“So, what exactly do you do?” has probably been the most common question I’ve gotten since finding out that I was accepted by the Peace Corps. While I still don’t have an exact answer for that, I can describe what I have been doing over the past 7 weeks in training. No two days are exactly alike, but a typical day involves some sort of language and technical training.
Usually I wake up around 6:00 am. Sometimes I’m awoken earlier by the stray dogs howling outside; sometimes music playing from the local temple wakes me up; sometimes it’s the sound of my host mom (Pii Oi) sweeping the dirt outside my window; and sometimes, when I’m lucky, I actually sleep until my alarm goes off. Then I get a few precious minutes to myself before Pii Oi yells from her outdoor kitchen, “Sarah! Gin kaao!” (Eat!) My breakfast usually consists of some type of egg or meat which is always accompanied by rice.
After eating and getting ready, I bike to either the local government building (SAO) where we have sessions on Mondays, or my ajaan’s (teacher’s) house the rest of the week for language training. I have language class with 4 other trainees for 4 hours each morning. I can officially have a conversation in Thai that doesn’t revolve around food! (provided it’s about sports, my family, or past travel experiences)
After language class, my group often eats lunch at a restaurant we call, “Pad Thai” because of its delicious (and cheap) Pad Thai. Restaurants here do not have names, unlike restaurants in the US. Also unlike the US, restaurants here are run out of people’s homes. Many restaurants are simply an outdoor area on the home owner’s property, somewhat sectioned off, next to a small kitchen-type area. Many do not have typed-up menus, and they usually have mismatched tables and chairs. Several of the restaurants nearby are owned by families who are hosting volunteers, so we call the restaurants by the name of the volunteer residing there. When we want to switch it up and eat something other than Pad Thai, we normally go to Jessica’s, or sometimes Clarence’s.
After lunch, my practicum partner Hoi and I would bike to our school a few miles away, until we finished up our practicum this past week. Each week had a theme: English, physical activities, and 2 weeks of life skills, all things we will be teaching when we get to our permanent sites. Keep in mind, I’m newly graduated with an engineering degree, so lesson planning and teaching is still new to me and definitely a challenge, especially considering these students speak Thai, and not English. Luckily, I had a great partner who I worked well with. We took turns leading our sessions and always worked together on lesson plans. Hoi and I taught one class with students in grades 4-6, so each day was a mix of fun, interesting, and frustrating. After teaching, Hoi and I would either go to the local coffee shop for the Wi-Fi and air conditioning, or the SAO, where we would create our lesson plan for the following day. Now that practicum is over, we spend our afternoons planning a camp this week, and planning a volunteer project next week. I already miss spending my afternoons with my students, which I take as a good sign that I’ll enjoy my work at site!
As soon as it starts to get dark outside, I bike home to make it for the “home before dark” rule that we must follow during PST (Pre-Service Training). It feels kind of silly being 23 years old and having a curfew of 6:00 pm, though I do understand it’s for our safety. Once I get home, I usually walk over to the neighbor’s house, where another trainee, Nicole, lives. Nicole and I eat dinner with her host parents and Pii Oi. I usually stay until Oi says “ap-nam!” (shower!) which I take as my cue that I should go home and shower before bed. I then get a little bit of time to myself, which I spend either reading from my kindle or watching one of the hundreds of movies I loaded onto my hard drive. Sometimes, if I’m lucky, I get to watch Thai soap operas with Pii Oi.
Weekends are a bit different; on Saturdays we have some kind of event each weekend, like American Day, language stations, or Thai-American Sports Day. Last Saturday we had our one and only Rest Day, so I spent the day with other volunteers biking to the weekend market and around the district. Next weekend we get to go spend a night in Bangkok! It will be our only night of freedom during PST, so naturally, it’s all we’ve been talking about for weeks. The main discussion about Bangkok is “What are you gonna eat?” which is followed by, “Cheese! And a burger! And Mexican food! And pizza! And margaritas! And a bagel!” all the foods we’ve been missing from home. It may sound ambitious for having only 24 hours in Bangkok, but you’d be surprised at what a group of hungry PCTs can accomplish if they set their minds to it.