When I find the time to sit down and think about my recent experiences, it is always easier to write about the lows than the highs. Why that is, I am not completely sure. Perhaps it is because I find the release of feelings from pen to paper to be the most calming remedy. I find myself venting about the hard times because the good times are so enjoyed within the moment, and subsequently forgotten and clouded by moments of hardship.
Last weekend, however, was one so full of joy that I can’t help but revel in the immense delight each moment brought me. It started on Friday when my school hosted a Thai writing competition in which students from schools all over Satun came to write essays about the late king. For me, this meant no teaching. This also meant I was Thai-napped against my will by two fellow teachers that had only just discovered my love for seafood, steamed crabs specifically. The term Thai-napped is derived from the word kidnapped because Thai people are notorious for getting you to unknowingly agree to random, day-long expeditions. These two teachers informed me that we would leave to get lunch and I naively assumed that we would be heading only a few minutes down the road. 30 minutes later, I found myself sitting seaside, surrounded by wild monkeys and goats, eating steamed crabs and shrimp. It was nearly impossible to soak in the beauty of the moment in its entirety. There I sat, next to a table of ten or so monks, eating my favorite food (albeit without the Old Bay and white vinegar) under a bamboo hut, looking out at several islands just miles across the Andaman Sea. It was the type of thing you could only imagine in your wildest dreams. Except there I was, living it. To make the day even better, the teachers surprised me with my own couple kilos of crabs to take home for dinner that night. And at home, I had the supplies (i.e. that Old Bay and white vinegar I mentioned) to feast as if it was a summer night in Maryland. And to top it all off, on the way home, we stopped for ice cream. Twice.
Saturday proved to be just as fulfilling. Some fellow volunteers and I decided to meet up at Pakbara, a beach in our province, about 30 miles from my village. There are vans and songthaews (pick-up trucks with two rows for passengers in the bed) that run from my village to the destination, but my friend, Tiffany, and I decided to bike the 60 mile round trip instead. I had previously decided it would be a goal of mine to bike to this beach during my service so what better day to try than the present, right? I woke up at 7 a.m. that morning and nearly psyched myself out as I thought of the daunting voyage ahead. But, I got on my bike anyway. A quarter of the way through the trip, Tiffany and I realized we had underestimated the amount of hills and overall difficulty. The way there seemed to take forever, but I experienced an overwhelming sense of accomplishment as I saw the sea inch closer and closer until we finally reached our meeting point. Five of us spent a few hours catching up on our similar yet vastly differently experiences working in the Thai school systems and navigating the unique lifestyles we willingly thrust ourselves into. The trek back to my village was even more exhausting, but I was greeted by the most breathtaking sunset upon my return. Again, another perfect day.
As I have written in previous posts, the mental challenges heavily outweigh the physical obstacles. But the beautiful thing about these hurdles, both mental and physical, is that they can be overcome with the right perception, disciplinary action and persistence. And they are ultimately molding me into a much stronger, much better version of myself. Each day, I prove to myself that I am capable of accomplishing just about anything I set my mind to, like biking 60 miles in a matter of hours. Or having that two hour conversation in Thai without the help of Google Translate. Or learning to french braid my hair, tonight’s endeavor. And each day, I am gaining confidence in this path I have chosen, as well as the woman I am and the woman I am becoming. To be honest, there are days when my only motivation is the reminder that I will get to meet the new and improved, far more bad ass, Liv at the end of this 27 month journey.
As a friend reminded me in a recent letter, “There’s always something to be grateful for.” And today, I am grateful my Peace Corps journey in its entirety… the good and the bad. Although, I still prefer the good.