Well, I am now 48 days into this wild ride. Today is my first day off since being in Thailand and it feels pretty well deserved. The concept of a day off is relative here since I am always representing something larger than myself (America, Peace Corps and PST Group 129). There are quite literally no days off, but today is the first day in which I don’t have any obligations. Curious how I am spending my one and only day off? I biked myself to an internet cafe with air conditioning, and that’s likely where I will be until my curfew of 6 p.m.
48 days into training and the momentum is only picking up. I realize the irony in writing that on a day off, but it’s true. As the days go by, training gets more dense and the anticipation of truly beginning my two years of service gets more intense. While leaving the comfort of Sing Buri, which is only just starting to feel like home, will be bizarre, I am excited to start exploring where I will call home for the next 24 months and begin what I came here to do.
Today, I am finally able to reflect on all I have gained in such a short period of time. I am discovering myself on a rawer level than ever before. But I am also uncovering a rawer perspective of humanity that I was blind to in America. Nearly 50 days into this journey, with 754 days left, and my faith in humanity has not only been entirely restored, but is at its peak.
I think I am fairly well traveled for a 22 year-old. I have been to Ireland, France, Italy, Spain, Puerto Rico, Mexico, most Caribbean islands, many states and even lived in Australia for a brief amount of time. I like to think I have seen a lot of what this world has to offer. Until recently, however, I wasn’t aware that I have always experienced things with an ‘American lens.’ By American lens, I mean that I was sometimes blinded by my background and hindered from absorbing all that my experiences had to teach me. I’ll never be able to lose my American lens, but I like to think that as I explore more of this world and its various cultures, it is gradually being chipped away.
I found cynicism to be a sense of security in America. In the individualist society that America is, it was easy for me to believe that others had only intentions of self interest. I’m not proud of it, but it became easy for me to believe the worst in humanity. And American media surely didn’t help. My desire to remain informed on current events was constantly at war with my conscience, especially within the past year. I think that is partly why I was drawn to Peace Corps in the first place. Among other things, Peace Corps was my opportunity to “be the change [I] wish[ed] to see in the world.” Ironically, since being in Peace Corps, I have slowly realized that the world isn’t the hopeless, self-centered abyss I had falsely believed it to be for so long.
Not only have I been on the receiving end of immense generosity from Thais, but I have received boundless and unimaginable support from home, as well, since being here. I feel like I wake up everyday to an unexpected, but encouraging Facebook message from someone I haven’t seen in years. I have received several letters from friends. I received a particular letter from a college acquaintance. Although this acquaintance and I were never necessarily the closest, I had always admired her genuine compassion for others. After receiving her letter, I can’t express the admiration and appreciation I now have for her and her compassion. Her eloquent words lifted me up on a day when I was at my worst and needed it most. And I will never be able to repay her for that.
I received a package from one of my best friends with a journal that we will be able to send back and forth, keeping each other updated on the details of our busy lives. Sisterhood of the Traveling Journal, perhaps? As my most challenging week of training was coming to a close, I showed up one Saturday morning to a thoughtful package from a good friend’s mom. The package included a kind letter and a cross-body water bottle carrier. Ironically, all week I had been envious of another volunteer for the water bottle carrier she crocheted for herself. Remaining adequately hydrated in the 95 degree heat of a Thai ‘winter’ is essential, but nearly impossible when your only forms of transportation are your bike or your legs. This gift will make that task even slightly easier and I am so unbelievably grateful.
In summation, humanity is far from nearing its end, like I had believed for so long before this journey. If I have learned anything during my time here, it is that happiness isn’t conditional. Happiness isn’t dependent upon other people and it sure as hell isn’t situational. I am reminded of this on the rare occasion I am able to catch myself in the mirror these days and I see a smile so big it is nearly unrecognizable. I am happier than ever under circumstances that have presented more obstacles than I’ve ever had to conquer. Life, and your happiness, is entirely about perspective. So as I sit here, basking in a rare moment of accessible air conditioning, I am extraordinarily thankful for my newly gained perspective. I challenge anyone reading this to chip away at their own ‘lens,’ whatever it may be, and rediscover themselves and the goodness of humanity. You don’t have to move 8,600 plus miles away to do so. It is truly life-changing.