. Of all days… But the next day, when things did go right and I did get through to my students, it was more fulfilling than I ever thought possible. Yes, there are moments when I cannot remember why I gave up the life I was accustomed with to shower with a bucket and pee in a glorified hole in the ground. But in America, I was constantly looking to the future, daydreaming of the next adventure. I was never truly present. In Thailand, however, I am living the adventure everyday. I am wholly present in every moment, a concept that was unfamiliar to me in the states.
I want to end this post with a quote a fellow PCT shared with me today: “All excellent things are as difficult as they are rare.”